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Question Number: 33785

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/23/2019

RE: Competitive Under 15

Mary Ramirez-de-Arellano of DAMASCUS, MD United States asks...

I am confused about what constitutes a keeper having possession of a ball such that the opponent is disqualified from playing that ball. Exactly what are the criteria for determining that a goal keeper ' has possession' of the ball so that when the offensive player kicks that ball into the goal it is NOT a goal? Today in one of my games I couldn't really see how the goal keeper 'possessed' the ball. The center ref asked me if he did not have a hand on it, or some part of his hand before the attacker kicked the ball successfully into the goal. As could be expected the coach was furious when we deemed that the keeper had possession of the ball and invalidated the goal. To be completely honest it was hard to see what happened in the melee, but I dimly recalled that the keeper had at least part of a hand on the ball. Is part of a hand sufficient? Thanks!!

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mary
The game today is a much safer place for goalkeepers than it was many years ago.
Going back in the games history it was legal at a time to charge goalkeepers anywhere except in the goal area.
The law makers recognized, after some serious incidents, that goalkeepers would have to be protected to the point where it is now illegal to challenge the goalkeeper when she has control of the ball.
Referee Grove has outlined what the Law deems as control.
As to what happened in your scenario in many way that can be difficult to determine in a challenge or in a melee. Teams also use the law to try to ensure that a goal is chalked off because the ball was played while the goalkeeper may have been in process of gaining control of the ball.
For safety reasons we have to give the benefit to the goalkeeper who may be at the feet of opponents who are trying to kick the ball no matter where it is.
Some in the game believe that referees are over protective of goalkeepers and maybe certainly at Underage yet the priority to ensure that players do not act recklessly when the goalkeeper has control of the ball.
The coach did not see what happened clearly and probably neither did anyone with the exception of the goalkeeper and the attacker.
We are left to make a judgement call based on what was seen and on the balance of probabilities. If the goalkeeper had her hand on top of the ball she was on control of same and it could not be kicked.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

The REASON the LOTG or the Rules state an opponent cannot challenge a keeper who has their hands on the ball is the players' generally kick at the ball with their feet (although other body parts can play the ball) and the keepers fingers could get broken.

The keeper has limited time to keep this ball away from the opposition (6 seconds) but we cut some recovery slack to say regain their feet after a save.

We also tend to view a ball trapped between the hand and ground as a save and thus possessed by the keeper & unchallengeable by the opposition.

You say you saw hand on the ball? Was it on top of the ball keeping the ball still on the ground, was the ball lying on top of the palm completely still ( thus if kicked away it is an illegal action, no goal or was it acting as a rebound platform or rolled across as in an open handed touch being bobbled away? ?

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Perhaps, you are referring to NFHS (high school) rule 12-4-3 which states that a goalkeeper is possession of the ball shall not be interfered with or impeded in any manner by an opponent. This includes the act of bouncing the ball, dropping the ball for a kick or attempting to throw the ball or tossing the ball in the air for a kick.

NFHS Rule 18-1-ii defines possession as aa live ball controlled by team, player or goalkeeper. A controlled ball is one which may be passed, thrown, dribbled or shot on goal by a player.

The ball can be controlled with one hand, but as in all calls, especially one in which a goal is scored, the referee should be certain that the call is correct. In the situation you describe, both you and the referee were not positive that the goalkeeper controlled the ball and that possession occurred. From what you stated, I would most likely have allowed the goal to be scored.

I hope that you have a successful remainder of 2019.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Mary,
If you are referring to a game played under the IFAB's Laws, the law actually does not talk about possession, it talks about control with the hands and gives a fairly clear and concise definition in Law 12, as follows:

''A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball with the hand(s) when:

- the ball is between the hands or between the hand and any surface (e.g. ground, own body) or by touching it with any part of the hands or arms, except if the ball rebounds from the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper has made a save

- holding the ball in the outstretched open hand

- bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air''

As you correctly allude to, the law also says that:

''A goalkeeper cannot be challenged by an opponent when in control of the ball with the hand(s).''

It may be that trying to think of this in terms of possession (which could carry a slightly different connotation) may be what is confusing you. If you stick closely to what the law defines as control, it should make it clearer.

For instance, by looking to the wording of the law we can see that having any part of either hand on the ball, is indeed sufficient to constitute control.

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