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Question Number: 34211

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/1/2021

Petr of Prague, Czech Republic Czech Republic asks...

This question is a follow up to question 34210

Thank you for answers. One more question for a specific situation please.

Before opponent's free kick defender crosses the goal line and remains standing in his goal. The opponent shoots. This defender heads it away.

Is that allowed? For example, a goalkeeper may not do this during a penalty kick ('The defending goalkeeper must remain on the goal line,...').

How would you personally handle this?


Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Petr,
As the answers to your previous questions indicated, in most cases a referee would not be overly concerned about a defender who temporarily steps off the field unless they make a judgement that it was done for obviously unsporting purposes.

So it would depend on how the referee judges the defender's actions. If they judge the defender has done nothing wrong in being temporarily off the field then equally, there is nothing wrong with the player heading the ball.

I would have to say that, unless this was one of those rare situations of a free kick on the goal area line with the defenders all lined up on the goal line it would be very unusual for defender to go and stand behind the goal line at a free kick and I personally have never seen this happen. Sometimes when a free kick is being taken a defender will run back to stand close to the goal line but they almost always move back out before the kick is taken and I have never seen one actually go and stand behind the goal line while doing this. There would be no good tactical reason for a defender to do this and it could easily be counter-productive. For one thing, they would be keeping all the opponents onside and if for instance, they did not come back into the field before heading the ball and the ball crossed the line before being headed away then obviously a goal would be awarded.

So so in all, I'd say this is highly improbable but if it did happen and assuming I judged that the player had done nothing wrong, then I would not take any action.

I don't see any applicability of the law on what a goalkeeper is allowed to do at a penalty kick, that is a specific part of a different law, designed for a specific situation that does not pertain here.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Petr
The answer here like the previous answer is that unless it was done for some obvious unsporting reasons then there is no offence that a referee should be taking action on other than if he notices it before the kick to ask the player to stand on the line.
I have seen many situations where through how play unfolded defenders moved over the goal line and ended up clearing balls off the line either by heading or kicking. Perfectly legal and no offence whatsoever
I personally have never seen this positioning and at all free kicks the referee would be more focussed on the kicker and the interaction between defenders and attackers.

As I said in my previous answer this particular part of the Law is to assist in the management of players not to find ways to punish players for doing something that is doubtful or trifling. It is one of the safeguards that assists referees in keeping track of who is a player on the field of play legally and who is not. I once saw a referee caution a player for stepping into the technical area to get a bottle of water at a stoppage. Did such an action require a caution? Pro and senior players are very careful about this and they will only come to touchline yet what was unsporting about stepping off the FOP to get a water bottle in a grassroots game.

For me it is a pretty rare caution usually connected with a substitution that did not have permission or an injured player returning to get involved in play again without permission. The Law allows for “active play” movement such as to retrieve a ball or take a restart where the player’s departure is brief, closely connected to play and explained by the circumstances of play at the time such as to avoid an opponent etc and the player does not thereby gain an unfair tactical advantage by the manner or timing of his re-entry.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Petr,
personally handle this?
I would ignore it and allow play to continue.
A header to redirect the ball away, in this case, is fine, unless, the ball had completely crossed the goal line under the crossbar and between the posts for a goal then a kick-off restart!
The PK is a very specific set of circumstances where the keeper must have at least one foot on the goal line not the same as a DFK or INDFK taken in actual match play.

As my colleagues indicate only if a player's actions are obtuse to the point of ridiculousness are we thinking there is a need to intervene.

I have verbally told players running about like chickens to cool it when a long retrieval of a corner kick on a blistering hot day, two eager beavers decided to play hide and seek in and out of the goal, running by other players and weaving in and out of the goal, one desperately trying to get free of the other, yet the ball was way off in the distance, still being retrieved.

SERIOUSLY guys? It's a bloody furnace out here, you two clowns are racing about, the ball is not even at the corner yet you are bumbling into each other, grabbing, pushing through the other players? Cool it ok, why look for a card even before we restart? Grab a drink like most of the smarter players. They both stopped even the rest of the players were laughing at the goofiness of the antics

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