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Question Number: 35418

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 3/30/2024

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


three 'back-pass' situations please.

S1: The defender passes to the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper wants to stop the ball with his foot. The ball goes over his leg with a touch and goes into the goal. Therefore, there was no apparent attempt to kick. Can he then touch the ball with his hand? Today there was such a terrible own goal in the Czech league. :-)

S2: The situation is similar to S1. However, the ball does not touch the goalkeeper's leg at all.

S3: The defender passes through the air to the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper tries to handle the ball with his chest. At the same time, the ball hits the goalkeeper's biceps, which is close to the body. Is it allowed? More generally, can we punish a goalkeeper's unintentional handball in the penalty area?

Thank you very much!

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Petr,

These are good questions given some of the problems with this law.

The exact wording is: .....unless the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play,

I don't like the 'release into play' wording because the ball IS in play, but I think what they're trying to say is that this law is supposed to apply when a GK is trying to send the ball away from them. But does that mean it applies to a short pass, or only for a clearance? Well, that's debatable with the vague wording. But, the most important thing is, for me the law is clearly talking about releasing the ball. Not simply controlling it.

So, for the first two, I would say that the GK cannot handle the ball.

If the law was such that a miscontrol would allow the GK to handle it, then it would basically put us into a position where any backpass where the GK traps it first can be handled. What's a miscontrolled trap? If the ball goes 6 inches in the wrong direction, isn't that miscontrolled? 3 inches? You can see the problems...

It makes no difference if the 'attempt to release the ball into play' touches the ball or is an airswing, so the answer to S1 and S2 are the same.

It's worth pointing out here that even if the GK dives and swats the ball away from entering the goal, there can be no card issued here. Whether it's DOGSO is irrelevant. A GK can never receive a card for illegal handling in their PA. The exception is if they take a dead-ball restart - goal kick or free kick - and handle it before anybody else touches it, because it's the touch that's the offence, not the handling specifically.

Anyway, S3 is also an interesting one. By the letter of the law, it's stricter than a normal handling offence as it simply says 'touches the ball with the hand/arm....', whereas any other player has considerations such as deliberate, unnaturally bigger etc. Some would argue that an accidental, unavoidable touch shouldn't be penalised, but I disagree, and that's not what the law says.

Anyway, trying to control it with the chest, misjudging and striking the arm would usually be a foul anywhere. So, S3 would be an IFK.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Petr,
the phrase in the opinion of the referee looms large in the iffy cases! Was it a deliberate kick by a team mate, to the keeper? It is one of the few laws that intent plays apart. If so, the keeper is not permitted to use their hands which would include the bicep just below the shoulders, on the ball. Was the keeper attempting to put the ball into play and thus has not sought to unfairly use the hands. The aspect of a release has more to do with the 6 seconds than playing the ball received from a deliberate team mate kick. We are to award an INDFK
-the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play-.

I might not be able to pass on the first two unless I saw it as a kicking motion but as described he was just trying to control and it was obvious the goal keeper simply messed up and just reacted in desperation to stop the ball I would lean to the INDFK for the illegal handling. There is no DOGSO or no cautions attributed on these deliberate kick/passbacks.

What I just found out is there is a new plan NOT to award INDFKS but rather just a loss of possession with a throw in or corner restart for the opposition on a trial basis for goalkeepers taking longer than 8 seconds to release the ball? I wonder if they might also consider it for these passback incidents as well? ? Far better restart idea then awarding a scoring opportunity and setting up a dangerous kick in front of goal.

The third passback in the air where the arm knocks the ball down, again, ITOOTR, as most passes back destined to the keeper are not shots in the air on goal.

Without seeing it I am reluctant to say for sure what I might call. Youth, I might be less harsh in my judgements as to the need to see it as such.

Personally, I do not look for the gotcha calls. Yet often a team pressing hard can FORCE the defenders to hurry or make mistakes. I dislike awarding a free shot at goal over something trifling or undiscernible unless it is 100% crystal clear that free kick must be given to fairness. I can hope the new trials are effective although they might create a reason to award more iffy ones because the punishment is not as great?

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Petr
Thanks for the question.
For what its worth I believe that in both S1 and S2 there is no attempt to kick the ball back into play then the goalkeeper will be penalised with an IDFK only once a hand or arm is used. There is no card. It would be a stretch to opine in such situations that the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play.

BTW the own goal in such situations is a mistake rather than a result of not bring allowed to do something. The goalkeeper can still save the ball just that it will be penalised with an IDFK. If there is a choice between an IDFK only and a goal there is no question which option will be taken.

As to the chest / arm question its not an easy one.. I would err on the side of no offence if uncertain as to arm contact on the ball. It would have to be a clear arm away from the body for me before I’m calling it yet technically if an arm is used to contact the ball it can be called as an offence. It might be seen as harsh if it lacks absolute certainty. At speed can a referee be sure of arm contact when the chest is involved and the arm is close?
In game situations this is usually done by a goalkeeper to get the ball to feet to either move the ball away with feet and then kicked away. It behoves the attacking team to press the goalkeeper into an early kick or mis kick so the benefit is limited. I can’t really see too many player protesting contact on an arm here particularly when it may look like chest control anyway.

As to unintentional contact on the arm it is unlikely to meet the condition that the ball has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate • or receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate. In which case there is no technical offence punished by an IDFK

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