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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 35599

High School 6/25/2024

RE: HS Under 16

David of Ellensburg , Washinton United states asks...

I was playing a game for my Local HS and I was in the box with the opponents attacker got fouled but was crowded by a bunch of opponents and the player had the ball trapped beetween his thighs kind of on the ground and the players would try to kick it or roll it out of him but couldn’t. He would then get up and return to normal dribbling is this allowed? I asked ref after the game and he said it was fine since the attacker was not posing any danger and the opponents could still challenge the ball by kicking it or trying to roll it out thoughts?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi David,
I would say that throughout the world and at all levels of play this is customarily called as an offence. This is because it meets the definition of playing in a dangerous manner (PIADM). The Law defines PIADM as follows:

"Playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury."

In this situation the player is posing a danger to themself since no opponent can challenge for the ball without fear of injuring the player with the ball between their legs.

PIADM is penalised with an indirect free kick.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi David,

Thank you for your question.

First off, I'll point out that some people think it's an offence to play the ball from the ground. It is not - it's legal, as long as it's safe. However, a player trapping the ball underneath or between their body or legs is creating a situation where it cannot be safely challenged. That means that player is guilty of playing in a dangerous manner and the player on the ground should be penalised.

But we need to be reasonable as referees. Often a player will be knocked over and fall on the ball. We shouldn't be penalising them for falling on the ball - we need to give them reasonable opportunity to work out where the ball is and to try to release it. If they're not, then they should be penalised.

Though sometimes it can also depend on the actions of the standing players - if they're kicking at the ball so much already that the player on the ground can't do anything, maybe it is a foul against them! Sometimes you get the situation where the standing player is kicking the ball into the player on the ground. That's not the fault of the player on the ground.

Almost nothing is black and white in soccer.

But from what you described, it sounds like it probably should have been an indirect free kick against the player on the ground, but it does also depend on a little on how safe the standing players are playing.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi David,
PIADM is an INDFK offence! My colleagues have indicated the portion of LOTG that applies.
Players are often knocked or fall down on top of the ball. That is not an offence. Once in that predicament we expect then to return to their feet and get on with the game or make some effort to pass or clear the ball. It is Not illegal to play the ball whilst lying there nor are they under obligation to make it easy for the opposition to take it from them so shielding the ball as they arise is fine BUT it is the "HOW" they do so is the rub!

To clamp the ball in-between their thighs & simply lean over to cover it up on the ground perhaps do a roll, summersault or a bum swivel to avoid pressure if the opposition are hovering nearby may well be considered dangerous if only the opposition refraining from playing said ball is saving the player from being kicked. Yet if there is no opponent threatening as no one is unduly threatened or unsafe or being prevented from challenging it could be just part of continuing play as it is not illegal to play off the ground! !

The opposition could in theory reach a leg in and try to finesse the ball out with a sole roll or pull back! It is not unsafe or wrong to try . However, if they just indiscriminately whale away, attempting to kick the ball and make contact with the downed player then it would be a DFK against them as well as a caution show yellow for being so reckless or if truly excessive a red card

We need to give the player on the ground a reasonable amount of time to get up and moving That is our decision as a referee to arrive at, is it taking to long and are the delays unsafe or illegal? If he simply lays there making no effort to arise and is not hurt the possibility of being cautioned is likely as are any such actions like players scrambling about using their arm(s) to block the opposition from trying carefully to extract the ball from underneath is PIADM and the INDFK should be awarded!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
NFHS and FIFA are on the same page in respect of dangerous play.
NFHS says that a player should not participate in dangerous play, which is an act an official considers likely to cause injury to any player. This includes playing in such a manner which could cause injury to self or another player (opponent or teammate).

FIFA states that playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.

So lying on the ground with the ball between the legs with opponents in a position to kick the ball runs a high risk of injury to the player as any attempt to kick at the ball is going to risk a kick to the player.

So the fact that you ask the question shows that you understand that the risk of injury is to the player not the opponents such as a high boot or bicycle kick.

As described the referee in my opinion should have stopped play and restarted with an indirect free kick.
Ultimately it is a call on the day and the referee has to take into account factors such as location of the opponents relative to the ball, potential to play the ball, the time taken to get up, the perception of risk if any etc.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


Thank you for asking about this, it a situation that has occurred in games I have worked.

I believe this is covered in NFHS Situation 12.7.1 D in the NFHS Rules Book. It is legal to play the ball while lying on the ground as long as it does not danger the player lying on ground or another player. It this case, the player lying on the ground is in danger of being kicked so this is a dangerous play.

I agree with Referee McHugh that play should have been stopped and an indirect kick given to the opponents of the player holding the ball.

I hope your team had a successful season.

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