Law 1 - The Field of Play
- 04/03/2008 – Objects on the Field
- A US Soccer publication addressing the growing number of instances in which confetti, streamers, and other celebratory items wind up on the field of play during a match, including guidance on how to handle interference from such items.
- 03/14/2008 – Padded Goal Structures
- A US Soccer publication addressing the use of padding on goal posts in which US Soccer states the reasons for which it cannot approve the use of goal post padding in sanctioned matches.
- 03/29/2005 – The Field of Play (Equipment and Devices)
- A US Soccer Memorandum addressing the growing use of communications devices (cameras, microphones, etc) on, around, or near the playing field and what actions to take should one interfere with play.
- 09/30/2003 – Unauthorized Field Markings
- An official MLS Memorandum addressing the practice of players making unauthorized markings with tape or other materials on fields of play.
On the Line, In or Out?
According to Law 1 – The Field of Play, the “lines belong to the areas of which they are boundaries.” While we frequently hear the statement that the ball much “complete cross the touch line” to be considered out of play (throw-in, goal kick, corner kick), the same mantra applies to incidents within the boundaries of the field of play.
- Video Clip: Colorado at Toronto (24:05) - This clip presents a case in which a handling is called that will result in a free kick being taken just over 18 yards from goal in the danger zone. The goalkeeper attempts to gather a ball but mishandles it and it skirts out to the top of the penalty area. The referee, in this clip, awards the attacking team with a free kick as he judges that the goalkeeper handled the ball outside the penalty area boundary line. A caution is also issued to the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior. The foul call then leads to a dangerous free kick and potential encroachment.
In reviewing the tape, it is not clear that there is a handling offense. It is certainly not clear enough to award a free kick approximately 18 yards from goal. To make such a call, the referee and/or AR must be certain and positioned so as to have a clear view of the offense (position of the ball relative to the penalty area line at the exact time contact is made with the goalkeeper’s hands). The resulting yellow card would also have been avoided.
Points for additional consideration:
- Given the previous statement that “lines belong to the areas of which they are boundaries”, the ball will be considered to be inside the penalty area if any part of the ball is crossing the plane of the boundary line. Consequently, the goalkeeper may legally handle the ball as long as any part of the ball is crossing the penalty area line whether on the ground or in the air.
- The position of the goalkeeper’s body plays no role in determining the handling offense. The position of the ball relative to the penalty area markings when it is touched by the goalkeeper’s hands is the determining factor in deciding if a handling offence occurred. The goalkeeper’s entire body can be outside the penalty area. A handling offense occurs at the time the goalkeeper’s hand(s) contact the ball while the ball is fully outside the penalty area boundary line.
- To make the call, the referee is not strategically positioned to have a clear view of where the ball was when it was touched by the goalkeeper’s hand(s). A wider and closer view would make the decision more convincing. Watch at 24:10 on the game clock as the referee stops his run to the penalty area (possibly anticipating that the goalkeeper will cleanly control the ball which does not occur) causing him to be further from the decision.
- The official best positioned to make a determination as to whether the ball was handled outside the penalty area is the AR. But, like the referee, the AR must be certain of the handling offense before intervening. If the AR intervenes it should be with a raised flag with a slight wiggle.