Goal Keeper Handling and Misconduct

Simon Mignolet

Simon Mignolet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 79th minute of the April 20 Sunderland-Everton match, Sunderland’s Larsson possessed a ball near mid-field and sent a strike on his own net. Sunderland keeper Mignolet had to leap to catch the ball and keep it from entering for an own goal. So what did Referee Phil Dowd have? Was this a “back pass” violation?

The “back pass” violation, like “hand ball”, is shorthand for the uninitiated. We referees recognize that there is no Law prohibiting a pass back to the keeper. There is not even a Law that prohibits the keeper from picking up a pass from a teammate – unless the pass was kicked deliberately by the foot of the teammate (we note also that the GK cannot pick up a throw-in from a teammate).A GK may handle a ball that is played (without trickery) by the head, chest, thigh, knee or shin of a teammate – in fact any legal touch by a teammate on a ball in play except a touch by the foot.

In Mignolet’s case, the ball was kicked deliberately (if not intelligently) by the foot of his teammate. Mignolet handled it (as he needed to). Play was stopped (correctly) and an Indirect Free Kick was given to Everton (correctly). Referee Dowd then issued a Caution to Mignolet. Assuming that the Caution was not for dissent following the whistle, but for the handling, was it correct? Should it have been a Send-off for Denying an obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity?

It cannot be DOGSO-H, because a Goal Keeper can never be guilty of DOGSO-H inside his or her Penalty Area. That leaves DOGSO-F. It was a free kick foul, but it cannot be DOGSO-F. Remember the “Four D’s” of DOGSO:

  • # of Defenders between foul and goal
  • Distance to Goal
  • Distance of the Attacker from the Ball
  • Direction of Attacker.

If any element is missing, it cannot be DOGSO. What is missing? The Attacker! There is no “Opponent” being denied an obvious goal scoring opportunity. It would have been an Own Goal. So, is a Caution for “denying” an own goal the correct decision? It may seem “fair”, but it is not consistent with the Laws and their interpretations.

According to the FIFA document on Law 12:

inside his own penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any misconduct related to handling the ball. He can, however, be guilty of several offences that incur an indirect free kick.

It would seem that if Referee Dowd issued the Caution for the Unsporting Behavior of handling the ball in that situation, he was incorrect by Law and Advice. Note that this is because the offense occurred inside the Penalty Area (unlike the DOGSO handling by the Norwich Keeper against Sunderland a few weeks ago which occurred outside the PA).

The lesson: just as we can never award a penalty kick for any handling offense by a goal keeper inside the PA, a goal keeper cannot be guilty of misconduct for a handling offense within the PA. This is in spite of the pundits who believe that a Caution (or worse, a Send Off) was required, We referees know better.


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About Dan Paolini

Soccer & Futsal Referee Assignor

Posted on April 22, 2013, in Lesson Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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