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Question Number: 33780

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/17/2019

Tony of Madison, WI USA asks...

I saw this play take place a few years back and I still think about it today because it was very unusual, it involved the great American goalie, Tim Howard while playing for Aston Villa??? In England.
Tim's defender kicks ball back to goalie, Howard. Howard could not pick up the ball with his hands because it would have meant an IFK for the other team inside the 18, he tried to kick the ball but an attacker was right on top of him so Howard decided to lie on top of the ball face down, ball between his chest and the turf, arms extended outward so not to touch the ball with his hands. The attacker stood there for a few seconds, did not challenge for the ball and walked away, Howard got up and kicked the ball upfield and nothing was called. My question always was, had the attacker challenged for the ball, would the attacking team have been awarded an IFK for trapping the ball, playing in a dangerous manner? I also would go with a YC for USB because the attacker had a chance to steal the ball and score had Howard tried to play the ball...what would your decision be? I tried looking for the video to no avail, should you find it, please share it.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Tony
I actually remember this incident and the referee was Mr Lee Mason. Sunderland felt that Tim Howard handled the ball which would have been a direct free kick offence.
The video has done the rounds and it is included in a compilation of goalkeeper handlings yet that never was called.
It looks like the ball may have touched an arm and there is a possibility but it is not certain?
Now outside the penalty area the goalkeeper is like any other player. If say a defender lay down on the ball intentionally it is very likely that the referee could call a playing in a dangerous manner offence punished by an indirect free kick. The reason is that it prevents an opponent from kicking the ball fairly without running the high risk of kicking the opponents body.
In this instance the Sunderland player actually helps the refereeing decision because he overruns the ball and Tim Howard so that allows the goalkeeper to get up unchallenged and play the ball away. The Sunderland player appeals for handling.
As to a caution this used to be asked in the old FIFA Questions and Answers booklet 2006 section 12.27 and I quote ** A player intentionally lies on the ball for an unreasonable length of time. What action does the referee take?
He stops play, cautions the player for unsporting behaviour and restarts play with an indirect free kick**
Now we know that players fall on the ball and try to play it while on the ground. There is nothing wrong in that provided it does not run the high risk of getting injured or preventing an opponent from playing the ball.
The key word in the Q&A is unreasonable and one could say that Tim Howards laying on the ball was not an unreasonable length of time. Most times we just call the PIADM and an IDFK only.
So I would say that the way play unfolded with no handling that there was PIADM for a split second as the Sunderland player comes towards the ball and he jumps over and away from the goalkeeper.
It is a tough one to call as PIADM on the way play unfolded and in real time this would have looked perhaps like a change of mind by the goalkeeper so not an obvious offence. Also there can be a possibility of a slip, fall etc so it is not always obvious.
As you say it was unusual and unlikely to test many referees if any on a decision. On balance it is doubtful. The alternative was an IDFK and maybe a red card for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. I could not see Referee Mason going that route so the *best* decision was made in the circumstances.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Tony,
Looks like the video is at

Lying on the ball in such a fashion creates a situation where an opponent cannot play the ball with placing that player (in this case, the goalkeeper) in danger.
Playing in a Dangerous Manner (PIADM) includes putting oneself in danger.
Therefore, Howard has committed a clear foul here. Whether you call it lying on the ball or lying down between ball and attacker, is not important.

Usually when a player is lying on the ball, it's because they've fallen on the ball and aren't promptly getting off the ball, and thus nothing other than an IFK is warranted.

In this case - given it is quite blatant and preventing an opponent from taking possession, a yellow card is absolutely warranted. I think there is no question at all about a card.

The question becomes whether it is a DOGSO offence. DOGSO can include fouls which prevent an opponent from gaining possession. In this scenario, the attacker would have an OGSO were they able to take possession (I'm assuming there are no other defenders in a position to intercept), and typically for DOGSO fouls we take the player committing the foul out of the question. While DOGSO fouls can be those that deny possession, some would question whether it applies when the attacking team never had possession. I would argue yes, in which case this meets the criteria for DOGSO for me.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Tony,
This sounds like an unusual incident and I have to say I don't recall it happening. In any event, I think that if it is clear that a player is intentionally lying on the ball for an extended period to prevent an opponent from playing the ball (and has not just temporarily or accidentally fallen on it and then made efforts to get up quickly) this should be called as playing in a dangerous manner. The law does not say that a player has to actually challenge for the ball before it's an offence, only that the player be prevented from challenging for fear of injury, including to the player themselves.

In such instances, if referee judges that the attacker was prevented from playing the ball for fear of injuring the keeper, then an offence should be called and an indirect free kick awarded.

The option of a caution for unsporting behaviour would also be there, at the referee's discretion if they decided the player has lain on the ball ''for an unreasonable length of time,'' in the words of the FIFA Q&A cited by ref McHugh.

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