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To Drop Or Not To Drop? That Is The Question.

Dr. Wayne Wray 7/11/2000

Restarts give referees from the beginners to the experienced, trouble. Specifically, a large number of referees do not know when a drop ball is the correct restart and when it is not. This guide and examples will take you through the basic principles so you will use a drop ball only when it is appropriate.

Law 8 states: "A dropped ball is a way of restarting the match after a temporary stoppage which becomes necessary, while the ball is in play, for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game. The referee drops the ball at the place where it was located when play was stopped (except in the Goal Area) and play restarts when the ball touches the ground." Additionally, there is no stipulation on the number of players participating at a drop ball, or that players from both teams - or that any player - must take part at a drop ball. Mechanically, the ball must be dropped and not thrown down. The referee should hold the ball in the palm of his hand at waist level and then pull away the hand beneath the ball and let it drop. The players may not touch the ball until it has hit the ground. If the dropped ball leaves the field without having been played, or it is played before touching the ground, the ball must be dropped again where it was previously dropped. The goalkeeper may participate at dropped balls and there is no required distance players must be away from the ball. A goal may be scored directly from a drop ball and a player participating in a drop ball may not be called for being offside.

Examples of when a dropped ball is the proper restart are:

After an injury when there was no other reason to stop play.
The ball hits a foreign object on the field of play, i.e. a dog.
The ball hits a foreign object over the field of play, i.e. a tree.
Inadvertent whistle.
An incident, which occurs off the field of play, i.e. a player, runs off field and strikes the opposing coach.
An incident, which occurs on the field of play by a non-player, i.e., a coach runs on to the field and strikes a player.
A misconduct occurs on the field of play for which the referee only warns the player of his behavior and does not issue a Caution.


A major problem referees have is restarting play with a drop ball when it is NOT the correct restart. Referees want to be fair to both teams and a drop ball seems logical, but the Laws are clear when a specific restart is mandated.

Examples of when a dropped ball is NEVER the proper restart are:
The ball goes over the touchline played 'simultaneously' by player(s) from both teams. Law 15 mandates a throw-in shall be the restart when the ball passes over the touchline, either on the ground or in the air.
The ball goes over the end line played 'simultaneously' by player(s) from both teams. Law 16 and Law 17 mandate that either a goal kick or a corner kick shall be the restart when the ball passes over the goal line, either on the ground or in the air.
'Simultaneous' fouls by members of opposite teams. If one foul is more severe than the other, i.e. a direct free kick (DFK) foul and an indirect free kick (IFK) foul. The restart would be a DFK for the more severe foul. If the two fouls are equal in severity, i.e. both DFK fouls, the referee MUST make a choice of whom to penalize. Law 12 mandates that restarts after fouls are penalized by either a DFK or IFK.
'Simultaneous' misconduct by members of opposite teams. If one misconduct is more severe than the other, i.e. a major (Sending Off) misconduct for 'using offensive, insulting or abusive language' and a minor (Caution) misconduct for 'showing dissent by word or action,' the restart would be an IFK for the more severe misconduct. Law 12 mandates that restarts after misconducts are penalized by an IFK if a DFK foul has not also occurred.
If the 'simultaneous' misconducts are both Sending Off offenses but one requires a DFK and the other an IFK, i.e. 'spitting at an opponent' and 'using offensive, insulting or abusive language,' the restart would be a DFK for the more severe misconduct. If the two misconducts are equal in severity, i.e. both Sending Off offenses requiring a DFK restart, the referee MUST make a choice of which team will take the DFK.


This article appeared in our AskTheRef.com newsletter on July 2, 2000. To sign up for the newsletter simply email us at newsletters

What do you think? Did we answer the question? Comments and suggestions regarding this article are appreciated please email suggestions@asktheref.com



Dr. Wayne Wray, USSF National Assessor, NISOA National Assessor, National Emeritus Referee and State Instructor.

Dr. Wray is also the President and CEO of Sports, Etc an offical distributor of Law 5 products.

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