January 16, 2017

Goalkeeper handles ball coming from deliberate return pass and denies a goal

Imagine the following match situation: A defending player is having control of the ball but gets under pressure by an attacking player who is challenging him for the ball. In order to not lose the ball in a dangerous position close to the sideline, the defending player chooses the safe option and plays the ball back to his own goalkeeper ('deliberate return pass'). However, he thereby catches the goalkeeper on the wrong foot: The goalkeeper was already coming out of his goal and moved slightly towards the corner flag as he anticipated that he might be needed to help his teammate at the height of the sideline. The result: The return pass is passing the goalkeeper and travels towards the empty goal. Attempting to save it, the goalkeeper sprints back towards the goalline but recognizes that the only chance to prevent the ball from going into the goal is stopping it with his hands.

This can happen. In the following clip kindly provided by our user Victor (at 1:12:45), most of the scenario described above happened - except the last paragraph.

The goalkeeper chased the ball, but did not reach it and did not use his hands to save it either. But let's imagine he did take it with his hands. And by doing so, let's imagine he would have denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO) or even an obvious goal (DOG) by that.

How do we have to decide then?

Law 12 (p. 83 LotG 2016/17) says: 

"An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences:

•  controls the ball with the hands for more than six seconds before releasing it
•  touches the ball with the hands after: 
    • releasing it and before it has touched another player
    • it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate 
    • receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate."

According to the current Laws of the Game, the correct decision therefore is: indirect free kick. And even though common sense tells us that the behaviour is at least clearly unsporting, a yellow card is not explicitly required in this passage of the law - but it can be given for a special case of unsporting behaviour.

Additionally, our fictive situation cannot be regarded as DOG(SO) offence either, as Law 12 further says:

"The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. Inside their penalty area, the goalkeeper cannot be guilty of a handling offence incurring a direct free kick or any related sanction but can be guilty of handling offences that incur an indirect free kick."

In the current form of the laws, the goalkeeper cannot be punished for DOGSO by illegally stopping the ball with his hands from a return pass.

But this could change soon!

In the context of last year's revision of the Laws of the Game, the International Football Associations Board (IFAB) has made many changes and adaptions to the lawbook in terms of DOGSO offences. In the past weeks and months, we have discussed many of them.

For example, from last July on substitute players or team officials who illegally enter the field of play to deny an obvious goal-scoring opportunity are more heavily punished: A penalty kick is given in both cases as the interference is officially deemed as DOGSO offence by a team official or substitute (if a substitute does it like here, he is even sent off with a red card) - previously, a dropped ball and only a yellow card had to be given.

At the same time, the IFAB has partly abolished the so-called triple punishment and allows yellow cards for DOGSO offences inside the penalty area as long as the foul resulted from a genuine attempt to play the ball.

It was widely perceived as unfair that a team suffered three times for a DOGSO offence resulting from a slightly mistimed, but actually ball-orientated tackle. But it was equally perceived as unfair that a substitute player, who is warming up behind the goalline, can illegally enter the field of play and gets away with a yellow card and a dropped ball.

In conclusion, the principle or even dogma behind these DOGSO changes are, in my view, the following one: Introducing match and disciplinary sanctions that are more in line with common sense and punish extremely unfair offences in the DOGSO-area more seriously. But is an indirect free kick then enough in our fictive scenario?

According to a document the DFB allegedly received from the IFAB (or which the DFB translated from the IFAB's answers on their requests), the IFAB's members discuss to change the laws for exactly such cases from the 2017/18 season on (point 6.). Following the document, it is planned to classify this type of offence as DOGSO in future as the goalkeeper denies a clear goal or scoring opportunity with the aid of an offence. In this case, a red card should be given and a penalty kick would be the logical restart of play.

For my taste, this would be clearly more in line with the unwritten Law 18 (common sense) than an indirect free kick without any disciplinary sanction.

However, there might be one problem: Where to draw the line? 

Ok, chasing the ball after a mistimed return pass, scratching it away from the goalline and preventing a clear goal by that is unfair. A penalty kick is generally more likely to result in a goal than an indirect free kick in the penalty area.

But what if a 'normal' return pass, which is going towards the ball and would enter the goal without further contact by anyone, is touched by the goalkeeper with his hands a) out of stupidity and a lack of concentration or b) because he maybe could not see from which player the ball came? Isn't then also a clear goal denied?

If these offences should be classified as DOGSO requiring a red card and penalty kick, then it will be probably up to the individual interpretation whether or not the goalkeeper behaved extremely unsportingly or not - because then we do not have clear black-or-white situations. This could automatically create grey areas, and this might create doubt and a lack of clarity in the one or other decision. Luckily these do not have happen that often.

What do you think?



  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am also the referee in the video in question. If interested I have similar videos to those Ray HD posts of situations. But since I don't ref such high level I can't provide several camera angles etc. www.youtube.com/channel/UCjlAAUxk70KurpcLWcFL8Mg

    1. No problem, you are welcome :) Same goes for all other users who have video recordings of their/your own games - feel free to share them to get an additional opinion :)

  2. The major argument against a rule change and in my opinion also common sense:
    The only idea behind the backpass rule is to prevent timewasting / playing slowly. In the scenario this is not the motivation of the defending team. Furthermore no team does this deliberately even with current rules, because the indirect free kick is already enough deterrence.
    Another aspect: Own goals with little credit for the attacking team are not the kind of goals the spectators want to see and which should decide matches. So why facilitate them?
    And I don't see it as "extremely unfair", as described in the article. The GK is just doing his normal job, without neither hurting anyone nor provoking punishment for his opponent like real unfair behaviour does.
    Besides the theortical reflections there are also practical issues (e.g. the difficulty to determine the intention in cases) as pointed out in the article.

    1. Good points. I agree that 'extremely unfair' does not meet the entire spectrum of these offences and is a bit too strong, will adapt that - in the fictive scenario it was pointed out that the goalkeeper more or less exactly knows what he does -> maybe similar to this (also a type of offence that should actually lead to more than an indirect free kick only for my taste):

      I think all your arguments are good and valid, except maybe one. I don't think that it plays a role what the motivation of the offending team was in the sense of "it is no real argument". If a technical offence is made, it is irrelevant whether the reason or motivation behind it is congruent with the reasons for which the IFAB / lawmakers originally implemented it in the lawbook. It stays an offence (I mean, we nowadays also punish carelessly outstretched arms as deliberate handballs even though the handball rule was originally thought to punish players who use their hands instead of their feet).

      On the rest I fully agree.

    2. Well, in the Thiago Silva situation I would tend to idF only for similar arguments, but not as clearly as in the backpass situation.
      But shouldn't that be DOGSO by the current law already?

  3. Agree with Philipp, who summarized the core of the issue very well.

    I guess the idea here is to extend the definition of dogso from handling & offenses that can already be penalized with a pk, to a third type where infrequent & annoying situations can also be eliminated (such as subs doing stupid things as the ball is going towards an open goal) by giving the referee the power to penalize them with a PK and red card when applicable.

    Extending dogso to a goalie picking the ball or touching it when a defender plays it back scenario dies not make sense in my opinion, and current penalty for the infraction is (anlittle messy to implement) but more than sufficient. Goalie is not denying a goal scoring opportunity in this case. He is simply wasting time. And packaging it as an infraction of rules and than incorporating it with others in annoying dogso situations is an overreach and out of sync with law 18, in my humble opinion....

  4. My proposal for such situations would be an indirect free kick (for deliberate handling the ball passed by the teammate) and a red card (for DOGSO). Handling the ball by the goalkeeper within penalty area in no circumstances should be punished by the PK as the goalkeeper is genuinely allowed to do so. But the DOGSO he committed must be punished, and in this case my proposal is a RC (as in all DOGSO cases except those ones committed within penalty area in genuine attempt to play the ball when tackling opponent). Herewith, the more serious punishment is issued for what the goal keeper prevented/denied and less serious punishment for how he did it.

  5. Thanks for your views.
    @ Shearer: Isn't DOGSO an offence after which play actually always has to be restarted with a direct free-kick or penalty kick?

    1. Niclas you are absolutely right and I got your point. Since we are discussing potential changes of the LOTG I thought there was a room for exception/s :)

    2. Maybe it will be changed one day, who knows :) At any rate these "annoying situations" as ArdaBey called them should be revised for the next season to get clarity. My experience is that many domestic associations feel quite "left alone" with interpreting these things, but maybe that's normal after such a huge revision.

    3. But Niclas? What if you are with the ball 1 vs 1 and put the ball past your opponent and the opponent clearly blocks your run and makes you stop and therefore prevents you from being free vs the goalkeeper? If it happened outside the penalty area and there is no contact it will be an indirect free kick but not a red card for dogso? I would give a red card. But is that wrong?

    4. You're right, my mistake, Victor. DOGSO is of course also possible if the offence itself wants an indirect free kick such as dangerous play on the goalline or what you just described.

    5. If a for example injured player re enters the field without permission and saves a clear goal without using arms is it still only a yellow card offence with the new rules? It really shouldn't be. Just entering the field should be a yellow card no matter what and playing the ball or influencing play should be another yellow card no matter if you use your arms or any other part.

    6. Take a look at this video. It is a perfect example of DOGSO for an indirect free kick offence. Even with the 2016/17 LOTG changes, it is still a red card, because the laws require that it is necessary that the referee award a penalty kick for it to be possible for him/her to caution a player for DOGSO.


      See the attacker in red pull away from heading the ball in reaction to the exposed studs of the defender in yellow. So the correct decision would be an indirect free-kick for playing in a dangerous manner (PIADM), and a red card for DOGSO-F. Very interesting situation.

    7. Yes, good example and I agree with your words.
      Is there also an example, where the referee actually gave a DOGSO red card combined with a indirect free kick? I failed to find one...

  6. In the example you describe Victor, an injured player re-entering the field of play without the referee's permission and then denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity by an otherwise legal action (for instance kicking the ball), according to the new LotG a red card should be issued. IFAB clarified this in a November circular.

    IFAB November circular:


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