The Referee Corner: Understanding Law 12… The Goalkeeper and use of hands
As the season progresses, we will respond to questions/incidents that we see at the complexes to grow our understanding of the application of the Laws of the Game.
Based on questions we have received from coaches we will review Law 12, the goalkeeper, and their use of hands.
The reason this is important is because every week in soccer matches in Kansas we see incorrect decisions:
•Pass backs to the goalkeepers result in Penalty kicks
•Goalies who handle the ball outside the Penalty Area (in the Penalty Arc) are whistled for a foul and the restart is given as an Indirect Free Kick
Law 3 says that each team MUST have a goalkeeper. The goalkeeper wears a distinct color jersey from his teammates and the other team so the Referee can easily identify them because goalkeepers are allowed to use their hands legally in the Penalty Area. The questions then become:
•Are there illegal handlings that can be done by the goalkeeper?
•If so, what are they and what is the proper restart?
And, what happens when the goalkeeper leaves the Penalty Area?
Illegal handlings by the goalkeeper: Law 12 defines 3 actions that constitute illegal handlings by a goalkeeper. The goalkeeper:
1.Touches the ball with the hand/arm after releasing it and before it has touched another player.
a. Can the goalkeeper bounce the ball? Yes, this is legal. Under the current law the goalkeeper is supposed to release the ball into play within 6 seconds. They can take as many steps as they want within this time period and can bounce the ball.
b. However, if the goalkeeper releases the ball to the ground, they cannot then pick it up again if they are under pressure from an attacker.
c. The restart for this is an Indirect Free Kick from where the goalkeeper picked the ball up.
2. Touches the ball with the hand/arm, unless the goalkeeper has clearly kicked or attempted to kick the ball to release it into play, after:
a. It has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a teammate.
i. There are 2 key terms in the Law
ii. Deliberately…. Means the player meant to play the ball to the goalkeeper. In our youth matches players with lesser skills may try and kick the ball away from the attackers but instead the ball goes to the goalkeeper. The Referees must decide on whether the pass was deliberate or not. This is a judgement call by the Referee (remember, you cannot protest judgement calls)
iii. Kicked…. Means the ball is played with the foot. You can use other parts of the body to play the ball back to the goalkeeper and they are legal (knee, head, chest, etc.). But, if you use the foot and kick the ball, this is not allowed.
b. The restart for this is an Indirect Free Kick from where the goalkeeper picked the ball up with their hands.
Receives it directly from a throw-in taken by a teammate.
a. This is easy to understand. Again, the key term is that the throw-in was taken by a teammate of the goalkeeper.
b. The restart for this is again an Indirect Free Kick from where the goalkeeper picked the ball up with their hands.
When the goalkeeper leaves the Penalty Area, they are under the same Law implementations as any other field player, which means they can’t use their hands. The Penalty Arc is not a part of the Penalty Area. Handling by a goalkeeper in the Penalty Arc should be treated the same as handling the ball in any other part of the pitch outside the Penalty Area. The restart would be a Direct Free Kick.
Finally, we are asked if it is legal for the goalkeeper to dribble the ball into the Penalty Area and then pick up the ball with their hands. The answer is yes if an opponent last played the ball. The answer is no if the ball was last played by a teammate.
We hope this adds to your understanding of the Laws of the Game. If the Referee wants to award a Penalty Kick for a goalkeeper handling the ball in the Penalty Area, the coach may ask the Referee to explain their decision. If the coach quotes Law 12 and the Referee does not change their decision, you have a justification to protest the goal.