Changes to Fifa rules should be implemented to the letter

Johannesburg – Suggested changes to the Fifa Laws of the Game are decided upon each year at the annual meeting of the International Football Association Board, which is held in March. These changes are then implemented from July 1 of that year, except where leagues have already started.

Those leagues will implement the changes at the start of their respective seasons.

The board comprises eight members: four from the so-called home countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and four from the rest of Fifa.

For any new changes to come into effect, a 75% majority is required. In other words, six of the eight have to agree.

Referee may have been confused

Recently, two new laws came into being, one of which caused quite a stir in South Africa.

Last month’s game between SuperSport United and Ajax Cape Town at the Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga is a case in point.

I think it’s important to give the actual wording of the law first and then to try to explain where I think the referee may have been confused.

So, I will quote verbatim from the book to ensure that there is no misunderstanding:

Law 8 – The start and restart of play

Drop ball – procedure

The referee drops the ball at the position where it was when play was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the ball is dropped on the goal area line which is parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was when play was stopped.

The ball is in play when it touches the ground.

Any number of players may contest a dropped ball (including the goalkeepers); the referee cannot decide who may contest a dropped ball or its outcome.

Infringements and sanctions

The ball is dropped again if it:

  • Touches a player before it touches the ground;
  • Leaves the field of play after it touches the ground, without touching another player.

This next point is very important:

If a dropped ball enters the goal without touching at least two players, play is restarted with:

  • A goal kick if it enters the opponent’s goal;
  • A corner kick if it enters the team’s goal.

In the incident at Mbombela Stadium, the ball did enter the opponent’s goal without touching a second player, so the referee was correct not to award a goal.

What he should have done was award a goal kick, but what he did was drop the ball again – which was wrong, according to the law.

Forget about the rights and wrongs of whether two or 10 or no players contested the ball. That is not the issue.

The real issue is how the game was restarted because, firstly, when the referee stopped the game, the ball was inside the penalty area, so play should have been restarted from there.

Secondly, it is not the referee’s job to see how many people want to contest the dropped ball.

What has been happening in recent times is that referees, especially in the English Premier League, are telling a player from one team or the other to kick it back to their opponent. That is in total contradiction of the law.

The spirit of the law may say something different, but referees are not there for that purpose.

Spin on the ball

If both teams agree that one team’s player should kick it back to the other team, so be it. In fact, the law does say that referees may not “manufacture” a drop ball, and by telling a player to kick it to an opponent, it is exactly that.

The second issue is the taking of penalty kicks. An issue came up recently on social media where a penalty kick was taken.

The ball hit the cross bar, bounced out into the field of play and, such was the spin on the ball, it rolled back into the net.

The goalkeeper, thinking that it was a “save”, ran out to celebrate with his team-mates.

The referee correctly waited for the outcome and awarded a goal, much to the consternation and exasperation of the keeper.

Here is what the law says – and again, I quote from the Fifa laws of the Game:

“The penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any offence".

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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