Prince William SRA


Passback to the Goalkeeper

A goalkeeper can NEVER be sanctioned for deliberately handling the ball (handball) in his own penalty area because that is the special privilege goalkeepers have. They are permitted to use their hands.

If you believe that Law 12 has been infringed because the GK used their hands to touch the ball, it is not a penalty. It can be one of the goalkeeper infractions:

• touches the ball again with his hands after it has been released from his possession and has not touched any other player
• touches the ball with his hands after he has received it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate
• touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate

The sanctions for all these is an IFK for the attacking team at the point of infraction, except, of course if it occurred in the goal area, the free kick would take place at the top of the goal area.


The law states quite simply that the goalkeeper should be penalized if a teammate deliberately passes the ball to him and he uses his hands to play the ball. But for most of the games we officiate, does this really apply?

It was 13 years ago (1992)* that this was added to the LOTG. At the professional level it was common for a team sitting on a one goal lead to pass the ball from the halfway line back to the goalkeeper where he would collect it with his feet and wait until an attacker ran up to him at which time the GK would pick up and punt the ball. This was very boring football and the Laws changed to get this action out of the game.

From our observations of officiating in youth soccer, we estimate that twice as many "deliberate pass backs" are penalized as should be. Maybe even more. Many inexperienced referees are over-zealous in wanting to call this, but if you then add the problem that parents and spectators unfamiliar with the game shout every time the ball leaves a defender’s foot and is picked up by the goalkeeper, the tendency for the official is to blow his whistle in response. This only makes matters worse, because the lack of knowledge by the spectators is then reinforced by the action of someone who is in their eyes a trained referee.

What is needed is knowledge and an understanding of clear methods of determining whether a player "passes the ball deliberately to the goalkeeper". The most evident situation is when a teammate of the GK in the defensive third of the field turns and faces the keeper and directs a pass to the keeper. You simply do not see U09s or U10s or U12s turn and face the keeper and pass the ball to the keeper. It does not happen. Young players are trained to go forward, not backward, and they do not pass to their goalkeeper.

Here is what does happen. There’s a bunch of players running together. Somewhere in that bunch is a ball. You have positioned yourself close to the bunch and you see a player with a red sock kick at the ball and it goes to the GK, also wearing red socks. Ladies and gentlemen, please do not call this a deliberate pass to the keeper. These are kids kicking a ball.

Another situation. Attacker and defender running side by side towards the defender’s goal. As they run in tandem the defender’s toe kicks the ball before the attacker does and it goes to the keeper. These are two players running together. The defender is not trying to make a pass to the keeper.

In the case of supposed deliberate pass to the keeper in which the keeper uses his hands in the penalty area to handle the ball, ask yourself this: Was this a controlled action by the teammate to deliberately pass the ball to his keeper? If the answer is "yes", then you have witnessed an infringement of the laws, and you may penalize with an IFK. If not then allow play to continue.

At U09s, U10s, and even U12s, how often do you see a ball kicked to the keeper (a shot) and it goes past the keeper, through her legs, or she even catches it only to lose control and have it go in the net? All the time! So why then, ladies and gentlemen, do you believe that a teammate of that very same keeper will pass the ball to her deliberately? I wouldn’t make that pass.

Let me repeat: These are kids just kicking the ball. These are not deliberate passes to the keeper.

We learn reffing from watching others. And by reading. And if you are a youth member of PWSRA and are the first to contact barry at pwsra dot org, you will receive a DCV Referee Flipping Coin. Youth players, be honest. How many of you, even before you took a referee course, believed you knew how to ref because as players, you have seen referees countless times? Most of you. It’s the same with adults. But you remember the ref whistling you for a deliberate pass to the keeper when you were just clearing the ball and you believe that is the right call because some ref called it. Now you are the ref and you have the opportunity to call it right.

We are stopping just short of stating NEVER make this call. If you are refereeing older and/or competitive (travel) games or adults, those players sometimes do make deliberate passes to their keepers. But the U-littles simply kick the ball. Until you get the experience (at least 100 games) that these decisions come without thinking, our suggestion to you is if you have to think about it then think about not calling it.

Recognize too, that there are some calls in the game that either way, players and spectators will groan. Whether you call this one or you don’t, one team will think you’re wrong. You need to at least tell the players that you recognize that something happened and when someone says "they can’t do that" you need to let them know that it wasn’t a deliberate pass to the keeper. Say something clever like "that wasn’t a deliberate pass to the keeper."

So please, until you get those 100 games of experience under your belt that will instantly allow you to recognize a deliberate pass from an errant kick, do not be in a hurry to call deliberate pass. (And if you do NO PENALTY KICKS!)

*This message was first sent to PWSRA members on November 4, 2005


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