The League Cup seems to be well down the pecking order when it comes to clubs’ priorities and for television companies these days. In its present metamorphosis as the Capital One Cup, for most viewers it only warrants a late night highlights programme. That being the case, I’m sure that not a lot of viewers watched the Tottenham quarter final against West Ham and therefore missed an intriguing incident that happened after the referee stopped the game for an injury to a player. Quite correctly he restarted with a drop ball where the ball was when he stopped play, which happened to be about half way inside the West Ham half. As I’ve said before we seldom see a contested drop ball these days, instead one team or the other decide to kick the ball back to the opposition goalkeeper or at least in his direction. In this case it was a West Ham player, James Collison, who elected to kick the ball back to Hugo Lloris, the Spurs keeper. Remember that the kick was well inside the West Ham half so it had to be some kick and it was. Possibly a better kick than Collison intended for it seemed to be floating over the head of Lloris who had come a little way off his goal line. Realising that ball was likely to go into the goal, he scrambled back and managed to knock the ball out with his hand. The television commentator was screaming with excitement.
The question for everyone to consider is what would have happened if the goalkeeper had missed the ball and it had gone into the goal direct from the kick at the drop ball? How would the referee have restarted the game? A kick off (after a goal is awarded), a goal kick or make the drop ball be retaken? The answer is that it would have restarted with a goal kick. As the Law now stands, a goal cannot be scored direct from a drop ball. The change to the Law took place at the beginning of last season but judging from the hasty retreating and frantic handling by the Spurs goalkeeper, it would seem that he was of the opinion that if he didn’t prevent the ball going in the goal it would have resulted in a goal being awarded. The excited clamour of the commentator would also suggest that he thought the same thing.
If he had realised it, the safest action Lloris could have taken was to have leave the ball alone. Had it gone in the goal then he had lost little, he would have a goal kick to take. If however he had knocked it in the goal instead of away from the goal then a goal would have been awarded as it was no longer direct. The referee, Neil Swarbrick, would of course have known this for as a Premier League referee he would have attended a seminar before the season started at which all the season’s changed to the Laws were explained. However, I was a little surprised when talking to certain local referees that they weren’t sure what they should have done if such a situation had happened to them. This I find can be a problem when there are minor changes to the Laws of the Game, which of course receive no publicity in the sports pages. Once upon a time all referees received in the post a letter outlining all changes for the coming season and nothing else. Now, the FA seems to rely instead on the changes appearing in the magazine Refereeing which is sent out to all registered referees but do they all read it? These minor changes sometimes take a few years to percolate down to local football.