Goalkeepers Must Be Allowed to Clear Without Hindrance
At the monthly meeting of Reading referees there was a discussion on a very unusual incident during the Cardiff v Bournemouth Championship game. The Cardiff goalkeeper had the ball in his hands after a Bournemouth attack. All the other players had made their way back up the field of play, except Callum Wilson of Bournemouth who stood on the edge of Cardiff’s penalty area. Simon Moore, the Cardiff goalkeeper ran towards Wilson before kicking the ball, hitting Wilson in the back. The ball rebounded onto the Cardiff crossbar back into play and Wilson following up put it into the Cardiff goal.
Not only did referee Lee Mason disallow the goal but he also showed Wilson a yellow card. Almost every referee in the room said they would have allowed the goal to stand but I would first of all like to look at the process by which Lee Mason would have made his decision. Football law makers want to get the ball back in play as soon as possible, once the goalkeeper has control of the ball. For this reason the law states that, if goalkeeper holds the ball for more than six seconds, the referee will award an indirect free kick to the opposing team.
Also to speed up play, the Law makes it an offence, punishable by an indirect free, if a player, in the opinion of the referee, prevents the goalkeeper releasing the ball, If the player does this in a dangerous manner, kicking or attempting to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in process of releasing it, this should be treated more seriously, perhaps with a yellow card. The Law also says a goalkeeper may not be challenged whilst he has control of the ball, which is not only when he has the ball within his hands but also when he is laying on it or the ball is in his outstretched hand or he is bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air. So I think Lee Mason’s thinking behind his decision can be understood but we have to ask, did Wilson breach any of this Law.
All he did was to stand still several yards in front of the goalkeeper. In the Laws of the Game it says all players have a right to their position on the field of play. You sometimes see this when a player runs into an opponent who has not moved and then appeals for the free kick. All this changes if the opponent should move into the way of the player, but Wilson didn’t do that, he remained where he stood. The question might be asked, why did he stand there at all and not retreat along with his team mates? I can’t answer for Wilson of course but players often remain in the vicinity in case the goalkeeper should release the ball by rolling it along the ground, enabling him to take the ball a little further up the field, to gain more distance on his kick. The player is then entitled to challenge the goalkeeper for the ball.
My other point is that Simon Moore, the Cardiff goalkeeper didn’t have to go anywhere near Wilson. With an empty penalty area he could have chosen another route to make his kick. By running towards Wilson and then kicking the ball directly at him, in my opinion he laid himself open to giving away a free kick, even a penalty.
When the Select referees get together for their fortnightly training sessions, they look at videos of controversial decisions they have made in the past two weeks and comment on each other’s decisions. I would love to know what their views were on this incident and whether they would have agreed with our local referees.