Was Norwich’s “unsporting” goal wrongly disallowed?

The one footballing incident that people wanted to talk to me about last week was the disallowed ‘goal’ in the Norwich v Cardiff Premier League game. I’m sure everyone has seen it either on television or in the papers when a Cardiff player knocked the ball out over the touchline because a Norwich player went down injured. When the injury had been attended to, the ball was thrown in by Ricky van Wolfswinkel to his Dutch compatriot and Cardiff team mate, Leroy Fer. Everyone expected Fer to pass the ball back to the Norwich goalkeeper who had come out of his goal to receive it, instead he kicked it, deliberately he said afterwards, into Cardiff’s empty net, which would have won the game for his side. However it wasn’t just Fer’s behaviour that people wanted to talk about but also the action of referee Mike Jones who disallowed the goal and made the throw-in be retaken. While most people were supportive of Mike Jones in applying what many called common sense, they also queried whether his action was legal in the Laws of the Game.

In refereeing circles, common sense is often referred to as the eighteenth law. The problem is that I have heard referees quote common sense because they don’t fully understand the other seventeen laws. This is sometimes through inexperience, to understand all aspects of the laws takes time and study. There is one piece of advice I often give to new referees and also to club officials who are called upon to referee games when no official referee has been appointed; ‘if you are not sure of the correct thing is to do, do what you think is fair’. Whether you call it common sense or doing what’s fair, I think that Mike Jones is to be congratulated on making the throw-in taken again. But what does the Law say? For many years it said that ‘the referee restarts the match after it has been stopped,’ which I thought ridiculous wording as it suggested that the referee had to take all the free kicks, goal kicks, throw-ins etc himself. It now reads, ‘The referee indicates the restart of the match after it has been stopped.’

It doesn’t say what form his indication must take but in the Guidelines to Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game, it says that the whistle is not needed to restart play from a throw-in. Of course apart from indicating which side is entitled to the throw and perhaps where it is to be taken from, the referee does little else at a throw-in. But the Guidelines also say that the referee is expected to whistle for a restart after a card has been issued, an injury or a substitution. This is because there has been a delay and it warns all players that the game is about to recommence. Mike Jones had not blown his whistle so was quite within the Laws to say that he had not given the signal to restart the game.

Apart from the whole subject of declining fair play, there are other aspects to the practice of kicking the ball out when a player is injured. Most players, unlike Fer, would not try to score from the throw where a player kicks it out for an injury to one of his opponents. There are some however, who think it is quite in order to attack from the throw-in, if their opponents put the ball out when one of their own team is injured. Sir Alex Ferguson said sometime before his retirement, ‘This kicking the ball out is getting silly. Stopping for injuries should be left to the referee’. A view with which I agree, especially as it is covered extensively in the Laws of the Game.


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