6 October ~ While watching Napoli's execution of a penalty in their recent 3-0 win at Inter, I started to think about how often referees allow the laws of the game to be flouted in dead ball situations where the explanation that they have to make split-second decisions doesn't hold water.

For starters, there are corners and goal-kicks. In the match that I saw the afternoon after Inter v Napoli, several goal-kicks were taken with the ball at least a yard ahead of the six-yard line, and from one of many corners taken with the ball outside the quadrant the equalising goal in a 2-2 draw was scored. Corners taken from outside the quadrant are far from a rarity. In all these cases one might say that it's petty to worry about a matter of inches, but imagine that argument being used to justify not calling a no-ball in cricket. And the fact is that whether a goal is or is not scored is often a question of inches.

Next, throw-ins. I'm almost sure that even at the highest level many of them should be repeated, but so rarely is this offence penalised that I suspect that at many clubs young players are no longer taught how to throw in correctly. But here too goals can result – you just need to see Napoli's first goal in their win at Cesena on September 10. The throw may or may not have been legal, but it showed that in certain situations it can be a lethal weapon.

And so we return to Inter v Napoli and the thorniest of these problems. After 40 minutes Napoli were awarded a penalty (incorrectly, as it happens). It was taken by Marek Hamsik. Before he had made contact with the ball, his colleague Hugo Campagnaro was almost level with him and referee Gianluca Rocchi had them both in his sights. Júlio César saved, but the ball finished at the feet of Campagnaro, who put it into the net. Rocchi gave the goal, thus condoning a blatant infringement of the laws.

This happens far too often and is, frankly, inexcusable. The laws are perfectly clear and yet referees refuse to apply them even when the evidence is right under their eyes. So what to do? First, the authorities should make it clear to referees that if they don't apply the laws in situations where their decision is not a matter of opinion, they will be suspended. At the top level they are now well-paid professionals, and they are paid to do a job.

And in the case of penalties, the laws should be modified as follows. If the penalty is missed or saved but there is just one defending player in the area before it is kicked, it is automatically retaken. (I know that's not actually a change, but it needs to be emphasised). If a goal is scored, but there is just one attacking player in the area before it is kicked, the goal is disallowed and there is no retake. Play resumes with an indirect free kick for the defending side. In both cases, the number of players from the opposing side in the area is irrelevant, the principle being that when both sides infringe, the side that would have gained from the infringement is penalised.

And players like Camapagnaro should be treated like players who try to score with their hands and given a yellow card. If these measures were adopted, I don't think you'd see anyone in the area apart from the kicker. The bottom line in all this is that the game has laws, and they're all there for a reason. The duty of the referee is to apply them all, however insignificant some of them may seem, at least until such time as someone decides to change them. Richard Mason

Comments (11)
Comment by alex16z 2011-10-06 12:36:34

With the corners, a lot of the time when it looks like it is outside the quadrant, actually a very small part of the ball is over the line, like here:

Corner Kick!

which is legal.

Comment by Mwnci 2011-10-06 13:41:54

It's such a free for all at penalties. I think they should stop rebounds entirely. Apply the same criteria as for a shoot-out and then restart with a goal-kick.

Comment by Humus B. Chittenbee 2011-10-06 20:00:12

@ alex16z: Agreed - your example is a legal placement. Perhaps they should reverse the application to read "NO portion of the ball may be beyond the white line in a corner kick." - so as to not be 'in the field of play' when struck. MIGHT make it easier for refs and linesmen to enforce. OTOH - I do wonder how much 2 inches will aid a corner taker when he is sending the ball some 30 meters.

I also am a proponent of the ref marking where the ball is to be placed and 'drawing' a line behind which the wall is to stand -- say when it is within 25-30 yards from goal - where it matters on the placement and the cheating forward that EVERYONE does in their wall. I have seen some sort of chalk (?) spray used in some matches. Makes the positioning clear, and makes it easier for the ref to judge infringements.

Finally, add the caveat that when such 'rules' are flouted, the chance (corner kick for example ) is lost and the ball given to the opposing side.

Comment by Burno13 2011-10-07 06:35:43

I also despair with refs for not penalising goalkeepers who come off their line before the ball is struck. I saw a penalty the other day, can't remember what teams were involved, but the 'keeper could have un-tied the laces on the penalty taker he was so far forward.

Comment by geobra 2011-10-07 08:53:58

Aren't goalkeepers only supposed to hold the ball for 6 seconds before releasing it? How often do we see that law applied?

Comment by trevorw 2011-10-08 08:40:08

If you pause the penalty kick, you will see that Campagnaro is about to enter the penalty area as the pk taker runs up to the ball, but he is still only level with (or even behind) the defender who is running in also.

This situation is difficult for the referee...he has to both watch for encroachment AND keep his eye on the ball, and, like all decisions, he has only a millionth of a second to make up his mind. If the law were applied rigorously, the pk would be re-taken, cos both defender and attacker are encroaching..

However, most referees will apply the 18th Law here: the law of Common Sense. It makes no sense to make them re-take the kick when the encroachment is "shared" and a re-take risks depriving the attacking team from scoring a goal. After all, if anyone should be favoured at the taking of a pk, it should be the attacking team, since they have been (usually) deprived of a scoring opportunity. (Apparently, the pk should never have been given, which, if so, would allow the ref (using the 18th Law) to have them re-take.) But normally, no, the ref should keep the game flowing and not draw attention to himself.

Comment by trevorw 2011-10-08 08:46:56

I strongly agree that goalkeepers should be kept honest at penalty kicks. They are coached to take a step forward as the kicker comes in, which reduces the distance between kicker and goalkeeper by maybe one yard or about 8-9% of the distance. A good advantage.

And the six second rule is now a joke. You NEVER see it penalised.

Comment by trevorw 2011-10-08 08:47:59

The six second rule is a joke. It never gets applied, and is routinely flouted in all games...

Comment by geobra 2011-10-08 13:06:53

Of course it actually all starts at the kick-off, when the player receiving the ball almost always has one or both feet in the opposition half. And if he sees the keeper off his line and decides to lob him?

It would be interesting if a referee joined this feed to give his or her views.

Comment by geobra 2011-10-08 13:25:50

The referee's job at penalties could be made much easier if both linesmen were directly involved. One could watch for attackers encroaching, the other defenders, while the referee concentrated on kicker and keeper. If there is a fourth official, he could be the judge in any dispute about whether the ball had crossed the line or not.

Comment by Burno13 2011-10-08 14:54:13

I was discussing various points about the weekend's games with a work colleague who is an FA ref. He was saying they start the 6 second count from when they've run back up the pitch and taken their position.

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