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A simple adjustment of a soccer law, that can make soccer, much better!

Recently, I put this question to Ref. Vangelis. Like always, his answer was more than satisfying and professional.
Dear Ref. Vangellis,

Very often I see this happen during games. Not youth players, but adults, after having committed a foul, have the bad habit of taking the ball in their hands and walking away with it, just to go back in defense, forbidding the team that has the foul in favor, to restart the play. Aside from the fact that it would be great to introduce a soccer law that absolutely forbids the team that has the foul against, to touch the ball anymore after the Referee has blown the whistle, could this behavior be considered unsporting and be punished with a yellow card? I'm sure that you'll say: "Of course!" So, why does this never happen?

Coach Gianni


I condensed his answer just straight to the point:

Answer: Of course it is unsporting behavior. And of course there is a law that absolutely forbids players to do this. Referees have always been instructed to address this problem by issuing a yellow card for unsporting behavior and in case of repetition by the same player a red card.

To further identify and address this particular problem, two specific statements were added to Law 12 in the year 2000 under “Cautionable Offences”. All referees are instructed to caution and show the yellow card to a player who “delays the restart of play” and “fails to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick or free kick or throw-in”.

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany Special Instructions to the Referees

Delaying the restart of play.

Referees must caution players who delay the restart of play by tactics such as:

3)Kicking the ball away or carrying it away with the hands after the referee has stopped play.

Thanks very much Ref. Vangelis.

What I mean, is different. The concept of “unsporting behavior” even if a few aspects are specified like, “carrying the ball away“, it’s still in some way ‘vague’. How far “away“? I think that the rule could be MUCH MORE SPECIFIC!

As an example, on the freeway a policeman doesn’t stop a car because (in his opinion!!!) the speed was considered excessive. There is a limit that is 55 miles per hour, so, end of story. There are no ‘interpretations’ like unsporting behavior!

Every year, all the Federations of team sports review the laws of the game. Sometimes, if some episode negatively affects the fluidity of the game, they immediately update the rules, even during the season. This is really good!

To update the laws, by staying in the historical moment in which something negative happens, is fundamental to keeping the games realistic and actual in any sport!

To be honest I can’t say that this happens in soccer. Very often the FIFA is terrorized at the very idea of changing anything in the ‘beautiful game’ and it takes years to see some infinitesimal improvements in the soccer laws.
It’s understandable that they don’t want to change anything to alter the spirit of the game but, in doing this, there is the risk of not doing anything! So, some little upgrades that in any case won’t change it and only will make it better, in my opinion would be great!

There are many episodes that can only create unwanted tensions, and be easily avoided, with a little adjustment, that in no way will modify the spirit of the game and can make it, only better, with no negative side-effects!

For example, as I asked in the question at the beginning, how many times have we seen a player from a team that has a foul against, pick up the ball and run back to his half field and only when he gets to a better DEFENSIVE POSITION he throws the ball back, often not to the spot in which the play will be restarted from the other team, regularly provoking an angry reaction from the opposing team?

I saw this thousands of times and I really rarely saw a yellow card!

How many times have we seen, after having scored a goal, the player of the team that just scored, run in the net to pick up the ball to bring it to the center field to restart the game as fast as possible, because they are still losing, and the other team tries to collect the ball too, for the opposite reason and, often, this can start a fight in trying to pick up the ball at the bottom of the net, first?

I’ve also seen this happen hundreds of times!

How many times have we seen players that stay in front of the ball, instead of going immediately 9 yards away, so the opposing team can’t immediately restart the play? In this situation too, it could happen that an exasperated player from a team that’s still losing, a few minutes from the end of the game, makes the mistake of pushing away the opponents that forbid him to restart the play.

The curious part is that HE will have a yellow card and the others in front of the ball, won‘t!

These 3 episodes happen constantly and, as I said, often can generate situations that could degenerate! Besides the fact that they are very unsporting behaviors, we can’t expect that all the players are great ‘gentlemen’.

It would be great if no one will perpetrated bank robberies, because it’s simply not right, but we can’t expecting that no one will do it anymore just because it’s not right! For the same reason, we can’t expect that all the soccer players, of any age, will play like gentlemen, Just because it’s right.


So, we have to stop relying on the good sense or the interpretation of the Referees!

Instead of considering what is underlined above just an unsporting behavior, that leaves room for personal opinions and interpretations, let’s create, or better formulate a couple of soccer rules that, without in any way modifying the spirit of the game, clearly forbid this kind of behavior!


When a team has a foul against, none of their players, CAN TOUCH THE BALL, ANYMORE for any reason! The ball is not their ball anymore. The ball is in possession of the other team until the play restarts so, they CAN’T TOUCH IT! If some opponent player does that, by picking it up, even with the apparent intention of sending the ball back to the right spot, he will immediately receive a yellow card!

The same yellow card, will be given to a player who doesn’t go 9 yards away from the ball immediately, when a free kick, direct or indirect is awarded to the opposing team. And if by chance, at half field, a player is still close to the ball when the opponents restart the play, because he can’t simply disappear if the play restarts suddenly, he can stay there but freeze so let’s just forbid him to touch the ball or in any way be an obstacle to the restarting of the play!

And the same by picking up the ball after a goal. The ball is in possession of the team that had the goal against and the other team, CAN’T TOUCH THE BALL ANYMORE until the play is restarted at half field by the team that had the goal against! And this team, has to restart the game in no more than 30 seconds! If they don’t do this, the goalkeeper, that by definition we can say was the player closest to the ball at the moment in witch the ball entered in goal, will receive a yellow card! On the other hand, if after 30 seconds the other team is still celebrating and are not back on their half of the field, all the players not there will receive a yellow card!

When a team loses, besides many other things, they need EVERY SECOND to try to come back! Obviously, many of these sad episodes, in which a team wastes time, could be simply avoided by introducing the ‘Effective Time’, in which the clock will be stopped and restarted when the play restarts, like in many other sports but, let’s not dream too much in expecting something so obvious and smart! Let’s just introduce something, only connected with logic and good sense.

Is it to much to ask? Hope not!

Coach Gianni

Posted on 13 Jun 2007 by coachgianni
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