Ball touches match official and goes out of play

A ball touches match official and goes out of play. A referee in Mexican football accidentally blocks a goal-bound shot and then it crosses the goal line, but not between the goalposts. In this case study you’ll get the solution according to the Laws of the Game. Plus there’s an update with a Copa America 2021 situation where a goal is scored shortly after a touch by the referee.

Ball touches match official
Still from the Guardian video, that is embedded below.

Video of the incident

But firstly, I’d love to show you the video and watch the complete situation. Please make your own decision first, before you scroll down to the explanation. As a referee you have to make the right decision in a split-second, so some great practice with this video.

Laws of the Game

The Laws of the Game are clear when the ball is out of play. The law says that the ball is out of play “when it touches a match official, remains on the field of play and:

  • a team starts a promising attack or
  • the ball goes directly into the goal or
  • the team in possession of the ball changes

“In all these cases, play is restarted with a dropped ball.”

Criteria when a ball touches match official

So does this situation meet the criteria? There’s no promising attack after the touch, the ball does not go into the goal and the ball possession does not change. There’s three NO’s there.

And that’s because these things don’t happen when the ball goes out of play, but not into the goal. The first sentence says it only applies when the ball “remains on the field of play” in combination with one of the other criteria.

That means that the correct restart is a goal kick in this situation.

Creating a promising attack?

An incident from the 2021 Copa América where referee Néstor Pitana touches the match ball. Conmebol released the communication between VAR and referee. The outcome is that the touch by the referee did not directly create a promising attack, which therefore means that play should continue.

My question to you: how would you handle? How would you manage this situation?

13 thoughts on “Ball touches match official and goes out of play

  1. Quoting you here: “And that’s because these things don’t happen when the ball goes out of play.”
    Actually not true. When the ball goes into goal it does go out of play. While the intent of the law here is clear, the wording is conflicting.

  2. Wow, learning has really taken place. These ar real game situations that require a quick interpretation of the lotg Within a split- second.
    Thanks so much.

  3. Ouch, unfortunate for blue that the referee exhibited poor positioning in this situation. He should be nowhere near the goal area let alone inside the penalty area in this situation.

    • You feel so sorry after that. If you enter the penalty area, better from a different angle and not in front of the goal when the ball is still in play.

  4. I love how the announcers laugh when the shot caroms off the referee and across the goal line.

    While the referee was not properly positioned, most fault goes to the blue attacker whose initial shot was an uncontested shot at a wide open goal…and he missed.

  5. Is that a goal when the ball touches referee and the team scored?
    on Brazil vs Columbia, first goal.

    • Conmebol released VAR communication from that incident (search YouTube). Their reasoning is that the contact by the referee did not initiate a promising attack, as the ball went backwards. In law, a correct decision. Would you whistle in an incident like this to manage the situation?

  6. Jan, why this is not a promising attack (mexican game)? If the ref wasn’t there the goal would be scored. Why not dropped ball to blue?

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