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Four reasons for referee to stop play for injury

In the match between Bristol and Arsenal in the highest league of women’s football in England the referee gave a penalty kick for a handball. But did he have to? Below four reasons for a referee to stop play for injury.

First a short description of the situation. A Bristol player shoots on goal and the Arsenal goalie could only tip it onto the bar. The ball lands in the goal area and both the goalie and (another) attacker are going for the ball. Then the view from the video camera is blocked by a few players, so we can’t see if someone made on offence there. The result of that duel: the goalie has the ball in her hand. With her other hand she immediately touches her forehead, like it hurts. She went laying down on the ground with the ball in her hands. The referee went close but doesn’t whistle. The goalie wants to get rid off the ball then because she’s holding it too long.

And this is why the referee finally will award a penalty kick. A teammate gets the ball from her and touches it with her hands. She drops it to the ground and kicks the ball behind the backline. The ref didn’t see that immediately, but his assistant gave the advice to put the ball on the penalty spot. The reporter then says: “No option [according] to the Laws of the Game than to award a penalty kick.”

But is he right about that and would you handle the same in this situation? Check out the video for yourself and read an explanation from the LATG below.

If you don’t stop play for an injury, the referee was right to award a penalty kick for handball.

Normally play goes on if there’s just a slight injury, but there are a few exceptions to this injury rule. In this situation the goalkeeper is injured and she has pain on her head. According to page 71 of the Laws of the Game there are four reasons to stop play for injury:

  1. a goalkeeper is injured
  2. a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
  3. players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention
  4. a severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg

The referee should have stopped play in the situation above not only because the goalie was injured. A head injury is also something that needs immediate attention. The referee should have stopped play. Play should then restart with a dropped ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped.


  • James Buckner

    “Goalie?” “Handball?” “LATG?”
    3. players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention — but players from opposing teams that have collided and are in need of immediate attention don’t qualify as a reason for a referee to stop play?

    • RefinCA

      @James Buckner: Read #1 and #2 again. A) A GOALKEEPER is injured. That is reason enough to stop play. B) It is a Goalkeeper and an outfield player (doesn’t matter what team) that both require immediate attention. To stop play you don’t need all four reasons, you simply need one.

      Great read and reasoning. Personally I would’ve stopped play sooner and restarted with a drop ball to the keeper, per good sportsmanship by a Bristol player.

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