Substitute entering the field of play

A substitute entering the field of play: how do you deal with this? It’s a rare situation in the German leagues. What is your call?

It’s a situation described in one of my weekly Laws of the Game Quizzes. Below the video you’ll see how you need to handle.

The situation

In the German Second Bundesliga game between Holstein Kiel and VfL Bochum this rare accident happens. Kiel player Michael Eberwein is doing his warm-up behind the goal-line. Because the ball goes wide, he stops the ball to make it easier for the goalkeeper to grab it.

But what Eberwein doesn’t realise is that the ball did not wholly cross the line. This means the ball was still in play and he intereferes with play. The video referee calls over the referee to check the video footage.

LOTG on a substitute entering the field of play

The Laws of the Game are very clear on this:

“If a team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player or outside agent enters the field of play, the referee must only stop play if there is interference with play.” Check!

“Have the person removed when play stops”. He already left.

“Take appropriate disciplinary action If play is stopped and the interference was by:

  • a team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player, play restarts with a direct free kick or penalty kick
  • an outside agent, play restarts with a dropped ball If a ball is going into the goal and the interference does not prevent a defending player playing the ball, the goal is awarded if the ball enters the goal (even if contact was made with the ball) unless the interference was by the attacking team.

In this case a substituted interferes with play, which means play has to be restarted with a penalty kick.

The role of the video referee

But doesn’t this seem a minor offence? Yes, the ball would have gone out anyways. But as the restart would have been a penalty kick, it means VAR will take action.

Have a look in the German VAR center.


  • George Markou

    Hi Jan,
    This is correct by law but doesn’t feel fair.
    I can think of two ways to mitigate this.
    1. Change the wording in the Laws as this interference is purely not intended to influence the game.
    2. Have the subs warm up by the touchline opposite the AR instead of behind the goal line.

  • Alex Korotkov

    I would not call it. The intention of this law was to punish team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player who stand near the goal, jump onto the field and prevent the ball going into the net. There are a few videos, look it up.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      No change in the LOTG about that, as it’s not clear to write down a law for exceptions like this. I don’t have VAR, so you can always sell you couldn’t not see if he entered as you’re usually not on the goal-line.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      You can argue at amateur level if you’re at the right place to spot he offence here, but it’s a fact (we can spot with all the camera’s there) that he touches the ball before it gets in play. With camera’s and VAR, you can argue whether you want VAR to intervene for these things, but in fact it’s a penalty incident. In amateur leagues you’ll be able to say the ball has crossed the line as nobody expects the PK plus you won’t be on the line to be 100% sure, and I’d not give a penalty then.

  • Sahid

    So, was he given a YC or RC for this? Should he not get two YC, one for entering the field of play without permission and one for interfering with play?
    but then, you have to ask the spirit of the game to make a determination and it sounds like a YC and PK would be enough punishment.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Yellow card. This is one foul, not two at once. So one card would definately be fine. As the ball would have gone out, even that feels a bit harsh to me.

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