Football Myths – Part 3: Playing On the Ground

Posted: October 4, 2014 by thirdblindmouse in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Player:  “REF!  He’s on the ground!!!”

Referee:  “OK….and???”

Sound familiar?  It should, because I hear this at least once or twice every single game.  What players fail to realize is that playing the ball while on the ground isn’t actually against the Laws of the Game.  Every time I hear this protest I challenge players and coaches to find me the reference in the LOTG that says a player cannot play the ball while on the ground.  Since most players and coaches don’t have the LOTG handy, let’s figure it out for them.Short answer…IT DOESN’T EXIST!!!

Long answer…Usually when something like this is called, it’s not because the player is playing the ball on the ground however, it’s the simple fact that while playing the ball on the ground, and if there are opponents around and also challenging for the ball, the action of playing the ball while on the ground now becomes dangerous – both to the opponents, and to the player on the ground.  However, playing the ball while on the ground in itself is not an infringement of the laws.

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct states:

“An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
• plays in a dangerous manner”  (FIFA LOTG, pp. 37)


LOTG goes further to explain and define dangerous play in their Guidelines and Interpretations:

“Playing in a dangerous manner is defined as any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player himself).  It is committed with an opponent nearby and prevents the opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.  A scissors or bicycle kick is permissible provided that, in the opinion of the referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent.
Playing in a dangerous manner involves no physical contact between the players. If there is physical contact, the action becomes an offence punishable with a direct free kick or penalty kick. In the case of physical contact, the referee should carefully consider the high probability that misconduct has also been committed.
Disciplinary sanctions
• If a player plays in a dangerous manner in a “normal” challenge, the referee should not take any disciplinary action. If the action is made with obvious risk of injury, the referee should caution the player
• If a player denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity by playing in a dangerous manner, the referee should send off the player”
(FIFA LOTG Guidelines and Interpretations, pp. 121)


Remember, playing in a dangerous manner does not only mean against an opponent.  An act that endangers the culprit’s own safety is also a technical foul, and penalized with an indirect free kick.  As referee’s, one of our main objectives is to ensure the SAFETY of ALL participants!

Notice, that nowhere does the law specify that playing the ball while on the ground is an infringement in itself; it needs to endanger the safety of the player and/or opponents.


Player: “Ref!  He’s on the ground!”

(Referee asks himself “is he endangering his own safety, or that of others?  Answer – NO)

Referee: “No problem…play on!”


Happy Whistling!

The Third Blind Mouse



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