2 AUG 19
Clarification: Law 16, The Goal Kick

This year’s changes to Law 16 – The Goal Kick have often led to the game being restarted quickly and positively but there are two situations which have generated questions from across the football world which we would like to clarify.

1. Goalkeeper ‘lifting’ the ball to a team mate who heads/chests it back to the goalkeeper

There has been much debate about whether, at a goal kick, the goalkeeper is permitted to ‘lift’ the ball to a team mate to head or chest it back to the goalkeeper to catch and then put into play. The views of technical and refereeing experts about whether this is within the ‘spirit’ of the Laws is divided so the matter will be discussed by The IFAB. Until then, this practice should not be permitted nor should it be penalised. If it occurs the referee should order the goal kick to be re-taken (but without any disciplinary action).

2. Opponent in the penalty area when a goal kick is taken 

Law 16 requires all opponents to be outside the penalty area until the goal kick is taken and if an opponent remains inside or enters the penalty area before the kick is taken and plays, challenges or touches the ball, the goal kick is retaken. 

However, Law 16 also applies the ‘quick’ free kick principles outlined in Law 13 – Free Kicks, 3. Offences and sanctions that if any opponents are in the penalty areas because they did not have time to leave, the referee allows play to continue.  
In practical terms, this means that referees should manage goal kicks (and defending team free kicks in their own penalty area) in the same way as they manage free kicks:

- Unless the kick is taken quickly, opposing players should be required to be outside the penalty area and remain outside until the kick has been taken.

- If the kick is taken quickly and an opponent genuinely did not have time to leave the penalty area, the opponent may not interfere with or prevent the taking of the kick but may intercept the ball once it is in play. This is allowed because the defending team, as at a quick free kick, tried to gain an advantage by taking the kick quickly and if this ‘goes wrong’ the Law is not there to ‘save’ them. 

- Players who deliberately remain inside or enter the penalty area before the kick is taken should not gain an unfair advantage, even if the kick is taken quickly. 

If an opposing player commits an offence (as outlined above) the goal kick is retaken; there is no disciplinary sanction unless the offence occurs a number of times (persistent misconduct).

Referees are skilled at managing 9.15m at free kicks and they should apply these skills and principles to the management of goal kicks and defending team free kicks in their own penalty area.