By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer
In this week’s Play of the Week we are discussing Law 8, “The Start and Restart of Play” with specific reference to “Dropped ball”.
The definition of 'dropped ball' according to the Laws of the Game, is:
“A dropped ball is a method of restarting play when, while the ball is still in play, the referee is required to stop play temporarily for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game.”
In this play taken from the Real Salt Lake v Houston Dynamo game, referee Silviu Petrescu stops the game when he realizes the ball is flat. To adhere to the Laws of the Game as quoted above, Petrescu orders a dropped ball.
He then asks Dynamo’s Andrew Wenger to kick the ball to his opponent’s goalkeeper. Wenger decides not to adhere to the referee's request and kicks the ball out of play. Petrescu then decides to have another dropped ball and this time drops it at the feet of Collen Warner. He plays the ball to Eric Alexander who then also kicks the ball out of play, and immediately receives a yellow card from the referee. In the end, Petrescu wisely decides to drop the ball to Real’s Joao Plata and play continues.
Can referees dictate who can contest a dropped ball and can they insist where the players play the ball? The answer, quite simply, is no.
Regarding who can contest a dropped ball, the law is specific:
“Any player may challenge for the ball (including the goalkeeper). There is no minimum or maximum number of players required to contest a dropped ball. The referee cannot decide who may or may not contest a dropped ball.”
Therefore players have the right to contest a dropped ball and any player is eligible.
The section of the law which applies to when the players can play the ball states: “Play restarts when the ball touches the ground.”
Therefore once the ball touches the ground, the ball is in play and players have the right to play the ball wherever they want to.
The intentions of Petrescu in this case, due to the delicately balanced scoreline of 1-0 to Houston, were in the best interests of fair play to allow Salt Lake to gain control of the ball and avoid the potential of time wasting by Dynamo players, but he has no authority to dictate the proceedings in this manner.
Ironically, if he’d have allowed a contested dropped ball with players from both teams involved – or simply allowed Salt Lake to take a throw-in when the ball went out of play – it would have taken up less time than attempting to circumvent the proceedings, and would have avoided an unnecessary yellow card to Alexander.