FROM THE MIDDLE: When the referee gets in the way

What has impressed me at the EURO 2020s is the speed of the referees around the pitch.

Premier League referees are no slouches, but perhaps it is the extra keep fit sessions UEFA have held for their top referees.

Or perhaps, I’ve been taken in by the number of times the referees have had to drop the ball, after being hit by it.

That’s the excuse I make whenever I get hit by the ball, at least I’m keeping up with
the play.

This Law is a relatively recent one, coming into force in 2019.

Previously, if the ball hit the referee, it was no different from rebounding from the goalpost or the flag post, the game just carried on.

There is a classic video of a penalty where the goalkeeper punches the ball out but only on to the head of the referee, from where it bounced back into the goal.

The referee then had no option but to award the goal. Perhaps this is what prompted the law makers to make the change.

A spectator, speaking loudly after I have twice dropped the ball at the feet of the opposition, asked, ‘why does he always give the ball to them?’

Under the Law the referee has no choice but doesn’t always have to stop the game when he’s been hit.
If the ball rebounds to the kicker or a team mate, he can allow the play to continue, providing it hasn’t created a promising attack.

He must, however, stop the play, and restart with a drop ball should the ball rebound to an opposing player, or of course if the ball deflects off the referee into the goal.

But at whose feet will he drop the ball?

It will be a player, any player, of the side who last played the ball before it hit the referee, unless it is in the penalty area.

There, it’s dropped at the feet of the goalkeeper.

Another change is that other players of both sides must remain at least at least four yards away when the ball is dropped.

By Dick Sawdon Smith

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