This weekend not only saw us thoroughly humiliated at home to Crewe, but it also saw an otherwise decent referee put a stop to Rhead’s habit of standing in front of the keeper at the direct free kick.
The harsh truth is that for all of Rhead’s antics, our direct set pieces have been beyond dire this season, but that doesn’t change the fact Rhead is trying to break up the organisation between keeper and wall. However, Carl Boyeson felt it was something he should put a stop to, moving Rhead on. Was he correct?
It seems to be quite a grey area. If Rhead is just standing in front of the keeper, then there’s no issue, but whether his movement causes an offence is going to depend on the referee at the time. I’ve consulted a couple of ‘ask the ref’ websites for their views and have got the following answers.
“I have no problem with an attacker standing in front of the keeper. It’s when that player moves to block the path of the keeper, or makes distracting gestures to distract or block his view, then that’s an issue. The former can be penalised as impeding or charging, the latter would become unsporting behaviour (cautionable). As long as he stands there that’s fine – I’d expect most keepers would try to get in front of the attacker, potentially leading to a bit of jostling – if the ball isn’t play, then hold up the restart and have a quick word with the players involved before it escalates – the last thing you want is to be forced into a controversial decision moments after the ball has been put into play.”
So is Rhead’s behaviour unsporting? Well, according to another referee, no. They take the view that a player can stand where he (or she) wants prior to the ball being in play and the issue only occurs if the ball comes into play and the player is still impeding the keeper.
“It is a general principle underlying the Law that players are not permitted to “play” the opponent rather than the ball. Except under certain conditions spelled out in the Laws (such as at a penalty kick or throw-in or goal kick), a player is permitted to stand wherever he or she wishes. After the ball is put in play, a player who — without playing or attempting to play the ball — jumps up and down in front of the goalkeeper to block the ‘keeper’s vision or otherwise interferes with the ‘keeper’s ability to play the ball is committing the foul of impeding an opponent. Before the ball is in play, the referee can simply allow the opponent of the ‘keeper to impede, wait for the restart to occur, blow the whistle, award an indirect free kick coming out, and card if needed. This is the “harsh” approach and it carries the danger, provided the jostling doesn’t sufficiently enrage the goalkeeper (or any other defender), that the tensions or violence will escalate to something more serious.”
It seems that the current laws leave it to interpretation as to whether an offence is committed or not. I can see the ‘unsporting’ element from Carl Boyeson’s point of view, but I’m not sure there’s an issue until the ball is put into play. I don’t think he was correct in moving Rheady out of the way before the kick was taken, but until we can actually get them on target, it really doesn’t matter one way or another.