I'm trying to understand whether the letter of the law does allow for a goalkeeper to be potentially sent-off for denying the opposing team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by breaking the six-second rule, or if I'm missing something in the text or there is some other source I'm unaware of that prevents this possibility (e.g. an official communication from the IFAB).

The situation I'm envisioning may sound absurd at first, seeing how a goalkeeper who's keeping the ball in his hands (for less or more than six seconds) can't possibly be stopping a goal-scoring opportunity either way—as the ball is firmly in his hands the whole time. Furthermore, there is this passage here (Law 12.1 Direct Free Kick):

The goalkeeper has the same restrictions on handling the ball as any other player outside the penalty area. If the goalkeeper handles the ball inside their penalty area when not permitted to do so, an indirect free kick is awarded but there is no disciplinary sanction.

However, this passage is very specific in saying ‘handling the ball’, which refers to the act of touching the ball with one's own hands. And if we look just a little beyond, we find that (Law 12.2 Indirect Free Kick):

A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball with the hand(s) when: [...] bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air.

Now, follow me on this: am I correct in saying this covers the entire action of throwing the ball into the air up until the moment when it is kicked? We do see it very often: players are penalised all the time for interfering with the goalkeeper while he's throwing the ball in the air to kick it, proving how the ball is indeed considered to be in the keeper's possession until the kick takes place.

Therefore, consider this scenario: at 5 seconds, the goalkeeper throws the ball into the air—and it's kind of a vertical throw, maybe also due to wind or other conditions. If he let it be, the count would just stop at five. But an attacking player from the opposing team sees the chance and runs towards the ball, and he's alone and he could clearly score on an empty goal. So the keeper notices this, and he immediately runs towards the ball and kicks it away before the attacker could reach it. When he touches it with his foot, 7 seconds have elapsed in total. In this situation:

  • the goalkeeper was in control of the ball with his hand(s) for 7 full seconds, using the same wording from Law 12.2, but at the same time he did not commit an offence by handling the ball (as per Law 12.1), since the final touch is the one that realised the offence, and that was a kick;
  • the goalkeeper has artificially extended his control of the ball from 5 to 7 seconds: it is only due to his kick that his personal six-second clock kept running (otherwise it would have stopped at 5), meaning that him breaking the six-second rule was a deliberate act and the offence that directly caused him to deny the opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

And by the way, I know someone will say: ‘There's no way the referee is gonna keep track of seconds so precisely’. But I should point out that if this is indeed DOGSO, then this is a potential red card situation which would therefore call VAR into action as sending-off offences are part of the protocol (VAR protocol Principles). Furthermore, counting seconds is an objective fact (and it's also easy to do on a computer), meaning that, according to the protocol once again, the whole check could start and end without even involving the referee (VAR Protocol Procedures):

For factual decisions e.g. position of an offence or player (offside), point of contact (handball/foul), location (inside or outside the penalty area), ball out of play etc. a ‘VAR-only review’ is usually appropriate

So, what do you think? Is a red card indeed appropriate in this situation, and if not, why?

  • There simply is no goal scoring opportunity with the goalie having the ball. So nope, not possible,
    – dly
    Commented Mar 29 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


You are unfortunately following in the footsteps of many spectators, fans, and even players, and not just in football.

Stop overthinking it.

The laws are clear enough: "being in control of the ball with the hand(s)" includes when throwing it in the air. The goalkeeper cannot be given a card for the offence of doing this too long in the box. No VAR will ever intervene in a situation like this because it is entirely outside their remit, except if an overzealous referee gave a red card or penalty kick for this offence alone.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.