Since the soccer field is very large, the main soccer referee of a professional soccer match usually runs on the field like any other player just to be able to remain close to the ball and make more accurate decisions. However, what happens if the ball hits the referee by mistake during a soccer game?
Well, the rules concerning the referee touching the ball have changed in 2019.
According to the new soccer rules, if the ball hits the referee while the game is on, then the game should stop if any of the following things happen afterwards:
- The ball goes into one of the nets (a goal is scored)
- The team possessing the ball changes
- One of the teams gets a promising chance to score
So basically, if the ball hits the referee and the flow of the game gets affected because of it, then the referee should stop the game and award a “drop ball” to the team who touched the ball last.
Also note that a goal will not be counted if the referee was the last one to touch the ball before it enters the net (however that wasn’t the case a few years ago, more on this later in this article).
If the ball touches the referee slightly and none of the above mentioned things happen, then the referee keeps the ball in play instead of pausing the game and wasting time to give the ball to the team who already has it anyways.
What is a drop ball in soccer?
A drop ball is simply when the referee holds the ball with their hand and drops it on the field in front of one of the players of the team that was awarded the drop ball. In other words, a drop ball is when the referee gives the ball to one of the players on the field.
All of the players on the field except the one who is taking the drop ball should remain at least 4 m (4.5 yds.) away from the ball. The moment the ball hits the ground after the referee drops it, the game is resumed.
So, if you want to look at it in a simple way, if the ball hits the referee while the soccer game is on, then the referee gives back the ball to the team that touched the ball last.
Note that this scenario happens only if the referee touches the ball OUTSIDE the penalty areas of the field.
What happens if the referee touches the ball inside one of the penalty areas?
The referee gives a “drop ball” to the goalkeeper if the ball hits the referee inside the penalty area of that goalkeeper’s team. In other words, no matter which team was the last to touch the ball before it hit the referee inside the penalty area, the goalkeeper of the defending team will get the ball.
The referee drops the ball to the goalkeeper the same way they drop the ball to any other player on the field during a drop ball scenario.
Has a referee ever scored a goal?
It’s true that according to the new soccer laws, a referee can’t score a goal during a match. However, the rules before 2019 weren’t exactly as you would expect.
Before 2019, the referee was considered to be a “part of the field”. Meaning that if the ball hits the referee, the game remains on and nothing happens. In other words, before the new rules, if the ball hits the main referee on the field and it goes into the net, then a goal is to be awarded.
So yes, referees have technically scored goals by mistake in the past.
With that said, I will end my article here. Here’s a quick summary of what you have just read
If the ball hits the referee during a soccer match, then the game will stop under most scenarios and the team who touched the ball last wins a drop ball. If the referee touches the ball inside one of the penalty areas however, then the ball is given to the defensive team’s goalkeeper.