Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Stoppage Of Play And The Drop Ball / Bounce Up

drop ball
Image: Steindy (talk) 20:57, 14 November 2010 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the world of modern football, few things are as frustrating as seeing your favorite team kick the ball out of play because an opposing player is down with an injury. It becomes even more exasperating when you suspect that the player is faking the injury to waste time, and your team falls for it. Sometimes, the referee will blow the whistle if the player seems to be indicating a head wound. In these situations, it is common for the team with the injured player to kick the ball back to their opponents. However, occasionally a bounce ball, also known as a drop-ball or bounce-up, will be required.

Sportsmanship Or Tradition?

For those who have been avid football spectators for some time, it is customary to see a team kick the ball back to the opposition after an injury. At many football grounds, supporters may even shout abuse at their own players for kicking the ball out of play, especially if they believe the injured player is feigning the injury. The question arises: do teams do this out of tradition or in the spirit of sportsmanship?

The answer lies somewhere in between. Traditionally, teams have acted as “gentlemen” and returned the ball to their opponents to display class. In the past, injured players were less likely to fake their injuries as it would have been considered unclassy. Although not specifically outlined in the rules of the game, it has become customary for a team with an injured player to kick the ball out of play for their player to receive treatment. The opposition then gives the ball back as a sign of sportsmanship. The same courtesy applies if the opposition has an injured player, and the team in possession of the ball puts it out of play.

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When It Goes Wrong

players surround referee
Image: Seaninryan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. In a match between Bury and Doncaster in 2015, the ball was put out of play to allow a Doncaster player to receive treatment. After a series of actions, one of the Doncaster players kicked the ball back to the Bury goalkeeper, but it ended up going over his head and into the net. After discussions between players, officials, and benches, sportsmanship prevailed. Doncaster kicked off the game again, and one of their players scored a goal uncontested. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, highlighting the confusion that can arise from such incidents.

A similar moral dilemma unfolded during a match between Leeds United and Aston Villa in the 2018-2019 season. Both clubs were vying for promotion from the Championship. It all began when Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia went down with an injury, but the referee did not award a free-kick. Leeds, in possession of the ball, appeared to be putting it out of play, mimicking Aston Villa’s earlier actions when a Leeds player, Adam Forshaw, was injured. However, one of the Leeds players continued the attack, resulting in a goal. Chaos ensued, and the match ended in another 1-1 draw.

The Bounce Up or Drop Ball

referee bounce up
Image: thetelf, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Football fans may recall the days when a referee would restart a match by asking a player from each team to contest a “bounce ball.” Previously, the two players would fiercely compete to win the ball, often resulting in clashes and tackles as the match resumed, with the team winning possession. Over time, this method of restarting matches became less competitive, and one team would usually kick the ball back to the other. The decision of which team kicks or receives the ball depends on the events leading up to the referee stopping play, with the official and the teams coming to a mutual agreement.

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According to the rules of the game, the ball is dropped for the defending team’s goalkeeper in their penalty area if play was stopped in the penalty area or if the last touch of the ball occurred in the penalty area. In all other cases, the referee drops the ball for the team that last touched it at the position where it last touched a player, an outside agent, or a match official. The remaining players must maintain a distance of at least 4 meters (4.5 yards) from the ball until it touches the ground. Any number of players can contest a dropped ball, including the goalkeepers. The referee cannot decide who contests a dropped ball or its outcome.

Is It All About Time-Wasting?

In most cases, both teams can determine whether a player’s injury is genuine or not. The nature of the tackle or fall, combined with the player’s reaction, often indicates the seriousness of the injury. As a result, players decide whether to put the ball out of play. Referees are now more likely to stop play in the event of a head injury due to the seriousness of concussions in the modern game. However, aside from head injuries, it is not the duty of the referee to stop the game for injuries. Players must make that decision themselves.

Unfortunately, players sometimes go to great lengths to deceive the referee, holding their face even when an opposing player’s arm hasn’t come close. They may hope to get the opposing player sent off or trick the referee into believing they have a head injury. What was once a tradition rooted in respect, where teams put the ball out of play for an injured player to receive treatment, has become muddled with doubt, suspicion, and deception.

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This is why supporters become frustrated when their team kicks the ball out of play, as they often do not believe the injured player is genuinely hurt. While there is a general rule that teams should kick the ball out, it is frequently disregarded when players suspect time-wasting tactics. In a match between Liverpool and Manchester United in the 2020-2021 season, Liverpool did not put the ball out of play when Bruno Fernandes feigned injury. Instead, Liverpool continued their attack, resulting in a goal from a subsequent free-kick.

Referees Should Add More Time

Part of the problem is that players can get away with their deceptive tactics. Referees cannot prove that a player is not genuinely injured, but they can take steps to discourage players from attempting to manipulate the match. For instance, players sometimes leave the field to receive treatment before rolling back onto the pitch, further delaying play. The issue lies in the inadequate amount of added time at the end of the half. If play is stopped for several minutes due to an injury, the referee should add an appropriate amount of time to compensate.

Correctly timing the added minutes would discourage players from faking injuries to waste time. This would remove the decision of whether to put the ball out of play from the hands of the players and ensure a fairer outcome. Referees play a vital role in maintaining the integrity of the game, and by addressing the issue of added time, they can mitigate the impact of time-wasting tactics.