Goalkeeper Rights And Privileges

Published on February 15, 2016


By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician

The NFHS Soccer Rules Book provides detailed information on goalkeeper rights and privileges. Safety of all players is a key component in soccer officiating. This is especially so for goalkeepers since they can be susceptible to injuries when they are attempting to stop a shot from becoming a goal. Rule 12 provides various stipulations for players and goalkeepers.

First, the goalkeeper cannot be charged in any manner when he/she is within the penalty area. The goalkeeper can only be charged within the penalty area if he/she is obstructing an opponent or dribbling the ball with his/her feet. Field players can legally charge an opponent as long as the ball is within playing distance and the contact is shoulder to shoulder and the player has at least one foot on the ground and the arms are close to the body. This is not permitted with the goalkeeper within the penalty area.  If the goalkeeper is outside the penalty area, an opponent may legally charge him/her like any other field player. The safety of the goalkeeper is most important. If a goalkeeper is charged, the official must immediately deal with the situation and award a foul and warn the opponent that this type of behavior is unacceptable.

The next protection of a goalkeeper is that he/she cannot be interfered with by an opponent when in possession of the ball. Possession includes bouncing the ball, dropping the ball to kick it, or attempting to the throw the ball or tossing the ball into the air to recatch it. Control also includes situations when the goalkeeper is on the ground and has his/her hand on the ball in a manner that he/she can make a play with the ball. The goalkeeper must be protected especially when on the ground and in possession of the ball.  Opponents cannot be allowed to kick at the ball when the goalkeeper is on the ground and in possession of the ball. If this occurs there is a high potential for injury.  Again, this is to protect the goalkeeper and if there is a violation the official must award a foul and either warn or caution the opponent. This type of foul can easily lead to retaliation and other related problems.

During the course of play there are situations where the official must make a decision as to whether contact with the goalkeeper was part of the normal course of play or a foul. This occurs when the goalkeeper is about to make a save and the momentum of the opponent results in contact with the goalkeeper. The official must determine if this was normal contact or an attempt to foul. If it was normal contact the official should ensure that he/she is close to the play and can quickly communicate with the players involved and others near the play that what was observed was a fair play. This can help to prevent retaliation or other situations that may require more severe discipline. A suggested guideline when this occurs is that the official should get close to the player who made contact with the goalkeeper and communicate with him/her about anything so that the other players feel that the official is admonishing the player.

The goalkeeper does have various restrictions that must be enforced by the official. Once the goalkeeper takes control of the ball with his/her hands within the penalty area, he/she has six seconds to release the ball into play. During this time the goalkeeper may bounce the ball, throw it up and catch it, or hold it prior to release. The official must make a determination regarding the six seconds as to whether the goalkeeper is attempting to delay or release the ball. If the intent is to release the ball the six seconds should not be an issue. This should only be a problem if the goalkeeper is deliberately attempting to delay the game, especially late in the first half or end of game when the team is in the lead. A good mechanic for the official is to verbally warn the goalkeeper and encourage him/her to release the ball. If the goalkeeper continues to delay the official should award an indirect free kick to the opponents at the point of the delay.

Once the goalkeeper releases the ball from his/her hands, after having possession, he/she cannot pick the ball up until it is touched or played by another player. If it is a teammate, the touch or play must be outside the penalty area. If an opponent touches or plays the ball, it can be anywhere on the field. Should the goalkeeper pick the ball up before it is touched or played by another player an indirect free kick is to be awarded. This also includes a deliberate parry of the ball by the goalkeeper

The final restriction is that the goalkeeper cannot touch the ball with his/her hands when it is directly thrown to the goalkeeper from a team mate on a throw in. Again, an indirect free kick must be awarded.

There are many play rulings in the NFHS Soccer Rules Book that describe goalkeeper rights and restrictions. Interscholastic officials should review them on a regular basis so that when an unique situation occurs the official is ready to make the proper decision.

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