The concept of “possession” or “control” of the ball is critical to allowing goalkeepers to perform their job.
Once a keeper has possession, they are free to recover to their feet and distribute the ball to their own players, unhindered, providing it’s within 6 seconds.
Clearly if the goalkeeper has been fouled in anyway, to be allowed longer than 6 seconds to recover, the referee will normally award a free kick.
But the laws have been tightened to reassure the safety and sanctity of the “possession” concept – ie to allow the keeper to distribute the ball easily.
That means no kicking at, or motioning towards the ball or the keeper at all. To do so would risk a free kick and a card.
On this post, we explore the basis for this “possession”’and how the rules are interpreted by officials. As we’ve seen recently (see here Karius errors in ECL ) the interpretation can vary, and be very costly.
We take the following from here;
playing-the-ball-in-the-goalkeepers-possession US Soccer Federation 2005.
What Does “Possession” Mean?
While the ball is in the possession of the goalkeeper, it cannot be played by an opponent. Any attempt to do so may be punished by a direct free kick. “In the possession of the goalkeeper” is defined as the goalkeeper having the ball trapped between one hand and a surface (which may include the other hand, the ground, a goalpost, or the keeper’s own body). International Board Decision Two of Law 12 emphasizes that the hand includes any part of the hand or arm. However, as stated in the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game (Advice 12.16 and 12.17), the goalkeeper is also considered to be in possession of the ball while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air. Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground.
Once the goalkeeper has gained possession (also known as “control”) of the ball, an opponent may not interfere with or block the goalkeeper’s distribution of the ball. For example, players have a right to maintain a position achieved during the normal course of play, but they may not try to block the goalkeeper’s movement while he or she is holding the ball and trying to distribute it. Nor may opposing players do anything to hinder, interfere with, or block a goalkeeper who is throwing or punting the ball back into play. The goalkeeper has already gained possession and is granted up to six seconds to release the ball back into play by other players. A goalkeeper in the act of distributing the ball may not be challenged under these circumstances. (This includes trying to head a ball out of the goalkeeper’s open hand or playing a ball being bounced or tossed into the air by the goalkeeper.) An opponent does not violate the Law, however, if that player takes advantage of a ball clearly released by the goalkeeper directly to him or her, in his or her direction, or deflecting off him or her nonviolently”
Clearly, based upon the above, official guidance, the interpretation can vary and is a little confusing. Indeed the guidance “advice to referees” quoted above, has been disputed recently. That said, there have been examples (eg here) which have initiated strong debate, and and if you’re interested this is an excellent discussion, which we feel upholds the above interpretation.
Therefore we’d suggest the following guidance to young keepers, with emphasis on safety;
Possession is defined as the goalkeeper having the ball trapped between one hand and a surface (which may include the other hand, the ground, a goalpost, or the keeper’s own body), and the hand includes any part of the hand or arm.
Possession of the ball also includes while bouncing it on the ground or while throwing it into the air.
Possession is given up if, while throwing the ball into the air, it is allowed to strike the ground.
No player may kick or motion towards the goalkeeper or the ball once possession has been secured.
If the ball is not under control, has been “parried” or control lost, then every player is entitled to make genuine, careful attempts to win the ball,
From purely a safety point of view, the keeper has the right to expect the referee to err on the side of caution when determining “possession”.