Case Study: Mike Jones and The Goal That Wasn’t

Case Study # 25-2013
Date 26 Oct 2013
Competition Barclays Premier League
Fixture/Result Norwich City 0 – 0 Cardiff
Referee/Badge Mike Jones, Select Group
At Issue A decision to disallow an apparently legitimate goal is called into question.

As the match drew to a close, Cardiff played the ball into touch to allow treatment for an injured Norwich player.  When play resumed, Norwich took the throw in with the Cardiff goalkeeper fully expecting to receive the ball back, as sporting tradition dictates.

A Norwich attacker deviated from the script, however, and played the ball into an unguarded goal.

This incensed the Cardiff players, who immediately confronted the Norwich player who had shown a complete lack of sportsmanship.

Referee Mike Jones then disallowed the goal, ostensibly under the assertion that he had not given the signal to restart play.

Video of the incident indicates otherwise.

The facts of the matter can’t be disputed.  According to the Laws of the Game, Referee Jones had no authority to disallow a perfectly legitimate goal.

But what about the spirit of the LOTG?  Could an argument be made that Jones acted in the best interest of the game?

In order for that argument to be made, it still has to have some basis in Law.  Referees can’t go around making up decisions because they believe it upholds the spirit of the game.

In this case, I believe Jones made the right decision, and furthermore, there is clear evidence that his actions are indeed in keeping with the spirit of the game.

Recall that the IFAB made a subtle adjustment to the LOTG at the beginning of the 2012/13 cycle with regard to dropped balls.  Whereas before this season a goal could be scored directly from a dropped ball, now a second touch is required.  The reason for this change?  A quick reference to the FIFA memorandum from that year tells us:

There have been a number of occasions where goals have been scored from “uncontested” dropped balls. This has put a great deal of pressure on the referee as he has to allow the goal to stand. We then have the unseemly situation where the opposition allows the team to score from the kick-off without any players trying to stop them in order to rebalance the game. (Emphasis added)

Before you get hung up on the second sentence, let me point out that IFAB solved this problem for referees by making a change to the Laws.  In Mike Jones’ case, he had no such change to rely on.

The third sentence makes clear that IFAB does not want teams allowing an opponent to score an uncontested goal.  This was the prospect that Mike Jones faced as he dealt with the problem before him.

Allowing the goal to stand would be correct in terms of application of the Law, but clearly would’ve violated the spirit, based on the undeniable guidance from the IFAB.

Mike Jones’ decision is defensible on the basis of guidance from the IFAB.

7 responses to “Case Study: Mike Jones and The Goal That Wasn’t”

  1. Wouldn’t the high school way of restarts in this situation solve all of these issues. Maybe FIFA could add this procedure? IFK for the team in possession of the ball.


  2. I always thought the best way for a team to resolve a ball kicked over the touchline would be to make a foul throw-in, thus putting the ball back in the hands of the team that had possession, and in the same general area. The idea that the ball will be played – at times – forty or fifty yards back to a keeper doesn’t seem to be the right way to restore balance…


  3. I hate to disagree with you, but I do. First, you clearly demonstrated that if the IFAB wanted to make a change to deal with this situation they could have. The fact that they made a change to deal with another similar situation, but not this one leads to the conclusion that they didn’t feel such a change was necessary.

    If you find yourself resorting to the IFAB’s commentary over a change to a completely different law, you should know you’re stretching pretty badly.

    Further, when a referee plainly beckons a player to make a throw-in and then claims he did no such thing in the interest of “fairness”, he’s degrading his authority in front of the players.


  4. Throw ins must be taken legally. I do not know where the ball went out but the referee, regardless of beckoning or whistle for the throw in, could easily say it was not within 3 feet of where it went out. This determination is made when the referee decides it is made and not when he signals for it, so the delay is also within the laws.

    While not applicable in that game, we have the ATR which COULD be invoked (“whistle is required … plus any other restart in which the referee has delayed for any reason”). While this restart was for a throw in (no whistle required), the referee did hold up play to see about the injured player, thus giving USSF referees a legal way to get to the spirit of the game and require the rethrow.


  5. There is another incident Mr. Jones could have considered in making his decision. The 1999 FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Sheffield U. Kanu collected a ball from a similar situation on a throw-in and scored. The referee allowed the goal. There was such an uproar that Wenger, the Arsenal boss, offered a rematch, which did occur.


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