Back-pass rule

Back-pass rule

The back-pass rule refers to two clauses within Law 12 of the Laws of the Game of association football . These clauses prohibit the goalkeeper from intentionally handling the ball when a team-mate uses his/her feet to intentionally pass them the ball, or from intentionally handling the ball when receiving directly from a throw-in. The goalkeeper is still permitted to use his feet and other body parts to redirect the ball. Conversely, if an outfield player passes the ball back using any part of the body "besides" the feet, the keeper may pick up the ball. An unintentional pass or touch is not considered an offence.

The actual offence committed is the handling of the ball by the goalkeeper, not the ball being passed back. An indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team from the place where the offence occurred, i.e., where the goalkeeper deliberately handled the ball (unless the offence was committed within the goal area, in which case the kick is taken from a point on the forward edge of the goal area closest to where the offence occurred). If the goalkeeper handles the ball "outside" the penalty area (whether receiving the ball from a team-mate or not), a direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team where the offence occurred.

The back-pass rule was introduced in 1992 to discourage time-wasting and overly defensive play, after the 1990 World Cup were described as exceedingly dull, rife with back-passing and goalkeepers holding up the ball. Also, goalkeepers would frequently drop the ball and dribble it around, only to pick it up again once opponents came closer to put them under pressure; a typical time-stalling technique. Therefore, another rule was introduced at the same time as the back-pass rule, with the same intentions. This rule prohibits the goalkeeper from handling the ball again once he has released it for play. This offence would also result in an indirect free kick to the opposition.

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