In the Tottenham v. Chelsea FA Cup semifinal last weekend we again had the issue of a close goal line decision. This time the decision of the referee was to award a goal to Chelsea even though it appeared that the entire ball had not crossed the entire goal line.
In our recent post on this subject, and in previous ones, we have discussed instances of when the ball had crossed the line but the goal was not awarded. While that type of decision, a false negative, can often be understood, the false positive, such as occurred in this match, is one that should NEVER happen in any circumstances.
By contrast, the false positive should NEVER occur. The referee and assistants must be in positions which provide an accurate view along the goal line and be absolutely sure that the entire ball has crossed the line. This can only be done for a close decision like this one by being on the goal line itself. For a decision where the ball has crossed the line by a greater distance (such as in the England/Germany match in the 2010 WC) being exactly on the goal line is not as crucial. In the Tottenham/Chelsea match, the AR was right on the goal line, since the play originated from a corner kick on the ARs side, but could not see the position of the ball because the players lying on the ground on the goal line blocked his view. He correctly did not flag and also did not turn and sprint upfield to indicate a goal. The referee had moved nearer to the goal line from his original position on the 18 for the corner kick, but was still about six yards out, and not on the goal line at all. Could he have possibly got even closer to the goal line? Why he awarded the goal is a mystery, although he did offer apologies to the Tottenham manager after the match.
[Note: Since this article is about the principles of goal line decisions for referees, we are not discussing whether there should have been a foul called on John Terry during the play.]
Two additional points: 1) AARs are located (bizarrely) on the right of the goal, the same side as the AR. If there had been one in this match, ironically he would not have been able to see the ball either. 2) This incident resulted from a corner kick. If the referee had been positioned on the goal line for the corner kick, as we have advocated previously, he would have been in a better position to make the correct decision.
In a lighter vein, we are reminded of another incident that occurred many years ago involving one of our colleagues in Dallas in a youth match. A shot was taken and the ball was rolling towards the empty net with the goalkeeper beaten, but the ball was stopped short of the goal line by a wet patch of ground. The referee decided to award a goal, with the mis-guided thinking that the ball would have gone over the goal line if the water had not been there so it was only fair. The defenders and the coach complained about this, pointing out that the ball had not crossed the line therefore no goal should be given, whereupon the referee promply booted the ball into the net and shouted "it's over the line now!" We DO NOT recommend this procedure.