Why is football so complicated?

Penalty in football: what makes it so complicated

The coronavirus means that football is also resting. This opens up the possibility of dealing with the rules in more detail. Our author has been training referees for more than 20 years and also coaches them at the DFB level. While the Bundesliga is paused, he will shed some light on some of the rules. Today is about the controversial penalty kick.

Hardly any decision by the referee causes as much controversy in football as the penalty kick, also known as the penalty kick. It is actually quite simple, at least in theory: "A penalty kick is decided if a player commits an offense within his own penalty area during the game that is punished with a direct free kick," says the rules in a nutshell.

In other words, anything that would result in a direct free kick outside the sixteen yard area will result in a penalty kick within that zone. In concrete terms: fouls - such as holding, pushing, tripping, jostling, jumping, kicking or hitting - and punishable hand games by the defending team. As I said: theoretically.

You can find more football topics here

Why decisions are sometimes made differently in the penalty area than outside

In practice, things are a bit trickier. Statistically, more than three quarters of all penalties result in a goal, so the penalty kick is a particularly severe penalty for the team that caused it. After all, there is a high probability that this will result in a goal. That is the reason why a referee's penalty whistle regularly leads to protests.

The referees are of course just as aware of the potential consequences of penalties. That is why they usually only decide on penalties if the offense is clear from their point of view and there is no borderline case.

So it happens that the practical interpretation of rules in a scene inside the penalty area can differ from that in a comparable scene outside the penalty area - even if this difference does not exist in theory.

Earlier there was no penalty spot, but a penalty line

Since 1902, the penalty kick has been shot on goal from the well-known marker. Previously, as the historian Petra Tabarelli researched and stated on her blog "Stoppage Times", which is well worth reading, "there was no fixed penalty point, but a continuous penalty line eleven meters in front of the goal and parallel to the goal line Take penalty kick. "

Unlike today, the goalkeeper did not have to stay on the goal line until the penalty kick was taken, but was allowed to approach the ball a maximum of five and a half meters from the goal. However, at the beginning of the last century, the implementing regulations changed, and they have essentially remained the same since then. Only little things were changed.

Interesting facts about the execution of penalties

For example, the following applies to the penalty kick:

  • "A goal can be scored directly from a penalty kick," they say. Can, not must - indirect execution is therefore also possible. The great Johan Cruyff took advantage of this in December 1982 at a game for his club Ajax Amsterdam, as a video shows.
  • The shooter must be clearly identified. It is therefore not allowed that a player other than the one who will obviously be the shooter takes the penalty without prior notice. Violation of this instruction will result in a yellow card for the "wrong" shooter and an indirect free kick for the opponent.
  • With the exception of the goalkeeper and the shooter, all players must be outside the penalty area and the partial circle in front of the penalty area, i.e. at least 9.15 meters away from the ball. They must also be behind the penalty spot and within the field of play. This automatically means that there can be no offside in the penalty kick.
  • The shooter must play the ball forward with his foot. A heel shot is allowed provided the ball moves towards the goal. If the ball is not passed forward on the penalty kick, the referee must stop play and award the opponent an indirect free kick.
  • The shooter may only play the ball again after it has been touched by another player. This also means: If he shoots the ball against a goal post or the crossbar and converts the ricochet that has reached him without further contact, the hit does not count. Instead, there is an indirect free kick for the opponent.
  • The penalty kick is the only restart that has to be taken even if the first or second half has already run out of time.

The shooter is allowed more than the goalkeeper

As the name already makes clear, the penalty kick is a penalty for an offense - in the most dangerous zone. The unimpeded shot from eleven meters in a central position and with the goalkeeper as the only opponent is intended to compensate for what was previously illegally prevented, namely a goal opportunity.

That is also the reason why the shooter is allowed to cheat more than the goalkeeper despite the restrictions mentioned. The penalty kick is a sanction, so it's not about equal opportunities between the two.

Fints during the run-up are permitted

The shooter is expressly permitted to feint during the run-up, including decelerating, stopping and interrupting. That was not always the case, which is why some people still believe that the start-up must be carried out smoothly.

The shooter is not allowed to fake a shot after the run-up has been completed. In concrete terms, this means: If he has placed his standing leg next to the ball and raised his kicking leg, he also has to "pull through".

If he interrupts the shooting movement, then it is no longer a feint, but rather unsportsmanlike conduct, which results in a yellow card and an indirect free kick. However, this variant is almost never seen.

The goalkeeper, on the other hand, must have at least part of one foot on or over the goal line when taking the penalty and may move forward with the other foot. This rule has been in effect since the beginning of the season, before the goalkeeper even had to stay on the line with both feet.

If the goalkeeper violates this rule and then saves the ball, a yellow card is due and the penalty kick is repeated - at least in theory.

In the case of violations during execution, it is complex

In practice, the referees are usually very lenient in the event of penalties being violated if the violations are not too obvious. The set of rules actually provides the following procedure:

  • If teammates of the shooter violate the rules of the game, e.g. by running too early, and the ball does not go into the goal, the defending team will be given an indirect free kick. If, on the other hand, a hit is scored, the penalty kick is repeated.
  • The opposite is true if teammates of the goalkeeper violate the rules of the game: If the ball does not go into the goal, the penalty kick is repeated. If, on the other hand, a hit is scored, then it counts.
  • If players from both teams violate the rules of the game, the penalty kick is always repeated - unless one of the players commits a more serious offense. Example: The shooter only fakes the shooting movement, at the same time a defender ran into the penalty area too early. Because there is a yellow card for cheating, but not for entering the penalty area prematurely, an indirect free kick is awarded to the defense.
  • A special rule applies in the event that both the goalkeeper and the shooter violate the rules. If a goal is scored, the shooter is warned and an indirect free kick occurs - after all, the goalkeeper's offense has no effect. If, on the other hand, the ball does not go into the goal, both players receive a yellow card and there is a replay.

Hardly anyone wants a more meticulous approach

From a rule-philosophical perspective, this is all logical, but it is also complex - and not easy to implement in a stressful situation that the penalty kick represents for the referee. This is probably one of the reasons why the referees like to let things go their way with the penalty kick and only intervene in the event of very clear violations.

One can complain about that, after all, the rules make sense. On the other hand, the acceptance of clubs, players and the general public for this rather liberal interpretation of the rules is high. Hardly anyone wants a more meticulous approach. And that of course affects the practice of the referees. It's not to the detriment of football.