Halting PK Encroachment Requires a Rule Rethink

By Paul Gardner

It looks pretty bad for referee Hilario Grajeda.

His failure to notice the massive encroachment by Chicago’s Marco Pappa during the penalty kick taken by teammate Sebastian Grazzini against Dallas was so obvious, so blatant, that it really does look utterly inexcusable.

It became a disaster when Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman saved the kick, and Pappa -- first to get to the rebound, obviously -- scored with ease.

Dallas, a team beset by injuries and needing all the help it can get, lost the game to a goal that should never have been upheld.

Grajeda did not help his case by taking up a strangely eccentric position for the kick. As Grazzini made his run up to the ball, Grajeda was standing off to the left at a point near the corner of the six-yard box -- i.e. some six yards ahead of Grazzini. This is nowhere near the position suggested by FIFA in its rules. There, a rather murky photo/diagram shows the referee in line with the penalty spot.

Not only that, but Grajeda was in motion as the kick was taken.

One thing is clear. Grajeda is watching Grazzini. He is not keeping a check on encroachment. A bad error on Grajeda’s part? After all, isn’t that what he is required to do?

Actually -- it’s not certain. Nowhere in the rules does it stipulate what the referee should be doing at a PK.

The assistant referee is clearly told that he should watching out for goalkeeper movement. Which would, it seems, leave it up to the referee to spot two things: trickery in the kick-taker’s run up (particularly at the end of it), and encroachment. Is it possible for the referee to keep an eagle eye on both those things, occurring more or less simultaneously some 10 yards apart?

I don’t think so. In this sense, the position taken up by Grajeda (in itself, this was not a contravention of the rules, for the rules do not spell out where he should be) may even be a better position than FIFA’s, because it does involve the referee looking back at the kicker, with the possibility that he can then also see potential encroachers.

But Grajeda, somehow, failed to spot that Pappa was already some three yards inside the penalty are before Grazzini kicked the ball.

Grajeda’s error was palpable. Nevertheless, the real problem in these situations, the true culprit, is the rulebook. Because the rules do not spell out what the referee should be doing at a penalty kick and do not stipulate exactly where he should position himself ... in fact, the rules suggest a position virtually guaranteed to make it almost impossible for the referee to spot encroachment.

We saw exactly the same screw-up in the recent champions league final. Chelsea was the beneficiary when Petr Cech’s save of Arjen Robben’s penalty was allowed to stand -- despite obvious encroachment from players of both teams, a situation that the rules are quite clear about -- the penalty should be retaken.

In that European game there was even less excuse for the lack of action, because there was an extra official on the field. He was actually used for watching the goalkeeper. The assistant who would normally have done that was not used at all, it seems -- he remained out on his touchline.

Yes, I’m repeating myself, because I have been recommending for some years now that IFAB, the sport’s pro-inactive rule-making body, should study this and reword the rule to make it clear what the referee should be watching for, and then allot him a position where he can effectively do that.

It could be that there is no satisfactory position for the referee. Because there are three key actions that occur at pretty much the same time. Goalkeeper movement, trickery by the kicker at the end of his run, and encroachment.

It might make sense to move the referee back so that he is nearer the edge of the penalty area, and therefore nearer to the point where encroachment occurs. From that position he should still be able to see whether the kicker is “feinting to kick the ball once he has completed his run-up” -- the infringement singled out in the rules -- and at least have the potential encroachers in his peripheral vision.

Ideally the penalty kick needs three officials on the look out. That is the way it should be -- because these are not inconsequential episodes in a game. They are game-winning and game-losing moments.

So why not use a third set of eyes? Why not bring the fourth official into action? He could remain out on the touchline, in line with the edge of the penalty, a good position from which to spot encroachment. He could have a flag, but radio communication would be enough to alert the referee.

Yet I’m inclined to think that the best answer would be to move the players, other than the kicker, further back, so that they are, say, 20 yards, rather than 10 yards, away from the penalty spot. If that were the case, the rule against encroachment could probably be dropped from the rules altogether.

At the moment, on this crucial matter, the rules are a chaotic joke, giving off the suspicion that IFAB regard encroachment as something of little importance, and consequently has not bothered to give it any methodical thought.

The responsibility is IFAB’s. Hilario Grajeda did make a mess of his call, but heaping all the blame on him would be wrong. The rules themselves need to be much, much more clearly defined.

13 comments about "Halting PK Encroachment Requires a Rule Rethink".
  1. mike renshaw, May 25, 2012 at 7:12 a.m.

    The encrochment was so blatant that Stevie Wonder would have seen it. This travesty was ALL down to referee incomptetance regardless of where he was standing.Pappa was almost level with the shooter when the kick was taken.

  2. George Gorecki, May 25, 2012 at 7:38 a.m.

    This PK, like many of them, had players from both teams encroaching. A Dallas player was in the box before the kick was taken, although Pappa got in much deeper. Had the rebound from Hartman's save gone in the other direction, the Dallas player could have easily cleared it away and people could argue that the kick should have been retaken. Pappa's violation looked as bad as it did because he was in the perfect spot for the rebound. Gardner's suggestion to move everyone back 20 yards is a pretty sensible solution.

  3. Marc Silverstein, May 25, 2012 at 8:33 a.m.

    3 yards??? I think that the encroachment was at a borderline 6 yards as he's nearly at the penalty spot when he takes the rebound.

  4. Kerry Ogden, May 25, 2012 at 8:53 a.m.

    Paul you still sound upset that Chelsea beat BM, That's life!!!!Cech was the man of the Match in this game!!!!! Encroachment is a problem in all league's if the team taking the PK encroaches first the PK should be denied not retaken this will help in detering encroachment by the team awarded to PK, if the opposing team encroaches then I can see the PK being retaken, if it's 50/50 the PK should also be denied, also talking about Chelsea & BM, Torres only moments earlier should have been awarded a PK for Chelsea which he wasn't so in the end the smarter team Chelsea won!!!! I'm not a fan of Chelsea but I'm happy that BM didn't win.

  5. Scott Olson, May 25, 2012 at 9:27 a.m.

    If the referee would have been standing where recommended he would have been in position to see the blatant encroachment. This call is definitely the center's error, there is no justifiable reason to be running toward the goal by the 6 yd box when the kick is taken, his role responsibility is clearly laid out. I do like the conversion suggestions of Kerry Ogden though, if you make the recourse for encroachment of the defense if the ball goes in stand a goal they would be less likely to encroach, if you make the recourse for encroachment of the offense if the ball goes in a goal kick they would be less likely to encroach. Moving the players back just makes it less likely that anyone would be able to rebound off of the penalty kick, which is changing the game, you might as well send them back to the midfield line, like in indoor shootouts.

  6. Glenn Auve, May 25, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.

    I don't think we want the Laws telling the referees where to stand. That can be accomplished by other means. In fact if you saw the Chivas v LA match you saw a penalty taken and required to be retaken for encroachment. The referee in that case was positioned near the top of the penalty area. I think that is probably the best place. His presence alone can stop some players from entering. We need the leagues and federations to simply recommend this to the referees and tell them they want the Law actually enforced. And then back them up when they enforce it. The players will get the message pretty quickly.

  7. Carlos Thys, May 25, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.

    Mr. Kerry Ogden, yesterday you suggest various outcomes based upon various scenarios at the time of the penalty kick taken. ALL of that is covered very specifically in the rules. And this is precisely the problem. The rules are right there in the Laws of the Game, every conceivable permutation of what could occur -- with the resulting decision a referee must make. The Arjen Robben penalty kick in extra time against FC Chelsea MUST be retaken. There are no "ifs." Would this 'hurt' a GK like Petr Cech who made the save? Yes, it does. So, believe me, a GK like Petr Cech would have very, very strong words for his teammates that ran into the penalty area prior to Dutchman Arjen Robben's kick. THAT ENFORCES THE RULES. Now, it is another matter entirely regarding penalty kicks -- but a very significant one: Does the goalkeeper come off his line (ahead of it) prior to the kick being taken? If so, as Petr Cech also did against FC Bayern Munich in the final match, the kick MUST be retaken. It is not a subjective judgement call. Trust me, we'll see one or two of these Euro 2012 games go to penalty kicks after overtime (just as the FC Chelsea - FC Bayern game ended). And you'll once more see goalkeepers stepping or jumping in front of the line prior to the kick being taken. The GKs will stop the ball or the shooter outright misses the frame of the goal, but the match officials will err and let the missed penalty stand. Over and over and over we see this fundamentally terribly amateurish officiating at PKs. Three and now four match officials -- with nothing else at all to have to concentrate upon during PKs -- have no excuses for so flagrantly failing to abide by the Laws of the Game.

  8. Karl Schreiber, May 25, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.

    Congratulations, Carlos Thys, for pointing out what is IMHO one of the biggest problems with officials ignoring the details of the Laws, that is, when goalkeepers step AHEAD of the goal line before the PK is taken. [The other one is the execution of the kick-off.] All this talk/action about goal line technology - and there are continuously BLATANT violations of the rules on the part of goalkeepers and sadly ignorance by the officials.

  9. Millwall America, May 25, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

    I wonder if the easiest thing would be to simply handle a PK during active play the same way it is handled in a penalty shoot-out. In a shoot-out there is no possibility of encroachment (all the other players stand around the midfield line), no possibility of the kicker or his teammates getting a second shot at the goal, the kicker either puts the ball past the goalkeeper when he takes his shot or he doesn't. I'm not sure very much is added to the game by allowing the possibility of shots on the rebound or allowing anyone beyond the kicker and the goalkeeper to participate in the action.

  10. uffe gustafsson, May 25, 2012 at 6:16 p.m.

    Why is it we are not enforcing the basic laws, if we started to do that most of these so called controversies wold not happen. like encroaching in the box on pk, GK stepping outside the box on punts, not having both feet on the ground at throw inns. Our kids need to know these basic laws. And for the ref to ignore the players going into the box on PK before its taken is to ignore our basic laws.
    Any ref that takes our basic laws serious would stand close to the 18 yard line position himself so he or she can have a view of the top of the box as well the PK taker, really it's not that hard to see both.
    have had PK taken over several times because they would not listen to the instruction before taking the PK.
    And most parents and coaches don't have a clue that it will be a re kick.
    And for who gets in the box before the kick is taken is to hard to see when both teams run in, so that would not be a good change. leave things but start to enforce the laws as they are.

  11. Saverio Colantonio, May 25, 2012 at 9:50 p.m.

    You have to go to the Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees. It clearly states how the Referee and the Assistant Referee are to be positioned and what the duties of both are. It is the ARs duty to signal encroachment by the GK. If encroachment happens the AR is to signal with his flag to let the Referee know. If anyone is to be faulted, it is the AR. As for the problem of encroachment, it is like allot of the other problems in Soccer. Players are coached to play in this manner, whether it is encroachment, pulling shirts, holding in the 18 yd box and professional fouls where you take out the player because you got beat.

  12. Joey Tremone, May 26, 2012 at 10:50 a.m.

    Another argument for a permanent goalside AR. The AR can watch the GK while the head ref watches for encroachment.

  13. Jim Carlisle, June 26, 2015 at 7:04 p.m.

    Please it is called a Penalty and not a PK. Everyone says a Goal Kick and not a GK. Read the Rules

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications