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A dropped-ball (or drop-ball) is a method of restarting play in a game of association football. It is designed to offer no advantage to either side, generally being awarded when play has been stopped due to reasons other than normal gameplay, fouls, or misconduct. The rules concerning the dropped-ball are part of Law 8 of the Laws of the Game.
The dropped ball is set to be significantly changed from the 2019-20 season, competitive dropped balls are to be eliminated with possession being given expressly to one side.
A drop-ball is not awarded to either team; rather it is used to restart play when the referee has stopped play for any reason not listed for another form of restart. Examples include when play has been stopped due to serious injury to a player, interference by an external party, or a ball becoming defective.
In games which use video assistant referees (VAR), if a VAR review determines that play should not have been stopped, such as when a decision to award a penalty is reversed, play is restarted with a dropped ball at the point of the incorrect call.
The ball is dropped by the referee at the point where the ball was when play was stopped, unless this is within a goal area in which case it is dropped on the goal area line parallel to the goal line. The ball becomes in play as soon as it touches the ground. Players must not touch the ball until it has touched the ground. If the ball leaves the field of play before it has been touched by a player (including if the ball enters either goal), the drop-ball is retaken.
There is no restriction in the Laws of the Game as to how many players, if any, may take part in a drop-ball or where they may be positioned. A team can choose not to commit any players and thus give the ball freely to the opposition.
If a player touches the ball before it touches the ground, the drop-ball is retaken. If a player persistently touches the ball before it touches the ground, and the referee believes that the player is deliberately doing so, this may be considered misconduct and the referee may caution the player with a yellow card for delaying the restart of play.
In 2012 the Laws of the Game were amended such that if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents' goal, a goal kick is awarded (as is the case for an indirect free kick), or if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the team's own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team (which is the case for all restarts of play). A dropped ball is the only restart which allows the first player who touches the ball to touch it a second time without penalty. Like all indirect free kicks at least 2 players must touch the ball before a goal may be awarded.
This method of restarting play is rarely used in modern adult football as many players sportingly elect to kick the ball out of play when an event requiring the stoppage of play – most often an injury – occurs. After the situation has been resolved, the opposing team typically, but not always, concedes possession to the other team after returning the ball into play via the throw-in, as a gesture of good sportsmanship. If the referee does stop play and a dropped ball occurs, a similar return of possession is almost always made from the restart, with the ball being kicked back to the original possessors' defence. Contested drop balls have become exceedingly rare in the modern game.
In 1888, a new law was added to the rules of association football allowing the referee to restart the game after a temporary suspension of play by "throwing up the ball at the spot where play was suspended". The ball could not be played until it had touched the ground. In 1905, the referee was instructed to "throw the ball down" rather than up., and in 1914, to "drop the ball".
In 1984, a special case was added for a dropped ball within the goal area; instead of being dropped at the point where play was suspended, the ball would be dropped at the closest point on the six-yard line. This change was made in order to avoid "crowding" and "jostling".
In 2012, scoring a goal directly from a dropped ball was forbidden (if the dropped ball was kicked directly into the goal, a goal-kick or corner-kick was awarded instead). The justification given by the Football Association for this change was that "[t]here have been a number of occasions where goals have been scored from 'uncontested' dropped balls ... 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."
The dropped ball is set to be significantly changed from the 2019-20 season. The competitive dropped ball is to be eliminated, with it being used to return possession to the team who last touched the ball after stoppages, except for dropped balls in penalty areas which will be given, uncontested, to the defensive goalkeeper.
|Date||Action of referee||Ball may be played before
touching the ground
may be scored
may be scored
|Place of restart|
|1888||Throw the ball up||No||Yes||Yes||At the place where play was suspended|
|1905||Throw the ball down|
|1914||Drop the ball|
|1984||At the place where play was suspended, |
but on the six-yard line if within the goal area
In the event of any temporary suspension of play from any cause, the ball not having gone into touch, or behind the goal-line, the game shall be re-started by the referee throwing up the ball at the spot where play was suspended, and the players on either side shall not play the ball until it has touched the ground.– via
In the event of any temporary suspension of play from any cause, the ball not having gone into touch or behind the goal-line, the Referee shall throw the ball down where it was when play was suspended, and it shall be in play when it has touched the ground. If the ball goes into touch or behind the goal-line before it is played by a player, the Referee shall again throw it down. The players on either side shall not play the ball until it has touched the ground.– via