English league · Laws of the game · Referees

Law 5 – Outside Interference


Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0.  The consensus appears to be that if the referee or his assistants had seen the ball deflect off the beach ball, the referee should have stopped the game and re-started with a dropped ball after the beach ball had been removed, in which case, the goal would not have stood.

Jeff Winter told BBC Radio 5 live: ….

“But the laws of the game clearly state that if there’s an outside interference the game has to be stopped.

“The referee (Mike Jones) and his assistant knew something was wrong, and it should have been a dropped ball.”

The referee’s powers and duties under Law 5 of the Laws of the Game provides that a referee “stops, suspends or abandons the match because of outside interference of any kind”.

Law 8 provides that “If, while the ball is still in play, the referee is required to stop play temporarily for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of
the Game, the match is restarted with a dropped ball.”

Law 5 is to be contrasted with the Interpretation of the Laws of The Game and Guidelines For Referees in respect of Law 2, which states that “If an extra ball enters the field of play during the match, the referee must stop the match only if it interferes with play.”

Law 2 specifies the “qualities and measurements” of a match ball, and the interpretation of and guideline on Law 2 is expressly stated to be in the following context:

Additional balls may be placed around the field of play for use during a match provided that they meet the requirements of Law 2 and their use is under the control of the referee.

The use of the word “must” makes it clear that it is mandatory for the referee to stop play if an extra ball interferes with play. The context makes it clear that “extra ball” is a reference to additional match balls.

Law 5 is also to be contrasted with the interpretation of and guideline on Law 3 (relating to the number of players), which provides that:

Outside agents
Anyone not indicated on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is deemed to be an outside agent as is a player who has been sent off.
If an outside agent enters the field of play:
• the referee must stop play (although not immediately if the outside agent does not interfere with play)
• the referee must have him removed from the field of play and its immediate surroundings
• if the referee stops the match, he must restart play with a dropped ball in the position where the ball was at the time when the match was stopped, unless play was stopped inside the goal area, in which case the referee drops the ball on the goal area line parallel to the goal line at the point nearest to where the ball was located when play was stopped

“Powers” under Law 5 are clearly discretionary.  While stopping play for an extra ball or outside (human) agents is mandatory, it is not so clearly mandatory for inanimate objects and non-human “agents”.

For example:

Inanimate objects and non-human agents are more likely to be viewed in the same way as natural phenomenon.  For example, if a gust of wind suddenly changed the trajectory of a ball and took it into goal, the goal would be allowed.

The alternative to stopping play is to wait until the  ball is out of play or dead before removing the object from the field.

Jeff Winters is not correct.  The referee could have stopped play, but he didn’t.  Unfortunately for Liverpool, the beach ball caused a goal to be scored against them before it was removed from the pitch.

The Premier League are also not correct when they are quoted as saying:

A Premier League spokesman, quoted by the Daily Mail, said: “The beach ball was an inanimate object so the referee should have stopped the game as soon as he was aware it was on the field of play. However, the difficulty would be if he didn’t see it until it was struck by the match ball.”

A ball deflecting of balloons immediately before a goal was scored happened in an FA Cup tie between Sheffield United and Manchester City in January 2008.  The goal stood then too.

There is also an argument that once the ball had crossed the goal-line, the referee could not have retrospectively stopped play at some notional point of time before the ball crossed the line thereby disallowing the goal and re-starting with a dropped ball (see also Laws 9 and 10).

However, as a goal would have been disallowed if it had been scored by a spectator running onto the pitch, or had it deflected off an “extra ball” that had rolled into the penalty box, it would in theory be equivalent to the game being stopped retrospectively under the interpretations and guidelines to Laws 2 and 3.

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7 thoughts on “Law 5 – Outside Interference

  1. “Anyone not indicated on the team list as a player, substitute or team official is deemed to be an outside agent as is a player who has been sent off.”

    This does indeed define the persons mentioned as “outside agents”, but does not restrict the definition of “outside agent” to that short list.

    If I am deemed to be in violation of a speed restriction, that doesn’t mean that everyone committing the same offence must be me (fortunately!).

  2. Even supposedly reputable websites, such as ESPN Soccernet, are quoting what Jeff Winter said as the law, without checking the actual law itself.

    Hilarious.

    It appears to have influenced the FA and the Referees’ Association sufficiently for Mike Jones to be punished. What about all the other referees in all those other examples who didn’t stop play for “outside interference”. On more than one occasion, a goal was scored.

    If the criticism of Mike Jones is that he didn’t exercise his discretion properly, fair enough, but it would be good if everyone actually read the law.

    Jeff Winter in particular.

    But Jeff Winter was playing to the media, and all media outlets love sensationalism, including the BBC, who flushed Jeff Winter out in the first place.

    Really, who cares what the law actually states? Not Jeff Winter, and probably not the BBC either.

    The previous occasions don’t matter because they weren’t as sensational as Liverpool losing to a goal caused by “outside interference”.

    This is what it’s really about – sensationalism and the media.

    Mike Jones is just another unfortunate victim.

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