Reading the sports pages of my daily paper one morning, I saw mention of a football Law that I had never heard of before: The Ball Displacement Law.
Nuno Espirito Santo, newly installed in Nottingham Forest’s bid to remain in the Premier League, complained to the league that VAR had not taken any action, only to be told that VAR can do nothing about ball displacement.
After a discussion and reading a report about the Nottingham Forest versus Brentford match, I realised he was talking about moving the ball at a free kick from the place where the kick should have been taken.
This happens in almost every standard of football. Unless the referee is watchful, players will move the ball nearer the opponents goal line when awarded a free kick.
One thing that has irritated me as a referee, is after I have pointed out exactly where the kick is to be taken, the kicker picks up the ball and rolls it forward about two yards. If I reacted, the spectators would accuse me of being fussy. Normally of course, players will usually try to move it forward many yards.
However the Forest manager was not complaining about the ball being moved forward, but sideways, at a free kick awarded to Brentford just outside the Forest penalty area.
Watching the game on television, I marvelled at how Ivan Toney had managed to kick the ball around the ‘wall’ and into the net.
Neither I, nor the referee, had spotted that the kicker had moved the ball sideways from the sprayed mark, giving him a clear shot at the goal.
I learnt many years ago from Keith Hackett, who was head of PGMOL referees, to treat the ball as your own, never let it out of your sight. Advice I always pass on to new referees. It would have been helpful in this case.
The Brentford taker of the free kick claimed later, that moving the ball was legal, ‘you have a yard of two either side’, he said. No you don’t.
The law says, ‘All free kicks are taken from the place where the offence occurred’. There are a couple of exceptions. Indirect free kicks to the attacking team in the goal area are taken back to the six-yard line, and if it’s for the defending side, they can take them anywhere in the goal area.
I have another word for Ball Displacement. Cheating.
By Dick Sawdon Smith