The UK Rules
'Follow the Regulations'
Pass Back Rule

Back Pass Rule in Football

The FIFA Football pass back rule is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. This page explains how the back pass rule enhances the 'beautiful game of English soccer'.

PASS BACK TO KEEPER: This particular FIFA Football Law does not allow the goalkeeper to handle the ball.

The rule applies if a teammate 'deliberately' passes the ball 'directly' back to the goalie.

The same rule prohibits the keeper from handling it following a direct throw-in from a player on his team.

Goalkeeper Handling Rules

Soccer governance might confuse some inexperienced soccer supporters. There does appear to a lack of football rules and regulation applying to goalkeepers. As a rule, they can handle the ball without any retribution by footballing sanctions.

Goalies use the handling privilege to keep the ball out of their own goal net - using their hands. But, any time that privilege gets abused, FIFA Official Rules of the game will punish them.

It is rarely a set plan for the goalkeeper to be the initiator or participant of attacking play. This is despite being within the professional game rules of soccer.

The role of a goalkeeper is to stop goals! Thus, the regulations make special provision for protecting their safety. This is especially so while they are holding the ball in their hands.

That is why goalkeeper rules grant them the privilege of handling and holding the ball. But, it should never get used to delay the game or waste time - with the intent of gaining the advantage for their team.

The goalkeeper is the only player who can 'legally' touch the ball in English soccer. But, they cannot handle it with either of their hands, arms, or any moving parts of their shoulder, if they are outside of their own penalty area.

Doing so, would be breaching the football handball rules. The foul is most likely to get punished by a direct free kick. It gets awarded to the opponents and taken from the location of the infringement.

How Long Can Goalkeepers Hold on to the Ball?

Football Back Pass Rule: Pass Back to Goalie Regulation in SoccerSoccer referees have now received even more 'football enhancing' mandatory instructions. The official must not allow a goalkeeper to take more than four steps while holding the ball.

Note: This ruling is crystal clear and stipulated in FIFA Football Law 12.

What happens if the keeper holds the ball for more than 5 to 6 seconds? In this case the referee rules it as time-wasting. The match official is within his rights to award an indirect free-kick to the opposition.

Time-wasting in Football

Time-wasting is bad in any spectator sport. It is one of the worst forms of unsporting behavior and dishonorable gamesmanship.

Wasting play time in football is not pretty to watch either. It means you are denying the opponents a fair chance of using the full allotted time to win the game.

FIFA have commented frequently about the real reason spectators watch football matches. They agree that the attraction is not to admire a goalie standing still with the ball.

Soccer fans want to see real footballing skills. They pay money to watch sharp tactical passes, nifty dribbles, and goals. Lots of goals! Thus, as soon as the keeper has a clear opportunity to deliver the ball in play, he must do so - for the good of the game.

Football Rule-makers Strike Back

The International Football Association Board are the rule-makers of association football. The IFAB are constantly trying to counteract time-wasting in soccer. It has resulted in long running battles between the ruler-makers and many goalkeepers.

During the early 1960s goalkeepers kept the ball in their hands indefinitely - or so it seemed. What's more, they did so without receiving any kind of football penalties.

It was a footballing era when keepers would take as many steps as they liked. They could do so providing they bounced the ball on the ground as they moved (or threw it in the air and caught again).

The rule-makers hit back! They declared that if a keeper held the ball with his hands, and then placed it on the ground, the ball must make contact with another player before they could touch it again with their hands.

Goalkeepers responded. They started holding the ball and then throwing it to a nearest defender. The defender would return it, and then repeat the whole process over again. It was another shoddy display of wasting time, and totally against the spirit of the FIFA ruling.

Football Back Pass Rule Solved

Soccer welcomed a solution to this kind of time-wasting in 1992. They called it the 'football back-pass rule'.

It targets a deliberate kick of the ball with your feet to your team goalkeeper. It results in an indirect free-kick to the opposing team if the goalie touched it with his hands or arms. Playing the ball with the knee, thigh, chest, or heading the ball, is within the rules of fair play.

FIFA made clear rulings for any player 'deliberately' negating the spirit of the new football back pass rule. The player would be duly cautioned. This show of unsporting behaviour would also get punished by an indirect free-kick.

There were many long debates. But, they decided to extend the successful football pass back rule. They also applied it to throw-ins from defenders to their own goalkeeper. Even so, the urge to extend it to all back-passes (with the head, thigh, chest, etc.) was vehemently resisted.

The International Football Association Board and FIFA both agree. They have always insisted they have no deliberate conspiracy against footballers or goalkeepers. But, their aim is to keep soccer as fluid and skillful as they can. Their goal (pardon the pun) is to attract as many supporters to the beautiful game as possible.

Football Back Pass Rule: Pass Back to Goalie Regulation in English Soccer