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FIFA Rules On Goal Celebrations

Football goal celebrations are an integral part of netting the ball. Even so, FIFA rules on goal scoring do not allow players to mark it with excessive behaviour. So, what exactly are FIFA's rules on celebrating player and team achievement, and can players make a shirt over head celebration?

Celebrating Goals: What Can Players Do?

Where do we find the official football regulations that relate to outrageous or unsporting goal celebrations?

FIFA Law 12 provides us with the directives and answers. The rule is clear about soccer team and player football goal celebrations.

Note the section on soccer fouls and misconduct rules and regulations. The laws govern unsporting behavior by all players in association football.

The football laws apply throughout the game and especially when players over-celebrate after shooting the ball into the back of the net.

FIFA Law 12 penalizes excessive, time-wasting, and choreographed goal celebrations. Does that include a football shirt over head celebration? Well it most certainly can – yes!

It might seem harsh to admonish a player for an overzealous reaction. Especially having scored the vital goal in injury time with a 30 yard screaming volley.

We’ve all seen soccer players performing impromptu cartwheels and dancing with the corner flag. Not to mention the ever-controversial football celebration shirt over head and occasional removal.

You might be wondering:

A football referee rules all games in the interest of fair play and reasonable sportsmanship. Even so, it can result in a yellow card punishment for celebrating with pitch-side fans.

So, what exactly does FIFA consider to be an excessive celebration in soccer? What are unsporting football goal celebrations? Let’s examine the top goal celebration rules in football.

FIFA Football Goal Celebration

  1. Reacting with joy after scoring is permissible. But, that is providing the goal celebration is not excessive.
  2. Soccer referees have instructions to discourage any rehearsed or choreographed football goal celebrations.
  3. The match officials should intervene and caution players for immoderate time-wasting.
  4. Players can celebrate a goal by leaving the pitch ‘momentarily’. But they should then make a prompt return to the playing field.

Note: FIFA decided to change the law on football celebration rules in 2004. It became mandatory for referees to administer a yellow caution card to any player who removes their shirt while celebrating goals.

FIFA Celebration Rules and Cautions

  1. Any player deemed by the referee to be performing provocative or inflammatory behaviour. That also applies to most derisory gestures made by any player or manager.
  2. A caution is imminent if any player celebrates a goal by climbing on to a perimeter fence.
  3. FIFA says cautions are also administered for removing a shirt over the player’s head.
  4. Therefore, face covering with the cursory shirt over head behavior is a cautionable offence in football.

Pictured: A red card goal celebration! The ref sent off Tim Cahill for overstepping the mark with his shirt over head goal celebration. He did so after scoring against Manchester City in 2004.

3 Famous Goal Celebrations

There are too many Premier League goal celebrations to list on a single page. But here are three bizarre ways of marking a goal:

  • Wayne Rooney’s ‘it’s a knockout’ celebration against Tottenham Hotspur [going, going, gone].
  • Peter Crouch became famous for his robotics moves. He put them to use in pre-tournament friendlies celebrating his strikes against Hungary and Jamaica.
  • Bernardo Corradi ran to the corner flag after scoring for Manchester City against Fulham in 2006. He proceeded to remove the corner flag and ‘knight’ Joey Barton kneeling on the pitch.

FIFA Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct

3. Disciplinary Action on Celebration of a Goal

  • Players can celebrate when a goal is scored, but the celebration must not be excessive; choreographed celebrations are not encouraged and must not cause excessive time-wasting.
  • Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence but players should return as soon as possible.
  • A player must be cautioned for:
    • Climbing onto a perimeter fence and/or approaching the spectators in a manner which causes safety and/or security issues.
    • Gesturing or acting in a provocative, derisory or inflammatory way.
    • Covering the head or face with a mask or other similar item.
    • Removing the shirt or covering the head with the shirt.

Note: This is a direct extract taken from the official FIFA rules on goal celebrations. Section three explains why footballers get a yellow card for taking their shirt off.

FIFA expects all match officials to display relative common sense in officiating the game. As such, soccer referee rules extend to interpreting the extent of unsporting and excessive football goal celebrations.

Often the best referees, and the most popular ones, are those who display some leniency and tolerance. They use preventive tactics to deal with potentially inflammatory or seditious situations on the field.

Goal Celebration Rules: FIFA Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct