What Is A Drop Ball In Soccer

There used to be a time when a drop ball could advertise shinguards such was the ferocity to win the ball back.

Legs would be drawn back and fans would lean in as the referee would drop the ball between two players to let battle commence.

Nowadays, the drop ball is used as a way to restart play for several scenarios and is designed so that neither team has an advantage. Some of these scenarios are quite trivial, others are more serious.

What Is A Drop Ball In Soccer

In this guide, we will explore what a drop ball is. We will also look at when and why it is used in soccer.

What Is A Drop Ball In Soccer?

A drop ball is one method that is used to restart play during a soccer game. This is typically instead of a set-piece such as a corner kick or a free kick that favors one team after a foul has been committed or the ball has left the field of play.

There are few instances that a drop ball would occur as the vast majority of restarts tend to be when the referee has had to decide to penalize a team.

Such a scenario could be a serious injury to a player where play has to be halted swiftly for the injured player to receive treatment. In this case, the referee is looking out for the welfare of the injured player and no player has committed a foul.

The drop ball can also occur when there is interference by an external party such as a fan running onto the pitch, or even an animal.

There could also be a dispute between players which occurs while the ball is in play without a foul being awarded and the referee has to intervene.

This could essentially be an argument over anything yet the referee deems that no foul or misconduct has occurred. Another reason could be that the ball has burst and play has to be halted until another ball can be found.

In each case of a drop ball, one designated player is chosen by each team. All the other players of each team have to stand at least 4 meters (4.4 yards) away from the dropped ball.

That is until the ball hits the ground, at which point play has resumed. For it to remain a drop ball situation, both players have to wait until the ball has actually touched the ground before kicking it.

Let’s say a player has kicked the ball before it has touched the ground once. The referee may let them off for keenly wanting to restart the game.

However, if a player persistently does this and the drop ball has to be retaken numerous times then the referee can take action. This will likely be considered misconduct by the referee if they believe that the player is deliberately doing this, perhaps to waste time.

For committing misconduct, the player can expect a yellow card as a caution for sabotaging the drop ball and delaying the restart of play. It is also one of the strangest and pettiest cautions you can expect to receive.

Fun fact. The drop ball is the only way of restarting play which allows the first player who wins the drop ball to touch it again without penalty. That’s right, all other restarts of play must only use a single kick of the ball for another player to then touch it.

Consider when a player slips while taking a penalty kick. If they lose their balance and inadvertently kick the ball from their right foot, onto their left foot, then they should be penalized for a double contact.

A similar scenario occurs if the player takes a penalty and hits the frame of the goal.

If that player then touches the ball again without the goalkeeper’s intervention then play is halted and possession returned to the defending team.

Can you score from a drop ball?

No, a goal cannot be scored from one until two different players have touched it.

For example, if a player is so keen to contest the drop ball they accidentally smash the ball into the opposing net (or their own) then the result is a goal-kick or corner-kick, This depends on which goal the ball has ended up in; a goal kick if the ball went into the opponent’s goal or a corner kick if it ended in their team’s goal.

Which Players Contest A Drop Ball?

In most scenarios, a designated player will be chosen to contest a drop ball. All other players must remain at least 4 meters away. That distance remains the same yet a drop ball can be explicitly awarded to a particular player in specific scenarios.

What Is A Drop Ball In Soccer

These include the goalkeeper of the defending team should the ball be in the penalty area at the point when play was stopped.

The goalkeeper would also take the drop ball if play was stopped and the ball was last touched in the penalty area. In all other scenarios, it will be a player of the team that touched the ball last.

Why Is A Drop Ball Used To Restart Play?

The drop ball is seen as a fairer way of restarting play when the match has been halted due to circumstances where no foul or misconduct has occurred.

These are scenarios that are largely unexpected and play needs to be restarted without either team being favored.

It also allows teams to show fair play if the two players contesting the drop ball decide between themselves which team should receive the ball as a result.

For instance, imagine that a player from team A has suffered an injury and the referee rightly stops play for a medic to enter the field of play.

Team B had possession of the ball when the referee halted play and they feel they should have the ball back as no foul has been committed.

Once the drop ball has been signaled, a player from team A can decide to allow team B to retrieve possession after the drop ball, which seems fair.

In this scenario, the player from team B would not contest the drop ball and the player from team A would simply return the ball to team B. Play would then restart with team B in possession, as it was when play was initially halted.

Which Laws Concern A Drop Ball?

In the latest edition of the IFAB ‘Laws of the Game’ that governs soccer, a drop ball is actually detailed in law 8.

This particular law is centered on the start and restart of play with the drop ball being one of those methods. The procedure for a dropped ball is depicted in law 8.2.

Law 9 regards the ball in and out of play where play is restarted with a dropped ball. This is essentially to restart the game once the ball has touched a match official yet remains on the field of play.

These drop ball situations can be quite hotly contested, especially if the ball hits a match official and is deflected into the goal. That shot may be hitting the target yet once it has touched the referee, play has to be restarted with a dropped ball.

The position of the dropped ball is roughly where it touched the referee. There is not a lot the match official can do, they certainly would not want to aid a team by accidentally helping them score a goal.

Another scenario that is explained by the rule is if a team starts a promising attack or the team in possession loses the ball once it has touched a match official.

In these cases, the match official can be the referee or an assistant referee. The drop ball is seen as a fair means of restarting play after the ball has inadvertently come into contact with a match official.

While the referee may do their best to avoid the ball, sometimes it is through no fault of their own that they intervene.

What Other Scenario May Mean A Drop Ball In Elite Soccer?

There is a certain scenario where a drop ball occurs which would only be in elite soccer and during a match where VAR is used.

This can be after a video assistant referee determines that after a review play should not have been stopped. A VAR review could be done to check if a penalty should have been awarded.

If the decision to award the penalty is reversed then play is restarted with a drop ball where the referee halted play at the point of the incorrect decision.

Final Thoughts

A drop ball is used in soccer as a fair means of restarting play, though it is not used that often.

If the ball remains in play and no foul or misconduct has occurred there are only certain scenarios where a drop ball is decided on. These can include when the ball has become defective, or the pitch has been invaded.

A drop ball can also be considered if a player has been seriously injured and the referee instructs a medic onto the pitch immediately. As no foul has occurred, the drop ball is seen as a means of restarting play without giving either team an advantage.