Play of the Week 25: Fouls on the edge of the penalty area

In the latest Play of the Week we are discussing fouls on the edge of the penalty area, and the difference in the application of Video Review when it is a factual decision as opposed to subjective. The play is from the California Classic between LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.

When Galaxy’s Joao Pedro turns Earthquakes’ Darwin Ceren and moves close towards the side edge of the penalty area, he is held and pushed by Ceren. Pedro then falls inside the penalty area. Referee Chris Penso has no hesitation in awarding a PK and points to the spot.

This play is one of the four (goals, red cards, penalty kicks, and mistaken identity) that are automatically checked by the VAR. The VAR in this case is Baldomero Toledo, who advises Penso that the contact occurred outside the penalty area.

Penso accepts this information, gives the approved signal for a formal review and subsequently awards a free-kick outside the penalty area. This is a factual decision and not subjective, therefore Penso has no need to go to the Referee Review Area (RRA) to conduct an On-Field Review (OFR).

This penalty area side line has to be the referee’s responsibility as the AR will never have the appropriate angle to make a judgment. It is of vital importance that referees make every effort to be as close as they can to this line, creating the best angle and giving themselves the best chance of making the correct decision.

When players are fouled on the edge of the penalty area, their forward momentum will always make them appear far more in advance of where the foul actually took place and it would have appeared to Penso that the foul occurred inside the penalty area. From the stationary central position that Penso was in, he had no chance of making an accurate decision.

In summary, this call was factual and did not require the referee to go to the RRA. However, despite having Video Replay, referees cannot simply rely on this alone to correct their decisions. They must make every effort to be in the optimum position to make the correct call first time.