If you put the ball out for an injury, should you get it back?

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November 10, 2021
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    Watford boss Claudio Ranieri remonstrates with officials at Arsenal"When we put the ball out voluntarily, everyone expects [the opposition] to give the ball back to you," said Claudio Ranieri after Sunday's game at Arsenal

    When a team puts the ball out of play because of an injury on the field, should they then get it back?

    The debate surrounding this football convention was opened up again on Sunday following Arsenal's winning goal as they beat Watford 1-0 in the Premier League at Emirates Stadium.

    Prior to Emile Smith Rowe's finish, defender Danny Rose willingly conceded a throw-in near his own box with team-mate Ozan Tufan on the ground. But to the Hornets' anger, the home side opted to keep possession – and it ultimately led to their successful attack. There were a couple of potentially crucial extra wrinkles to it, but we'll get to those.

    After the game, Watford boss Claudio Ranieri criticised the decision as "disrespectful", while Gunners counterpart Mikel Arteta insisted his side were "honest".

    So, what is the right course of action – give it back or carry on regardless? Or is it more nuanced? Have a read and then have your say in the comments section.

    'Keown was trying to get into the dressing room to get me'

    Steve Bruce remonstrates with officials during FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Sheffield United in February 1999The controversy surrounding the return of the ball from a throw-in led to an FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Sheffield United being replayed in 1999

    Throwing the ball back after a side has put it out willingly has been common practice for decades – it's sportsmanlike, fair, "the done thing". In a game that occasionally sees its laws bent and sportsmanlike credentials questioned, it is seen as an unofficial rule by most.

    You need only witness the fury when the convention is broken to see just how sacrosanct it is.

    There was pandemonium at Highbury in an infamous FA Cup fifth-round tie between Arsenal and Sheffield United on 13 February 1999.

    With 15 minutes to go and the score at 1-1, Blades goalkeeper Alan Kelly kicked the ball out of play so that striker Lee Morris could receive treatment following a foul.

    Ray Parlour threw the ball back in towards Kelly but before it could reach him, and with the away players static, Gunners striker Nwankwo Kanu nipped in to collect before squaring it for Marc Overmars to finish into an empty net.

    Outraged United players swarmed the referee, with some confronting Kanu, while manager Steve Bruce was incandescent with rage – at one point seeming to indicate his players leave the pitch.

    The game continued and finished 2-1, but afterwards Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said his side "did not want to cheat" and offered a rematch, which United accepted and the Football Association granted. Arsenal again won 2-1.

    On Radio 5 Live's Monday Night Club, Chris Sutton told a story about a game in which he was playing for Blackburn in 1997, again involving Arsenal.

    "We were 1-0 down and Arsenal's Stephen Hughes got injured and they put the ball out, just to waste a bit of time with a minute to go," said the ex-striker. "He sat down and we all agreed as a team that we needed to get back into the game.

    "The throw-in came over Nigel Winterburn's head, I shut him down and he gave away a corner. It all kicks off.

    "We then score from the corner through Gary Flitcroft, who whacks it in the top corner and we're off celebrating.

    "Martin Keown [the Arsenal defender] was making threats at me for the next four minutes. I played on the left wing right by the tunnel and at full-time I sprinted off the pitch, up the tunnel, into the dressing room, into the toilet and locked the door. Keown was trying to get into the dressing room to get me."

    'You don't have to give it back to someone'

    Claudio Ranieri reacts to Watford's 1-0 defeat at Arsenal

    But for all the fury, there is nothing in the laws of the game to say that the ball must be given back.

    And there is little the referee can do to intervene without improvising, such as starting play with a contested drop-ball instead of a throw.

    There is also no obligation for teams to put the ball out in the first place for a player with a suspected injury, with the match official in control of stopping play for serious injuries,external-link most notably those involving the head.

    Some of the onus then is on players to remain vigilant and not switch off, even when they expect to have the ball given back to them. Above all, play to the whistle.

    Such situations are not always so cut and dried, either, with Sunday's incident a good example.

    After Arsenal opted to keep the ball following Rose's concession of a throw, two key things happened – Watford's Juraj Kucka won a defensive header and their winger Ismaila Sarr appeared to be fouled in the process of completing the clearance.

    "It was more the foul on Sarr that was the problem," said former England defender Micah Richards on the Monday Night Club. "The referee got that decision wrong and that is where the confusion was.

    "Rose kicks the ball out, that is OK. He didn't get the ball back and they play on. You roll on to the next phase of play and there is a foul in there and that didn't happen.

    "Kucka could have got rid of the ball and he didn't, so they got punished for that. VAR could have brought it back for a foul.

    "You don't have to give it back to someone. Arsenal have been accused of being weak and naive in the recent past, so credit to them."

    Over to you. What do you think? You can vote below and also give your opinion in the comments.

    If you are viewing this page on the BBC News app please click here to vote.

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    853 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • D

      Comment posted by Darth Flowers, at 16:51 9 Nov

      It’s context sensitive. If the injury is real then absolutely but if you’re feigning it to stop an opposition attack from flowing then you deserve to concede. Twice.3839

      • H

        Reply posted by Hutch, at 17:18 9 Nov

        "It’s context sensitive. If the injury is real then absolutely but if you’re feigning it to stop an opposition attack from flowing then you deserve to concede. Twice."Hutch replied: Totally agree. I hate to do an ‘In Rugby…’ but in Rugby players don’t feign injury as lying on the floor leaves your team a man down when the game carries on. The Ref stops play, it’s not some arbitrary decision by one of the players. This tends to mean we only see genuine injuries and the ref stops play appropriately as there is a mutual respect. Cheats get cheated.1935

      More replies (46)

    • N

      Comment posted by nijmegen92, at 17:03 9 Nov

      The problem today is that so many players feign injury just to waste time. Every week you will see a player go down and roll around, and 2 minutes later they are sprinting off again. It’s pathetic. if they stop doing that, it won’t be a problem.2651

      • M

        Reply posted by mm, at 17:10 9 Nov

        "The problem today is that so many players feign injury just to waste time. Every week you will see a player go down and roll around, and 2 minutes later they are sprinting off again. It’s pathetic. if they stop doing that, it won’t be a problem."mm replied: if a player rolls over you know he cheating, if properly injured you would not roll1505

      More replies (14)

    • N

      Comment posted by Neil McK, at 17:00 9 Nov

      Don’t kick the ball out. Wait for the referee to stop the game. Problem solved. Simples. That way, the unsportsmanlike players cannot benefit.21112

      • J

        Reply posted by Jim, at 17:23 9 Nov

        "Don’t kick the ball out. Wait for the referee to stop the game. Problem solved. Simples. That way, the unsportsmanlike players cannot benefit."Jim replied: 100 % agree565

      More replies (17)

    • A

      Comment posted by Abahoni, at 16:53 9 Nov

      For a genuine injury, yes. But not for a fake injury!2035

      • L

        Reply posted by Lets Agree To Disagree, at 17:26 9 Nov

        "For a genuine injury, yes. But not for a fake injury!"Lets Agree To Disagree replied: Absolutely correct!543

      More replies (12)

    • G

      Comment posted by ghdmanchester, at 17:05 9 Nov

      The ball should NOT be put back in the first place. If the ref stops play it should be a competitive bounce up, otherwise continue playing. we have all seen far too often when a player is desperately injured UNTIL he has sees an opportunity for an advantage and recovers instantly, up and galloping like a Derby Race Horse Winner. STOP THE CHEATING.1363

      • E

        Reply posted by euclides, at 17:07 9 Nov

        "The ball should NOT be put back in the first place. If the ref stops play it should be a competitive bounce up, otherwise continue playing. we have all seen far too often when a player is desperately injured UNTIL he has sees an opportunity for an advantage and recovers instantly, up and galloping like a Derby Race Horse Winner. STOP THE CHEATING."euclides replied: Spot on!330

      More replies (2)

    • K

      Comment posted by kimi, at 16:57 9 Nov

      Only if the player was actually injured. Which in this case he wasn’t. Watford were just trying to break the game up and waste time as they did all game long.15223

      • B

        Reply posted by Buzzarder, at 19:58 9 Nov

        "Only if the player was actually injured. Which in this case he wasn’t. Watford were just trying to break the game up and waste time as they did all game long."Buzzarder replied: How did they know Tufan wasn’t injured? It was a very bad tackle on him so he could have been seriosly hurt2151

      More replies (14)

    • T

      Comment posted by Tess Sgs, at 16:57 9 Nov

      If the ball is put out for an injury to an opposition player, then definitely, yes. If it’s put out for your own player, no.11315

      • T

        Reply posted by topo, at 17:21 9 Nov

        "If the ball is put out for an injury to an opposition player, then definitely, yes. If it’s put out for your own player, no."topo replied: Except the opposition player could still be doing the ‘dying swan’ act?392

      More replies (5)

    • J

      Comment posted by Justanotherdogsbody, at 16:57 9 Nov

      If you play strictly by the letter of the law, then the game carries on as normal until the referee stops the game. In other words, one must assume that the player is feigning injury to try and stop the game to gain an advantage. Fans and players will complain about that too, but if both teams play to the whistle then this nonsense should stop, shouldn’t it?803

      • L

        Reply posted by lagard, at 17:01 9 Nov

        "If you play strictly by the letter of the law, then the game carries on as normal until the referee stops the game. In other words, one must assume that the player is feigning injury to try and stop the game to gain an advantage. Fans and players will complain about that too, but if both teams play to the whistle then this nonsense should stop, shouldn’t it?"lagard replied: That worked for Eriksen. The players stopped not the referee326

      More replies (9)

    • S

      Comment posted by sampsom, at 17:02 9 Nov

      The problem is of the players and managers own making. Gamesmanship has replaced sportsmanship. They all cheat and they’re all encouraged to cheat. The Watford player putting the ball out should have kicked for touch a long way from his own goal. Giving the ball back can no longer be seen as automatic – judgements have to be made, by both the players and the crowd.773

      • E

        Reply posted by El Mik, at 18:54 9 Nov

        "The problem is of the players and managers own making. Gamesmanship has replaced sportsmanship. They all cheat and they’re all encouraged to cheat. The Watford player putting the ball out should have kicked for touch a long way from his own goal. Giving the ball back can no longer be seen as automatic – judgements have to be made, by both the players and the crowd."El Mik replied: Perfect summary, best post yet161

      More replies (1)

    • Y

      Comment posted by yorkshireben, at 16:52 9 Nov

      Depends if the ball was put out for a team mate who is faking an injury or not…614

      • T

        Reply posted by The Spin Doctor, at 17:34 9 Nov

        "Depends if the ball was put out for a team mate who is faking an injury or not…"The Spin Doctor replied: A very obvious point that is unfortunately forgotten by teams in their desire to win at all costs.191

    • N

      Comment posted by nicholas386, at 16:49 9 Nov

      The Watford player had got up and was moving back towards the goal so Arsenal retained the ball and so they broke no rules7622

      • C

        Reply posted by CoachJeff, at 17:06 9 Nov

        "The Watford player had got up and was moving back towards the goal so Arsenal retained the ball and so they broke no rules"CoachJeff replied: No rules no, but they’d been gifted possession in case of an injured player.
        So definitely unsporting.
        Lesson for other teams, against Arsenal play on regardless if it’s an Arsenal player down.6078

      More replies (25)

    • R

      Comment posted by Rocky7, at 17:02 9 Nov

      Depends on the severity of the injury. If it’s a legit injury, the ball should be given back. If it’s to time waste or break up play like Watford at the weekend, keep the ball. Arsenal knew what they were up to, and had every right to carry on playing.618

      • M

        Reply posted by Mr and Mrs Banks, at 20:40 9 Nov

        "Depends on the severity of the injury. If it’s a legit injury, the ball should be given back. If it’s to time waste or break up play like Watford at the weekend, keep the ball. Arsenal knew what they were up to, and had every right to carry on playing."Mr and Mrs Banks replied: Thats the point. When the ball went out, did the ref stop play and let the physio come on? If he had of done, Arsenal would have given them the ball back. But the lad got up and ran towards his goal…151

      More replies (2)

    • Q

      Comment posted by QPR 67, at 16:58 9 Nov

      It’s all about sportsmanship and fair play but these two elements of sport disappeared when money took over…552

      • D

        Reply posted by Dallas Cowboys Liverpool FC, at 17:30 9 Nov

        "It’s all about sportsmanship and fair play but these two elements of sport disappeared when money took over…"Dallas Cowboys Liverpool FC replied: If the injury is real then it is common courtesy and respect for both for your opponents and the game itself that the team kicking the ball out show get it back.173

      More replies (7)

    • D

      Comment posted by Dougal, at 16:59 9 Nov

      Not if they are cheating by pretending to be injured! They should be punished by not getting the ball back and then conceding a goal whilst they cry about it!513

      • P

        Reply posted by phil, today at 11:24

        "Not if they are cheating by pretending to be injured! They should be punished by not getting the ball back and then conceding a goal whilst they cry about it!"phil replied: That’s too vague. What is an injury? Cramp? Muscle strain? Leave it to the refs and let the players carry on rolling around wasting time pretending to be injured. They’ll soon stop then.00

    • B

      Comment posted by Bill, at 16:56 9 Nov

      Let the ref decide. Play to the whistle.546

      • L

        Reply posted by Lastover, at 18:30 9 Nov

        "Let the ref decide. Play to the whistle."Lastover replied: More responsibility on the ref, who has to decide whether the player is injured or not, and if he IS injured, how badly.
        How long before a ref is blamed for ignoring a potentially serious (perhaps even life-threatening) injury?910

      More replies (2)

    • R

      Comment posted by richard48, at 16:53 9 Nov

      It depends on the game. Watford’s aim from the start was to foul every chance they got! If I was an Arsenal player and was continually being hacked down by Watford players, then I wouldn’t be doing them any favours! Besides the Watford player was just feigning injury! Ranieri is a sore loser!5816

      • E

        Reply posted by Eve, at 17:00 9 Nov

        "It depends on the game. Watford’s aim from the start was to foul every chance they got! If I was an Arsenal player and was continually being hacked down by Watford players, then I wouldn’t be doing them any favours! Besides the Watford player was just feigning injury! Ranieri is a sore loser!"Eve replied: Dilly Ding, Dilly Dong!65

      More replies (5)

    • M

      Comment posted by Machew, at 17:08 9 Nov

      If you put the ball out for your player you should not expect the ball back. If your opponents do so it is up to them and courtesy dictates you give it back. That’s the way it should be looked upon. The facts are that Watford had been playing rough all match and it had not really been dealt with, then at the end of the match they cry foul. They had the ball back and lost it again after the throw.423

    • A

      Comment posted by Alexis Merry Go Round, at 16:56 9 Nov

      Yes, unless it is Neymar.396

      • M

        Reply posted by MELSI31, at 19:08 9 Nov

        "Yes, unless it is Neymar."MELSI31 replied: The way he rolls about he could do enough of them and get over to the dug-out on his own lol!!142

      More replies (1)

    • T

      Comment posted by TKGriffiths, at 16:50 9 Nov

      It’s like the glove touch in MMA. People like to do it, but there’s nothing in the rules stopping your opponent from knocking you out when you go for the glove touch after the bell rings.

      Protect yourself at all times, or in football’s case play to the whistle. It’s nothing more than a gentleman’s agreement, and football is full of actors/divers so why would you expect gentlemanly play from them?375

      • T

        Reply posted by TonyH, at 17:21 9 Nov

        "It’s like the glove touch in MMA. People like to do it, but there’s nothing in the rules stopping your opponent from knocking you out when you go for the glove touch after the bell rings.Protect yourself at all times, or in football’s case play to the whistle. It’s nothing more than a gentleman’s agreement, and football is full of actors/divers so why would you expect gentlemanly play from them?"TonyH replied: To TKG, that’s an excellent summation. As a former footy ref, I long go lost most interest in the game, thx due – as you say – to the prevalence of cheats and divers.131

      More replies (1)

    • P

      Comment posted by Peds16, at 17:06 9 Nov

      I think everyone else has said it, if the players stopped the fakery and gamesmanship it might be possible to return to ‘the good old days’ when someone went down as they were properly hurt (remember actual tackles that took legs off below the knee?!)291

      • E

        Reply posted by ellis , at 17:10 9 Nov

        "I think everyone else has said it, if the players stopped the fakery and gamesmanship it might be possible to return to ‘the good old days’ when someone went down as they were properly hurt (remember actual tackles that took legs off below the knee?!)"ellis replied: AND ONLY HAD 1 RESERVE ALLOWED , changing times80

      More replies (4)

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