Back-pass rule

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The so-called return pass rule in football was inserted by FIFA in Section XII of the football regulations in 1992 :

"An indirect free kick is given if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area : [...]

  •  touched with the hand / arm, unless he clearly played the ball with his foot or tried to play the ball during an attempted clearance, after:
    • an intentional pass of a teammate with his foot to the goalkeeper,
    • a directly leaked throw-in from a teammate. "
- IFAB : rules of the game 20/21


This provision says that the goalkeeper is not permitted to touch the ball with his hands if the pass has been made by a teammate in a controlled manner by foot or throw-in. Please also note:

The goalkeeper may touch the ball with his hand if

  • the ball from a teammate z. B. was leaked with the head, chest or knee or
  • the play of the other player was obviously uncontrolled, z. B. by a press blow or "ricochet" or
  • he clearly played the ball with his foot as part of an attempt at clarification or at least attempted to do so, even if the pass was made by a teammate from his own team in a controlled manner by foot or throw-in.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of the rule, possible circumvention options have been excluded:

  • If, in the opinion of the referee, the ball is played to the goalkeeper with the intention of circumventing the rule, the goalkeeper has to penalize the attempt, regardless of whether the goalkeeper actually makes hand contact.
    Example: A player lifts the ball with the tip of his toe so that a teammate plays it with his head towards his own goalkeeper. Passing the head would actually allow the goalkeeper to touch it with his hand. In order to prevent such circumvention, it is stipulated that even the attempt is unsportsmanlike (for punishment, see violation ).
  • The goalkeeper may not pick up a teammate's ball that has been passed to him by foot, even if he initially accepts it in an admissible manner.
    Example: The goalkeeper initially takes a back pass (in the sense of the rule) in a permitted manner, e.g. B. with the chest or the foot. Nevertheless, he must not touch such a ball with his hand in this game situation.


Failure to comply with the back pass rule and the other rules mentioned leads to an indirect free kick for the opposing team at the point where the goalkeeper touched the ball illegally. If this happened inside the goal area , the free kick will be returned to the goal area line parallel to the goal line and as close as possible to where the offense occurred. However, no misconduct penalty is imposed.

Attempting to circumvent the back pass rule (see above) constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct. The player who attempted to circumvent this is punished with a warning , but not the goalkeeper. Therefore, in this case it does not matter whether the goalkeeper actually touches the ball with his hand.

Related rules

In connection with the back pass rule, there are other goalkeeping rules that are intended to make the game more attractive:

  • The goalkeeper may only "control" the ball for a maximum of six seconds, i.e. hold it in his hands.
  • If the goalkeeper has controlled the ball and releases it, for example by dribbling it with his foot, he may not touch the ball again with his hands or even pick it up. Simply bouncing the ball on the ground or throwing it in the air does not count as clearance. He may only touch the ball with his hand again after it has been released after another player has touched it and the provisions of the back pass rule are observed.

Origin of the rule

The back-pass rule was a reaction by FIFA to the frequently used time-wasting tactic (so-called "time game", see World Cup final 1990 and World Cup game in Gijón 1982 ), in which the ball was passed into the goalkeeper's hands and the goalkeeper then allowed it to four Footsteps held in his hands. As a further reaction against “playing on time”, the rule was extended to include throw-ins in 1997 and the limit on the number of steps allowed for the goalkeeper was replaced by the rule of a maximum of six seconds with the ball in hand.


The term return pass rule is nowhere to be found in the official FIFA statutes, but it has become commonplace in many other publications. And although the common name of the rule suggests that the pass must be "backwards", the direction of the ball delivery does not play a role in the offense.

The back pass rule was instrumental in the decision of the German championship 2000/01 . When Bayern Munich on the final day of the season in Hamburg in remote duel with FC Schalke 04 fought for the championship, the Hamburg player played Tomáš Ujfaluši in injury time the ball at the score of 1: 0 for HSV own goalkeeper Mathias Schober to who picked him up with his hands. The indirect free kick subsequently awarded by referee Markus Merk was transformed by Swede Patrik Andersson to equalize 1-1. Thus, FC Bayern Munich were German champions .

Individual evidence

  1. Rules of the game 20/21. In: Retrieved August 4, 2020 .
  2. Doubts about the Master Gate. In: SPIEGEL ONLINE. Retrieved December 26, 2010 .

Web links

Wikibooks: “Temporary” tactics  - learning and teaching materials