Ask Ray O'Connor…week three

If you have a query for Ray about any umpiring situation, email me at This week, one of the world’s top umpires explains the decision-making process concerning when a plyer tries to play the ball on the ground.

The query
“Are players aloud to play the ball when they are on the ground? Are there separate instances when this is and isn’t allowed? I was at a game last weekend where a player took a shot, it was saved and came back to her when she was lying on the ground but she managed to get a shot off even under pressure from another player. I thought it was good skill but umpire blew it for being dangerous.”

Ray’s response:
This is always an interesting question. As with all my answers, I like to mention the first priority of umpiring, that is safety of the players. Please forgive me if I seem boring on this point every time.

As I read the question it is related to two points:
1. Playing the ball while lying on the ground.
2. Competing for the ball while lying on the ground.

Playing the ball while lying on the ground can be very exciting to watch, I am sure we have all seen great goals scored in this way. We have also seen great tackles made while sliding along the ground, so we must be very careful not to discourage these. We have also seen tackles made while sliding along the ground that goes wrong and this can be very dangerous and must be dealt with.

1. A player can play the ball while lying on the ground.
· The one element in this is tackling. If a player decided to make a sliding tackle, this is not a problem provided they do not in any way make contact with another player.

o This is very dangerous and should be dealt with very strictly by the umpire.
· A second point is if the sliding player makes contact between the ball and their body this should also be dealt with very strictly by the umpire.

2. A player “cannot” be lying on the ground and be competing for the ball at the same time. (A goalkeeper is excluded from this answer, I am happy to deal with Goalkeepers at another time)
· This is dangerous to themselves, the Umpire must protect the player from danger even if the danger is to themselves.
· It can also be a distinct advantage for one person to compete when lying on the ground.
o The alternative to this, is to allow all players to be on the ground in competition for the ball, and we know where that might end up.

* People have mentioned to me about last week’s question that I was not very clear in my answer. I am glad to say it had the desired effect in so far as to get dialog from both sides. I have now put more clarity around my answer, which I hope has helped.

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