Denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO – explained)

Commonly referred to by commentators as an offence committed by “the last man”, however this is not strictly true as there may still be the goalkeeper to beat depending upon the exact set of circumstances.

The foul itself does not need to take place in the penalty area, it can be some distance out and depends on 4 main criteria being met. It is also not a specific offence in terms of the foul itself which can be handball, pulling, pushing, a kick or even a tackle. The offence is that the action directly denies a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

To differentiate between a simple foul and a foul committed as a DOGSO the following criteria needs to be considered:

1: The distance between the offence and the goal.  The closer it is to the penalty and goal areas the more likely the criteria would be satisfied.  It’s not only the proximity, but also the area of the pitch, centrally in and around the penalty area is likely to satisfy the criteria, being right out on a touchline near the corner for example wouldn’t. 

2: The general direction of play. If the striker has his back to goal or is side on looking to play the ball to an opponent then it will not fit the criteria for DOGSO. He needs to be in a position to be able to be about to take a shot or in the process of lining up a shot.

3: Likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball.  This can be applied equally to the striker and to the defender. In relation to the striker, he does not have to have the ball actually at his feet, he could be running onto a pass from a team mate that, without the action of the defender/goalkeeper, he would have collected and had a shot on target, for example. In relation to the defender he needs to have a chance of winning the ball, for example by a clean, well timed tackle.  If the striker has got away from the defender and the only means to stop him getting a shot away is to push him over or pull him back then the defender does not have any possibility of playing the ball and therefore no chance of “gaining control of the ball”.

4: The location and number of other defenders, which includes the goalkeeper.  There is no set distance specified but the general rule is that if there is a covering defender or goalkeeper within range to make a tackle then the criteria for DOGSO are unlikely to be met. If the goalkeeper is stranded, has already committed to diving one way, leaving the player the opportunity to chip over him or shoot the other side of him or is the player making a last ditch tackle then the DOGSO criteria is liable to be met. If another defender, including the goalkeeper is in a close enough position to make a lawful tackle or attempt a save then the criteria will not be met.

If all of the criteria for DOGSO are met then the next consideration for the referee is whether he will punish the offence with a red or yellow card.  If it is a handball offence, including a goalkeeper using his hands outside of the penalty area, then it is a red card offence. Holding a player, pulling him back, pushing him or where there is no possibility of playing the ball it will also be a red card inside or outside the penalty area. 

What has changed is that double jeopardy has now been removed inside the penalty are, where there is a genuine attempt to play the ball.  This is to stop the defending team from having a penalty and red card against them from a genuine attempt at a tackle.  A tackle that would see a red card anywhere else on the pitch, such as a reckless 2 footed, studs up tackle, would still see a red card but a slightly mistimed tackled where the defender may even play the ball but then take the striker down with his trailing leg will no longer be a red card.

Just as a side note – playing the ball does not negate a foul.  Every game players indicate “but I played the ball ref” like that prevents a foul – it does not! You can play the ball all day long but if you then take out the opponent with the follow through it is a foul. It is very simple!

The exact wording as per the Laws of the Game: 

Law 12: Fouls & Misconduct

Denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity 

Where a player denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by a handball offence, the player is sent off wherever the offence occurs.

Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offender is cautioned if the offence  was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off.

A player, sent-off player, substitute or substituted player who enters the field of  play without the required referee’s permission and interferes with play or an opponent and denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is guilty of a sending-off offence.

The following must be considered:

  • Distance between the offence and the goal;
  • General direction of play;
  • Likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball;
  • location and number of defenders.