Di Cunningham: Throwing in the foul: what are the official rules?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 03 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 03 February 2020

Max Aarons in action during Norwich City's 0-0 draw at Newcastle. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Max Aarons in action during Norwich City's 0-0 draw at Newcastle. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

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The St James’ Park crowd on Saturday witnessed Max Aarons called out by referee Martin Atkinson for a foul throw, with the retake awarded to Newcastle.

It's the second match in a row a City player has been penalised for what might be deemed a rookie error - last week saw Jamal Lewis taken to task for the same offence.

Supporters of both sides roll their eyes or have a laugh at the expense of footballers in the elite game making such an apparently basic mistake - partly because it's one of the few moves that we all imagine we could undertake ourselves with reasonable success and partly also because noticing an elementary transgression like that gives us a reassuringly superior feeling of 'knowing the rules'.

But do we?

There's a guy who sits near me (I'm sure there are many of his type around the Carra) who regularly, at peak bellow, berates the referee's assistant for: not keeping up with play, not spotting an offside, not insisting that a corner ball is in the quadrant… and for missing a variety of foul throws. 'His feet weren't behind the line Lino' he bawls, 'Oi! It was a downwards throw!', 'Lino! Foul throw! '

So Max's schoolboy howler sent me to Law 15 of the football rulebook to check what exactly makes a throw foul. And some of the examples often sited by fans nodding sagely at the sidelines are not, it turns out, illegal.

Feet - most of us have known since kickabouts at school that both feet have to be on the ground when the ball is launched. Presumably a pro-footballer hauled up for having a foot off the ground would be mercilessly ribbed by their team-mates and face a club fine or forfeit of some sort - and rightly so. But the other key demand for a legal throw-in is in relation to the pitch and its markings and is about where those feet are: "The thrower must have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline."

MORE: Six things we learned from St James' Park

So the feet can be on the line and actually the feet don't have to be wholly off the pitch - if they're big enough they can satisfy those conditions and be partly on the field of play. WRONG PEAK BELLOWER!

Trajectory - Peak Bellower's mention of 'downward throw' echoes a vague memory from my unaccomplished Sunday afternoon playing days. But in reality the rules do allow for a direct downward flight, so long as it's part of a continuous action that begins behind, and travels over the head. Try it yourself - a natural throwing movement starting from behind and over the head usually results in the ball leaving your hands when they're in front of your body. When stripped back, the requirements don't allow for the ball to be dropped or chucked; but contrary to popular wisdom in the stands, Law 15 does not specify where the ball should be released. WRONG PEAK BELLOWER!

Max fell foul of the referee on his third or fourth sequential throw-in and it looked as if, finally, his arms hadn't taken the ball back far enough before he started the action - so not really a howler and an error which many officials wouldn't bother with.

I checked with a few ref friends who are also fellow Canaries fans (turns out there are a lot of legitimate refs in the Carrow Road crowd on match days as well as wannabies like Peak Bellow!) and the verdict was that minor infringements like marginal foul throws should be overlooked in the interest of the flow of the game.

That makes so much sense; that maintaining the momentum of play should be the footballing officials' overriding philosophy - in which case referee mates - please have a word about VAR!

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