Can It Be A Penalty If It’s A Foul On The Line? (Explained)

As a football fan, you must have been accustomed to Penalties already. They are a big part of the game and have always been. However, the decisions leading to the penalties can be quite controversial as they offer the most direct opportunity to score a goal. 

In this article, we will explore whether it’s possible to have a penalty awarded if the foul is on the line. 

Is it a penalty if the foul is on the line?

According to the Laws of the Game, a foul is penalised by awarding one of a direct freekick, indirect freekick, or penalty kick. However, this depends on the location and situation of the foul play.  

It is important to note that these can only be awarded when the ball is in play

Thus, if an aggressive foul or handball is committed, the ball must be in play for the referee to award a penalty. As such, the position of the ball is the determining factor in awarding fouls.

Furthermore, the lines on the pitch dictate where the bounds of the field are also part of the areas they surround. The lines are still considered part of the area, whether it be the penalty area or the whole pitch. 

However, the penalty arc, informally called the “D”, does not form part of the penalty box.

Thus, a penalty or free kick will be awarded if the foul occurs on or beyond these lines. However, the final decision is still up to the referee. 

Since most penalty decisions are likely shrouded by controversy, the referee can decide whether to award the penalty. The referee is the ultimate authority on the field. They can award a free kick instead or entirely rule out the foul.

VAR Technology is used to help referees make more informed and accurate decisions. 

Some examples

Fouls occur in every area of the pitch, including the line bounding the penalty box. In such cases, the referee has to make a difficult decision. Here are some examples:

#1 Manchester City vs Brentford (Premier League 2022/23)

In November 2022, Manchester City lost their first home game of the 2022/23 Premier League season to West London underdogs, Brentford. It was the last league outing before the 2022 World Cup commenced in mid-November.

Reigning champions, Manchester City, found it difficult to break down their London opponents. However, in one of the moments where they did, a referee’s decision did not swing the balance of play in their favour. During the heated contest, a handball was committed, bordering on the penalty box.

The referee consulted with VAR briefly and awarded a direct freekick instead.

Afterwards, Ivan Toney‘s brace downed the Blues and stopped their chances of going top of the table before the World Cup began. However, the penalty decision also swung the scales in the underdog’s favour.

#2 England Vs France (World Cup 2022)

The World Cup is football’s greatest tournament, held once every four years. For players and fans, contesting in the World Cup is a dream, and every game is a final. 

Thus, every referee’s decision looms large on the fate of national teams and their compatriots at home. Such a moment occurred during the Quarter Final match between England and France. 

English Striker and captain, Harry Kane, appeared to be fouled from behind by Dayot Upamecano. This occurred on the penalty box line.

However, the referee declared no foul and continued play. In fact, Kane was shown a yellow card for complaining afterwards. Although the talisman missed a penalty for his side in the match, the referee’s decision also played a huge role in the game’s result.

By the end of the contest, England was eliminated from the tournament after a 2-1 loss to France. Meanwhile, France ended the tournament in second place behind champions, Argentina.

Can a penalty kick be awarded outside the box?

According to the Laws of the Game, a penalty kick can only be awarded when a foul occurs within the penalty box. A direct or indirect freekick will be awarded for any fouls that are committed outside the box. 

It is therefore not possible for any foul that is outside the box that will result in a penalty kick!


 A penalty kick should be awarded even when the foul occurs on the line bounding the penalty box. This is because the rules of the game dictate that the lines are part of the areas they surround. 

However, this can be more complex than it seems. Giving or cancelling penalties depends on the referee’s judgment, who may consult VAR, but makes the final decision.

At any length, there will be an expected amount of controversy!

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