Can The Referee Allow A Team To Play Without A Goalkeeper?

The goalkeeper has one of the most important jobs during a game of soccer.

They are the designated player who has to stop the opposing team from scoring by blocking every strike they make towards the goal.

However, if you are a player short or your goalkeeper is injured, is there any way that a team can continue playing without their goalkeeper?

Can The Referee Allow A Team To Play Without A Goalkeeper?

Here we are going to be taking a closer look at the rules of soccer to see if it’s possible for a team to play without their goalkeeper and what happens if all the designated goalkeepers (including substitutions) are unable to play.

This way, you can find out what you need to do in this situation whether you are acting as referee or as a player.

So, let’s dive right in!

Can You Play Soccer Without A Goalkeeper?

Unfortunately, there is no way a team can continue playing without a goalkeeper.

The Laws of the Game (the official document of rules designed by the International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA for short) requires that every team has a designated goalkeeper to stand in their goals and protect it from opposing strikers.

Without a goalkeeper, the opposing team will have a huge advantage and be far more likely to score points.

So, to keep things fair, both teams need a designated goalkeeper on the field of play during both halves of a soccer game.

This is why FIFA has included this rule that both teams must have a goalkeeper on the field of play in their Laws of the Game.

It is a vital rule that must be followed so both teams have an equal chance to block the other team from scoring.

Because of this, a referee cannot allow a team to play without a goalkeeper.

A soccer game cannot start until both teams have a maximum of eleven players, including a goalkeeper in position at their respective goals.

Until this rule is met, a soccer game cannot start.

What To Do When You Haven’t Got A Goalkeeper

It’s very rare that this event ever occurs (especially in professional matches) but it’s not impossible.

Sometimes, injuries or illness may leave a team without a designated goalkeeper or a substitute goalkeeper to take their place.

Perhaps, if you are playing soccer for fun, you may be short on players to begin with – so how can you continue playing soccer without a goalkeeper?

In the event that you are a goalkeeper down, you have to find a replacement.

Without a goalkeeper, you cannot officially continue play and if you are just playing for fun, then you will be at a serious disadvantage that can cost you the game.

After all, even if there is no one else on the field, an opposing team cannot win if a goalkeeper blocks every strike they make.

So, you have to find a goalkeeper to replace the one you have lost – but from where?

In this event, some teams will choose a defender or midfielder to take over the role as goalkeeper.

They will still have to play the game with a player down but they must have someone in the goals for the game to continue at all.

An alternative move made by some soccer managers is that they will swap out an outfielder with their substitute goalkeeper waiting on the bench.

This is the most common move made by soccer managers as it allows the team to keep a trained goalkeeper on the field to increase their defense and it still complies with all the rules laid out by FIFA.

Once everyone is back in position, the game can continue but not before the new goalkeeper is in their new position.

Can Goalkeepers Get A Red Card?

Can Goalkeepers Get A Red Card?

It is possible for a goalkeeper to be given yellow and red cards, just like every other player on the field. However, it is uncommon but not impossible.

If a goalkeeper commits a professional foul, then a referee can choose between a free kick, penalty award, or to give the offending goalkeeper a red card.

Most referees choose the free kick or penalty award but sometimes, they will choose the red card if it is the best suited punishment for the foul.

A goalkeeper can also be given a red card if they handle the ball outside of their penalty area to deny their opposition a goal or a potential goal-scoring opportunity.

So, this means that goalkeepers could also be sent off the field at any point in the game and this is why many soccer fans get confused whether the game can continue without the goalkeeper.

In the event that a goalkeeper is sent off the field via a red card, then the team must substitute the goalkeeper.

They will choose between the two methods mentioned earlier: either have an outfield player step in or swap out an outfielder with a substitute goalkeeper.

Either way, the team will still be down a player and still have a goalkeeper to comply with FIFA’s Laws of the Game.


So, can a referee allow a team to play without their designated goalkeeper?

No, they cannot – it is stated in FIFA’s Laws of the Game that every team must have a goalkeeper in order for play to start or continue.

So, a referee must stop play until a substitute goalkeeper is in place for the team otherwise they would be breaking FIFA’s Laws of the Game.

It’s entirely possible for this event to occur.

Goalkeepers can commit fouls and be given red cards just like every other player on the field, plus they could be injured and sent off because they are no longer able to play.

In these events, then a replacement goalkeeper must be found.

A soccer manager will either send the substitute goalkeeper out (swapping out an outfielder in the event of a red card) or have an outfield player don the gloves and step into the goal to act as goalkeeper.

Only then can the game continue.

Steven Anderson