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Could Bayern Munich be forced to forfeit their win over Freiburg due to a 12th man snafu? (Updated)

Well this certainly won’t be controversial.

Sport-Club Freiburg v FC Bayern München - Bundesliga Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

We often joke about having a twelfth man in football, but the joke became a reality today as Bayern Munich faced SC Freiburg at the Europa-Park Stadium. Play was stopped around the 86th minute when officials noticed that Bayern had an extra player on the pitch. The game eventually resumed with eight minutes of time added to the clock, but the incident puts an asterisk next to the three points earned by the Bavarians on the night.

So, what exactly happened?

Here is the full timeline of events, as we understand them:

  • At around the 85th minute, a double substitution was announced for Bayern Munich. Marcel Sabitzer and Niklas Süle were supposed to come on for Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso.
  • The board held up by the 4th official was meant to display the #11 but showed the #29 instead (Coman’s former number, but it is not worn by any current player at Bayern). Because of this, Kingsley Coman wasn’t aware that he had been subbed and stayed on.
  • Somehow, both Sabitzer and Süle were allowed to come on while only Tolisso went off, leading to Bayern temporarily playing with 12 players on the pitch.
  • Play was stopped around seventeen to twenty seconds later, with the referees noticing the error. Kingsley Coman came off at this point.
  • Discussion took place between the on-pitch referee, the 4th official, Julian Nagelsmann, Bayern team manager Kathleen Krüger, and more. Play resumed around the 90th minute with eight minutes of time added on. Bayern Munich went on to win 4-1.

Note: Bayern were already 3-1 up before the 12th man controversy happened. No goals were scored with 12 men on the pitch.

Who said what?

First, we have Julian Nagelsmann:

Freiburg coach Christian Streich did not say whether his team would launch a complaint, opting to remain ambivalent with his statement:

However, referee Christian Dingert blamed Bayern team manager Kathleen Kruger for showing providing the 4th official with the wrong number for the substitution:

Mind you, he did not explain why the 4th official allowed Marcel Sabitzer to come on without Coman coming off the pitch. Doesn’t seem like the refereeing team is completely off the hook here. Dingert went on to say (via @iMiaSanMia):

“It was a totally confused situation. It was a double change from Bayern. An incorrect number was initially displayed on the board, which is why Coman did not feel addressed. That’s why a twelfth player was on the pitch for a short time.

We noticed that and stopped the game. We then consulted each other, and we continued the game. It’s annoying for us because of course that scene is the focus now. We will note this in the match report.

15-16 seconds was the time with twelve players. No goal was scored during that time. We will note that, everything else will be decided by the DFB.”

Bayern Munich captain Manuel Neuer seems unconcerned, assuming that the win will count:

What happens next?

Freiburg have time until Monday to lodge an appeal with the DFB regarding the result of the game. Here is what the IFAB Laws of the Game say about having extra players on the pitch:

If a team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player or outside agent enters the field of play, the referee must:

1. only stop play if there is interference with play
2. have the person removed when play stops
3. take appropriate disciplinary action

If play is stopped and the interference was by:

1. a team official, substitute, substituted or sent-off player, play restarts with a direct free kick or penalty kick
2. an outside agent, play restarts with a dropped ball

If a ball is going into the goal and the interference does not prevent a defending player playing the ball, the goal is awarded if the ball enters the goal (even if contact was made with the ball) unless the interference was by the attacking team.

According to this, the referee followed the laws correctly and the result of the game should stand. However, this is a rather unprecedented incident so who knows how the DFB might rule.

We have seen games forfeited by teams in the Bundesliga this season. VfL Bochum were made to forfeit their recent game against Borussia Monchengladbach after the assistant referee was struck by a flying beer glass during the game. The match was abandoned and Gladbach were awarded with a 2-0 win. Meanwhile in the DFB Pokal, Woflsburg were kicked out after coach Mark van Bommel used too many substitutions against Preussen Munster.

Could something similar happen to Bayern? Probably not. Based on how the game went and the short period of time that Bayern played with 12 men, the result should be upheld. However, it all depends on the DFB now. Their ruling will determine whether Bayern Munich gets all three points from this game, or gets penalized in some other way.


According to Kerry Hau of Sport1, Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidzic spoke to Freiburg’s head of sport Jochen Saier after the game. The two parties parted on friendly terms and Bayern Munich does not expect Freiburg to launch a protest regarding the 12th man incident.

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