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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 28083

Law 10 - Method of Scoring 12/28/2013

RE: Select Other

Andy of Lake Orion, MI US asks...

While reffing a tournament recently I watched a game where team A was trouncing team B. On a breakaway, team A's striker had so much time to score (partly because team B were so demoralized at this point) he kneeled down and headed the ball across the goal line.

While definitely poor sportsmanship and probably worth a word in said player's ear, is this 'mocking' behavior severe enough to warrant a yellow card for unsporting behavior?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Andy
Always an interesting question and one that is always likely to cause debate. The Laws give the referee a number of powers that he can deal with this situation and there are a number of options as to how it can be dealt with:
1. The referees could allow the goal and give the player a stern talking to about his behaviour.
2. The referee could disallow the goal, caution the player for 'acts in a manner which shows a lack of respect for the game' and restart with an IDFK inside the goal area.
3. Although unlikely but if the goalkeeper / defender got close enough to the attacker to make a play for the ball then the attacker's action is playing in a dangerous manner (to himself) which is an IDFK offence.
My personal opinion is that there is an offence here and the referee must taken action by cautioning the player and disallowing the goal. By not taking action the referee is failing both the spirit and letter of the Law. Opponents may decide to take 'retribution' for the unsporting conduct which will compromise match control. So I would definitely go with option 2.
I might step outside the Laws perhaps in an underage scrimmage game where the game has been played in good spirit and the player's action were simply silly and puerile and restart with an IDFK and explain to the player the error of his ways.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

A referee can do nothing to stop a team from scoring fairly. So even if the score is a lot to zip, the referee cannot inhibit the team with a lot from continuing to try to score. I see this question references a select league; in some cases a tie-breaker for advancement is goal differential, so the team may wish to keep running up the score. This happened years ago in WC qualifying when Australia was still in Oceana. On the chance that they and New Zealand might tie, AUS ran up the score against a couple of island nations, scoring something like 45 goals in 2 games. (Some leagues have learned, and they limit the goal differential in the standings to 3 or 5 goals per game.)

That said, the goals must be scored fairly. The scorer should not be taunting or ridiculing the other team with antics that make it clear he thought the other team was so pitiful that he could score blindfolded with his legs tied together. Getting down on all fours to nudge the ball across the line with his head is one such humiliating action.

The referee has 2 options:
-- Allow the goal to stand but chew out the player for his actions
-- Decide that the actions are unsporting behavior and caution the player. Because the behavior happened before the goal was scored, the goal does not count and we restart with an indirect free kick outbound.

My colleague suggests that at a young age, the ref might disallow the goal without cautioning the player. The ref might get away with that, particularly if the league suggests or mandates that cards are not used at the young ages. But it is treading on perilous ground, because the ref is misapplying the Laws of the Game. That could cause the game to be protested, or the referee to be disciplined. How much peril there is depends on the culture and knowledge of the league and the teams (and coaches) involved. A coach that supports his player in ridiculing the other team is also a coach that might make a stink.

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