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Question Number: 32373

Law 1- The Field 4/15/2018

Roger of Clapham Common, South London England asks...

I saw a discussion yesterday on 'You Are the Ref' forum. A video was posted of the Juventus players (probably about 2 or 3 different players) trying to distract Michael Oliver (the referee) whilst they took turns at kicking, scuffing and attempting to dig up the penalty spot whilst Ronaldo waited for his penalty. This was obviously with the intention of trying to make him slip/mis-hit the penalty. The video also showed a Real Madrid player after the Juventus players had damaged the spot stepping/lightly stamping on the spot to ensure the ground was compact and stable.

A referee then commented stating that what the Real Madrid player did was illegal because 'he was altering the pitch markings' He felt that if you cautioned a Juventus player for digging up the spot, you would also caution the Madrid player for correcting it. He stated that if the Madrid player asked him, it would be allowed, but if he didn't, it would have to be a caution.

Surely in this specific example, you have to exercise common sense. Players tap the ground next to the ball all the time before corners and free-kicks to stabilize the turf and so they have a target of where to play their standing foot.

I can't envisage a scenario where I would caution the PK taker for stepping on the ground a couple of times or the PK spot to level it off, especially after it has been dug up or attempted to have been modified by the defending team. I can envisage a scenario though where I see a defender kicking the PK spot and I caution him and ensure it doesn't happen.

It concerns me that this specific referee is taking his control/power a little too far and not using 'common sense'

What is right?


Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Roger
The Laws of the Game tell us that it is a caution for unsporting behaviour to make unauthorised marks on the field of play. The law is there to prevent players making marks or damaging the pitch for advantage.
GK sometimes drag a foot to make a line in the centre of the goal to assist with positioning. That is a also caution if seen.
Clearly any damage to the penalty mark which is deliberate is a caution. Now technically a player should not be also making marks even if it is to repair although it does happen frequently with players putting back divots and tramping it down. The proper procedure is to ask the referee to correct the damage although that if ever happens.
In a game a referee is not going to get too animated if at all about such repair situations so while a referee will say what he would do the reality is far from it. Smoothing out irregularities or repair is not what was intended with the law so common sense or not it is an unlikely card unlike the blatant effort to damage which if seen is a clear card.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Roger,
common sense as we note through the news media now a days is not all that common.
A referee is not a demi god, he/she tries very hard to remain neutral, to have some understanding & compassion in the face of derailed expectations & angry emotions but must face down those who seek to undermine the ethical parameters with steely courage & conviction to principles of fair play.

I agree with my colleague Ref McHugh it is so easy to speculate what we might do but put a magnum of pressure in a split second of an international match that literally means the world to these players who can seriously say exactly how we might react to their frustration & bitterness & whether we could be distracted by their antics.

Unauthorized marks on the FOP are not permitted and those seen engaged in doing so could face further punishment at a later date if the attention of the league is directed to such antics through the video feeds. Especially if the referee was unawares!

As a referee I would likely permit a player to smooth out the obvious chunks of soil & wrinkles with tap of the foot. If he started bring in clean sand and a rake chances he does not get that break. I doubt I jump into mandatory cards unless the act involves greater disrespect promoting unfairness.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Roger,
For me there is a clear conceptual difference between a player who deliberately damages the pitch and a player who attempts to repair damage that was unsportingly and illegally done by someone else. I'm not sure that repairing damage even comes under the definition of making unauthorised marks - it's more a question of remedying the unauthorised marks/damage that was already done and putting the field back into the state it was supposed to be in and was in, before it was illegally altered.

While I agree that it would probably be better to ask the referee's permission, I would not be in favour of cautioning a player who was only repairing the damage done by an opponent and was restoring the pitch to its proper condition.

For instance when a player does a slide tackle they sometimes dig up a large chunk of turf, leaving a massive divot. This is both a tripping hazard and could affect the trajectory of the ball. Sometimes another player will replace the divot and stamp it back down into place but I don't think any referee would consider cautioning a player for doing this.

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