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Question Number: 32867

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/5/2018

RE: Rec, Select, Competive, High School

Bob Dawson of Camarillo, Ca US asks...

Is there such a thing as a 50-50 foul where a referee may arbitrarily decide to call it against either player involved?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Bob,
Generally no we play on as it were, unless an injury creates a need to stop! In general one of the players has better position or greater commitment to win the ball. Mind you that is based on his angle of view & understanding of foul recognition. I have seen perfectly executed tackles get called by a referee fr no reason other than not understanding foul recognition or the physics of mass size & speed .

If there is a need to stop play say because two intersecting players literally came in a on a flying V and the force was so great the audience watching gasps given high school promotes safety first a referee might stop and go with a drop ball & discourage such forceful interaction. It might be best if this was at a neutral position on the field then say directly in front of goal.

There are times when a ball goes out of play and we are unclear who last touched it so we award a goal kick corner or throw in based on our gut or we decided in cases where we simply have to guess we decide to guess in favor of offence or defense based on where it occurs. The LOTG under FIFA used to state if a simultaneous decision was required a drop ball could be used but that is not what they want to see us use. USA high school though has rules that often differ slightly as their direction is one towards education &safety . I hope my friend & colleague Joe Manjone pops in here with his thoughts.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Bob,
The answer to your question is basically, no. If by '50-50 foul' you mean two opposing players committing simultaneous offences of the same nature (and I think you do) then a referee cannot just arbitrarily choose to punish one rather than the other.

In a game played under NFHS Rules, Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1 tells us that:

''The game is restarted with a drop ball:
d. when simultaneous fouls of the same degree occur by opponents.''

Just for comparison purposes, the IFAB Laws, which used to have a dropped ball for simultaneous offences in the past, no longer have that provision.

What the IFAB's Laws of the Game say in Law 5 - and therefore how this is to be dealt with under those laws, is that:

''The referee: [...] punishes the more serious offence, in terms of sanction, restart, physical severity and tactical impact, when more than one offence occurs at the same time''

This is further expanded on and clarified in the FAQ to Law 5 as follows:

''Football would expect and it is common sense that when several offences occur at the same time, the most serious is penalised. Deciding which offence is the most serious will depend on:

Disciplinary sanction - e.g. sending-off offence (RC) is more serious than a cautionable (YC) offence
Restart - a direct free kick offence is more serious than an indirect free kick offence
Nature of the foul - a foul tackle is more serious than handball or shirt pulling
Tactical impact - an offence which stops an opponent's attack is more important than one which ends a player's own team attack''

By applying these criteria, in the order given, a referee operating under the auspices of the IFAB can then arrive at a decision as to which offender to penalise, when a '50-50 foul' occurs.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bob
At one time the Laws of the Game stated that if two players committed an offence at the exact same time that the referee should restart play with a dropped ball.
That was rarely used as we know that simultaneous offences are extremely rare with generally one happening first and also it looked like the referee could not make a decision instead opting for a DB. As a result the referee would call it one way or another.
Human nature usually means that the referee may be swayed in one particular direction or another. I once had two players lunge from a few yards at the exact same time both arriving at the ball simultaneously in a game a few years ago. It was a foul by both players and it stood out to me as both players were guilty of the exact same offence. I had spoken to one of the players previously about the manner of his challenges so I went with a foul against him. He was none too pleased yet that was the call I made.
Since 16/17 the Law has been amended here. It now states that for simultaneous fouls the referee now **punishes the more serious offence, in terms of sanction, restart, physical severity and tactical impact, when more than one offence occurs at the same time**
So the referee now has to evaluate four conditions. so for example if we had a deliberate handling by a player who is simultaneously kicked heavily by an opponent the referee would punish the kick and more than likely caution the offender. Obviously timing is key to the decision and that can be difficult to discern at speed.
In my instance the first three factors were the same with the last one being the difference in that the attacking player had the more tactical impact and therefore the free kick would be against the defender
In NFHS I believe that it is still a dropped ball restart. As my colleagues have stated safety is a key consideration in school soccer so the game may be stopped and the matter dealt with.
I would also say that as per my previous comments simultaneous fouls are extremely rare and referees will call it one way or another based on what they view as to what occurred.
In the example of deliberate handling and getting kicked a referee may see one a split second sooner than the other in a HS game rather than a DB restart.

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