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Question Number: 33018

Law 18 - Common Sense 1/28/2019

RE: Under 14

greg of houston, tx usa asks...

is calling fouls differently on the field vs. in the box (resulting in a PK) a legitimate practice or should a foul always be the same no matter where it occurs?

this weekend i was doing a game and on a near 50-50 ball, 1v1 with attacker and keeper. keeper came out to get it and about a yard inside the box, keeper did make contact with attacker. however, ball still squirted into box and attacker was able to get around the contact and while the ball was cleared out, i did not feel it was enough to give a PK for.

after the game the coach came to talk to me and gave a valid case, and i honestly told him that if that foul had happened a yard outside the box, it likely would have been a foul and probably YC to the keeper, but something like that inside the box I could not give a penalty for since the attacker was not completely stopped. surprisingly he was not upset and understood my reasoning.

im not one of those 'NO PK UNLESS SOMETHING IS BROKEN' types, but i definitely do hold off on PKs with an 80%+ conversion rate unless it's a clear foul usually taking out the player involved. is it correct practice to see something that you would probably call as a foul on the field not necessarily as a foul in the box because of the PK ramification of it?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Greg
Every referee has been in this position. Easy to give a soft foul at half way yet not so easy to give the same decision in the penalty area.
A few weeks ago in added time with a team leading 3-0 I awarded a penalty kick for what I saw as a push in the back by a defender on a challenge where the ball cleared the players by some distance. It was a foul and I gave the penalty kick which was still complained about.
After the game the coach agreed that it was probably a foul. I thought to myself had it been 0-0 would I have awarded the penalty kick for the incident given that it had no bearing on play and a soft foul. It was silly contact that did not need to happen.
My head tells me that I should call the penalty which I did and have done so in the past yet there is that little voice on *big* decision on questionable call as to what decision to make. I don't ever recall having to use the phrase *bottle it* in making the hard decision. I have been unsure if a foul existed which i a different matter.
I have a high threshold on the award of penalty kicks and any doubtful decision do not get called. I could easily award a free kick for a slight push to unbalance a player outfield yet perhaps be unsure that the same contact is a foul deserving of a penalty kick particularly when the player goes down easily looking for the PK. On paper I can say that there should be no difference yet in a game situation it is not so easy.
What I would say as a final point is that many coaches may not be as understanding as the coach in your situation. My advice is that if it is a foul and a caution it is a foul and a penalty kick. I would have told the coach that I was unsure, it looked doubtful and that I do not give soft penalties. I would advise against the honesty of saying that it was a foul but not called because it was a PK.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

I suggest you watch this

note at about the 3 55 mark what Esse says about the why & timing of the foul!
You need to be sure when awarding a PK because it has such a consequence compared to a LETS settle down guys niggle foul at center field!


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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Greg,
While it can be said that a foul is a foul no matter where it occurs, I think there is a natural tendency among all referees to want to be more sure when giving a penalty, because it is such a match-changing decision. The fact that these two things are somewhat contradictory is one of the quandaries that referees have to deal with on a regular basis.

I'm not really a fan of the reasoning of not giving it because the player was not completely stopped and I don't think that's a very good explanation or rationale, especially if you're giving it to a coach. This may be a slightly pedantic distinction to make but to me, it's more a question of clarity and being sure that the foul actually occurred. If the foul is sufficiently clear, it should be given whether the result is a penalty or not but if there is a doubt over the foul then I think most referees would prefer not to give a penalty for it.

Another way to look at it is that, as I said in answer to another question recently, not every piece of contact between players is necessarily a foul - for nearly all physical contact fouls, the offence has to be at a minimum, careless and there is an argument to be made that the referee needs to be a little more convinced that the offence meets the minimum level of carelessness when the foul is one that could lead to a penalty.

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