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Question Number: 33022

Character, Attitude and Control 1/29/2019

RE: Rec College

Bob Smith of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire UK asks...


In a game this week there was an incident that created some debate on the pitch.

Two midfielders were challenging for the ball. One midfielder got ahead of the other and the second midfielder started to use his hand to pull on the first player.

He reached out and made contact, pulling him slightly, but he did not affect the progress of his opponent to any great extent. His opponent moved away and then played a pass out of play. He believed he deserved a free kick but I disagree because I didn't judge the pull to have affected him.

After the game we discussed this and he told me that under the laws of the game, a pull of any description is a foul and the law does not account for things like the extent of contact or affect it had on the player.

Could you clarify if that is correct please?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bob
The extent of the foul does not make any difference except to the extent that the foul is doubtful or trifling. If it is a clear foul it is a foul irrespective of the outcome it has on the player.
The real question then is whether to play advantage or not. If the foul has little impact and the player wants to continue then the referee could play advantage should that benefit the fouled against team. If advantage does not accrue then the referee can bring play back to the foul within 3/4 seconds.
In your example there was a clear foul which pulled the player back yet not enough to stop his progress. In some ways there could have been a wait and see approach to the foul. If advantage was available then play could continue with advantage being clearly signalled verbally and by hand action.
Now it reads like the fouled against player immediately squandered the possible advantage by passing the ball out of play. If that happened say within 3/4 seconds of the foul then the referee would be entitled to go back and call the foul.
Perhaps look at it this way. Why should a player who clearly fouls an opponent with no advantage to the fouled against player benefit from a no call?
Yes there will be odd time when play continues after the foul, advantage is fully realised and the team gives the ball away. In that case we do not go back to the foul although we can still caution for the foul at the next stoppage.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Bob,
whether or not a foul is trifling in the opinion of the referee is not that it did not occur but of its overall impact on play. A Doubtful foul is more in which there is uncertainty that it occurred or perhaps who truly was at fault?
If there is a foul that affects one CAN apply advantage and then wait a few seconds to see what develops if the affected player or a teammate can use that time effectively to attack or score . If play continues and there was misconduct attached to that foul then a card can be shown at the next stoppage. Now if the errant pass was say due to his stumbling or losing speed or having his movement affected by the defender grabbing or using a pulling action then you can bring the ball back & award the foul & show a card if it is required!. It becomes a bit of a headache when the player is UPSET that you did not make the call so he miss hits it out of frustration. Which is why you should signal advantage to let them know YES you did see it not that you missed it. That said player have to wear their big boy panties and realize we do not reward their mistakes just because they want us too using a theoretical past injustice as a reason.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Bob,
Firstly, and just to address a technical point, the laws do not say that ''a pull of any description is a foul.''

In fact, the laws make almost no mention of pulling. The word only appears twice in the laws document, once in relation to sin bins and once in relation to DOGSO offences. Pulling is not specifically listed as free kick offence. Two related offences that are mentioned are pushing and holding. Pushing is subject to the careless, reckless or using excessive force (CRUEF) criteria, whereas holding is not. Now, I think it is true that most referees would see pulling as a form of holding - and since holding is not included in the list of offences to which the CRUEF criteria are applied, the player may have a point.

Having said all that, not every piece of physical contact between players need necessarily be called as an offence - as my colleagues have pointed out, there are probably two main considerations here: advantage and dubious or trifling offences. If there is a foul on a player but the player or their team is better off without the foul being called, you can play the advantage. If the contact is so minor that it is considered trifling or dubious, then it could also be let go.

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