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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33661

Law 18 - Common Sense 9/20/2019

RE: Competitive Under 19

Gregor Gramlich of LARGO, FL United States asks...

Last year, in a boys game (approx U15-U16), two boys went up for a header and there was head-to-head contact. I did not call a foul. I felt that both boys were challenging fairly for the ball. Both went down after the play,and I blew the whistle to stop play. I restarted with a dropped ball (last year's laws). One of the coaches was very upset because he felt that his player 'won' the header, thereby meaning that the other boy had committed a foul. In discussing this with a senior referee who I do men's league games with, he explained to me that there is such a thing as 'contact incidental to the play'. I have struggled to understand that and apply it to other areas of the game. Can you offer any advice. Thanks.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Gregor
There are all sorts of phrases that I have heard over the years in the game. These include coming together, incidental contact in the challenge context.
Now for me if an opponent plays the ball and he is kicked, headed, charged or whatever contact it can be careless. There will be times when the follow through of the ball players causes the contact and that can also be an offence.
In your example if one if the players clearly headed the ball and his opponent headed him in the head it is fairly likely that the player was at least careless in his actions which is a penal offence and a direct free kick.
Some times we just do not see the contact and unsure if it a follow through by the heading player that caused the contact which can be a coming together or incidental contact.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Gregor,
Instead of trying to define (or decide) what 'incidental contact' is, it may be easier to say what it is not.

The laws define foul contact as involving various actions by a player that are careless, reckless or using excessive force.

The laws then expand those definitions as follows:

''Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution. No disciplinary sanction is needed

Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned

Using excessive force is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and/or endangers the safety of an opponent and must be sent off''

Any time two players challenge for the ball and their actions fail to rise to even the minimum standard of carelessness as defined in the law, then there has been non-foul or 'incidental' contact.

So in your example (I'm assuming based on your description that neither player did anything reckless or excessively forceful) if you considered that neither player had shown a lack of attention or consideration when challenging for the header, nor acted without precaution, you would be justified in not calling a foul.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Gregor,
as referee of your match, it is your decision to make those tough choices. Your reputation will be made in the performance of how well you do this in (a) recognizing if there is a foul present or not and (b) selling the decision to stop play or let it continue. Those watching & playing must simply agree to disagree and move on once you make the decision .

Incidental contact can be a difficult evaluation, especially at youth, given the disparity of sizes and skill of the players involved in these coming together challenges .

The fact some contact is trifling or doubtful as meaning low impact/force it can easily be waved off as inconsequential .

The greater the degree of force in a simultaneous challenge, even making an honest effort to win the ball we still need to gauge the positional vulnerability of a late arriving player to a standing situation.

By this I mean not every challenge has players moving at equal speeds or equally positioned. A well positioned player under the ball has an opponent move in at speed to challenge aerially or along the ground although he has every right to go for the ball he must be held accountable if that challenge actually compromises the safety of the other player by putting him at risk. (this is the decision you as referee must decide if such an action is careless, reckless or excessive in nature if there is a foul present) .

Two competing players adjusting their positions to go for an aerial ball, once they leave their feet the ability to control the outcome is no longer in their control if their focus is on the ball not each other. They have accepted the risk factor but as to what level their awareness is, might be worth evaluating, as the eyes may not be focused on the ball but on the other player.

There is ONE overriding issue in ANY 50 50 49-51 52 -48 that results in a collision especially when the head is involved SAFETY and recognizing the potential of serious injury.

I refereed a youth match in which high school had grade 12s age 17
playing a mixed senior league with grade 8s age 13. On a straight up 50 50 ball, physics plays a part when a grade 12 and a grade 8 had a ball where they both came in confident and fair. The young grade 8 was met the immovable leg power and mass of the grade 12 who did NOTHING unfai, nothing wrong. The grade 8 flip flopped high in the air came down with his back arched over the ball, we all heard a loud crack. I was hammering the whistle to stop play, all I could think of oh my gawd the lad has broken his back. The scream was for a broken arm not a back (thanks for small mercies) but the grade 12 was crying saying sorry and had to be consoled and was a affected as any one except for the poor lad with the broken arm. There was no foul, I did start with a drop ball and it was discussed that the senior league perhaps should be separated into grade 10, 11 and 12s with grade 8 & 9 & 10.on their own. The issue was insufficient numbers of players to make it work. Unfortunately in Canada older kids lose interest as opposed to Europe & South America where it is culturally ingrained. The bigger older high school kids are then pressured to go into men leagues.

foot to foot equal no foul but one player worse off

shoulder to shoulder, I think it was a foul just before that, zero complaints from player

still image but look at their body language and the FORCES involved one player left injured no foul

no foul

These are horrible collisions but very few fouls in my opinion . Have a look and see which ones you think a foul is present. Note the two team mates near the end ? Think if it was an opponent you would react differently? Why? It was as your mentor suggested 'contact incidental to the play'.

Non deliberate collisions with no malice CAN be fouls based on the criteria in how a foul is determined. If one arrived arrived late for the party and were careless reckless or excessive in the approach, sell that with equal emphasis on that just can not be allowed as it is unsafe not that it was intended !

I have seen terrible collisions WRONGLY put aside as inevitable or acceptable conduct that IN MY OPINION were criminal as non justifiable homicide.

The reverse also seen, that IN MY OPINION, where no foul was present or well performed tackles that occur heavy contact or a bad outcome are punished unfairly because of the result, not the intent, not that it was careless reckless or excessive it was simply unfortunate & badly identified by the official.

Try to get good angles of view and recognize when the players are both fairly committed to the ball at pretty much the same time even if one shades the other by a hair. Use your ARs to assist if unsure or for confirmation.

Be strong on the decision, even as you attend to injury and the screams for fouls erupt sell it for what it was, unfortunate incidental contact play on or that was a foul free kick upcoming.


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