Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 33694

High School 10/7/2019

RE: Varsity HS (U18 competitive) Under 19

Jason C of La Crosse, WI USA asks...

Incident in recent game: smaller defender is getting frustrated on the wing dealing with much larger attacking player. The defender, while attempting to win the ball back, loses his composure and ends up essentially hanging on the defender with handfuls of jersey, arm draped over the shoulder and nearly around the neck. The attacking player brushes him off (it was more of a brush off/push than a strike) as I whistle or maybe a split second after and the smaller defender goes flying to the ground. The defender's teammate rushes in and gets in the attacking players face, inches away, in a very aggressive manner, but there's no contact.

I cautioned the defender for a reckless challenge and his teammate for unsporting behavior, but let the attacking player go with a verbal warning about initiating contact after the whistle.

The defender's coach was livid - said I should send off the attacking player for VC. My response was it wasn't especially violent, though he did make contact with an opposing player intentionally, with his arms, and the result was that that player ended up on the ground. My take was that it was basically self defense and he couldn't wait for a whistle or anything else - he had to get the smaller kid off him immediately.

Of course there's no mention of self-defense in the laws. The coach made the not unreasonable point that if his actions weren't VC, what was I warning him for? What's your take on this?

Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


It sounds to me that you made correct decisions and calls.

The first caution for reckless play could also have been for holding the attackers jersey, but a caution was definitely needed.

The unsporting conduct caution for getting in the face of the attacker was also deserved.

Because the defender was hanging on to the shirt and had his arm around the attacker's neck, a brush off would be a normal action, but since it came after the whistle, a warning was sufficient to make the player understand that he could have handled it better.

Much action happened very quickly, but you were decisive and took correct actions.

I hope that you get to work the championships at Uihlein Park in November

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe Manjone

View Referee Joe Manjone profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jason, it is always difficult to formulate a possible action based without seeing it and without looking at the history of the interactions preceding this incident albeit you describe it was tense .

Let's think proactively.
This was festering so intervention to pop a blister is better than draining a cyst. A word or sharp rebuke some warning that you are aware and they are in your radar.

Let think a quicker response. Quicker on the whistle. Verbal release phrase perhaps to stop retaliation letting them know your aware of whats occurring.
A solid blast at the ridiculous nature of the tackle. Run in tight towards the conflict and assure the player you are in control and handling the issue effectively so he does not feel the need to retaliate.

Lets think consequences.
The frustrated player clinging on like a monkey has fouled the larger player who. while he could play though, much or most of the opposing player's unfair attack, getting strangled is not apt to make one feel charitable. Size differences at youth level do inflate the protective attitudes in mismatches. So we can think the team mate rushing to his aid has his back as it were. Shaking the player off like flea or using an arm to displace the cling-on if it is excessive in nature other than get off me you could consider it cautionable. I tend to think warning to both big guys, take it easy and a DFK and caution to the cling on is a better intrusion than 2 cards to 0 or if needed 2 cards to 1 for the aggressive posturing of the big boys & the foul itself.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jason
From your description I would say that the attacker may have deserved a caution for his action. While his action was not in itself violent conduct it certainly was using a raised arm to push an opponent to the ground in a manner which riled an opponentr plus having a coach believing it was VC could certainly be considered unsporting conduct.
That action obviously incensed the defenders team mate causing him to square up aggressively to the attacker with no contact involved.
A caution for the attacker would probably have quelled the argument of warning him only and the answer to the coach would then have been that it was not violent conduct yet only deserving of a caution.
Without seeing how aggressive the defenders team mate was I would probably have just gone with two cards, of one for the original foul and the afters by the attacker and to then have had the words with the second defender.
That would have been in my opinion more equitable in that the original incident was dealt with and the second defender told to leave matters to the referee. In many ways this ended up as two cards for one team and the attacker walked away with a *word*.
Ultimately that is all just an opinion. As my good colleague Referee Dawson says Your game, your decision, your reputation. A key principle for me is to deal with the causes and that will not be far away from the best call. Here I suspect the attacker had he been dealt with by a card as a cause would have been an easy *sell* and certainly lessened any concern from the coach.
In a recent game I went with a word with a defender that the opposing coach believed was a tactical foul and he was not happy at half time. He had a case yet his purpose in questioning it was to influence me. I told him we were going to have to disagree and that it was over so we move on. I did not let it influence me in the second half.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Jason,
By your description I think you've handled it well.
While, as you say, there's nothing supporting self defence in the laws, I think it's reasonable for a player to try to disengage from a player who is hanging all over them - bearing in mind that defender has committed a cautionable offence.
It sounds from your description that he used minimal force to disengage rather than use the opportunity for return aggression - For me, carding the attacker is saying that you expected the attacker to stand there and do nothing while a player was jumping all over him.
Had the attacker used more aggression or more of a push then you'd certainly consider a card.
As for the defender falling over after being 'pushed' - I do tend to consider a push that results in a player falling down to be more likely to result in a more severe sanction, but this is a very loose rule of thumb for me; a minor push of a player who is off balance shouldn't be upgraded to a red just because the player fell over. Similarly, it would seem the defender was simply off balance when brushed aside; the fact that he fell over shouldn't automatically result in the attacker being cautioned.
Don't worry about the coach - he had a completely biased view.
In this instance, it was worth warning the attacker - for one, you kind of need to for the appearance of the game. Two, sometimes a warning can be along the lines of 'just know that if you were harder/more forceful here, you'd be looking at a card'. So, I don't think the coach's argument of 'if it wasn't VC, why was he being warned?' is a reasonable one - doesn't even make sense to me. From his view, his player was pushed over and the 'perpetrator' got away with it while his player got booked. So, I'm not surprised he wasn't happy about it. That's not to say his view was correct or even well considered.
It's worth considering if you could have been more proactive here. If you have a defender who is starting to get frustrated, consider calling out 'nothing silly!' if he looks like he's going into a tackle with frustration. 'Hands down!' can be used effectively too once the arms start coming up.
It's also worth considering if you let it drag on for too long before you blew the whistle. Of course I wasn't there so maybe you didn't - but just consider it.
Glad to hear you booked the defender's teammate as well.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 33694
Read other Q & A regarding High School

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.