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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33759

Law 5 - The Referee 11/7/2019

RE: Under 17

bruce of phoenix, az USA asks...

i had a situation this past weekend where two teams had played each other and one player broke his arm in the match, reportedly on purpose by an opponent (throwing him to the ground or something). the broken arm player was playing angry all match and committed a foul by the opponent bench. as i went over to give caution for PI, i heard a comment from the bench of 'let's break his other arm now' because of that foul he committed. this resulted in a mass confrontation with his coach running to their bench screaming about the comment, players getting in each others faces, even spectators getting involved and i terminated the match immediately (especially because i was solo)

here is my question: if those spectators had not run over, i likely still would have ended the match, but would i have been able to send off the coach who instigated all this, and then demand to know which player made the 'break the arm' comment and send them off for threatening/abusive language? and if they refused to say who did it, send off the coach in his place?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Bruce ,
sad when a match played in the spirit of fun competition can deteriorate so quickly! I believe you were 100% correct to terminate that match given the ugliness that was continuing to spiral out of control.

Sometimes even IF you react correctly, do everything you can to deal with these moments effectively, the emotional and mental state of players , coaches, fans have their own agendas that you do not directly control.

The CMI (critical match incident) these moment of truth incidents, where your reaction or non reaction as referee arriving at any decision or consequential action can at least partially determine how that incident will effect the game. Escalating the drama further or unwinding the pressure that drama created into a more reasonable emotional atmosphere. My colleague's Ref McHugh balloon analogy is a good one

As neutral officials we do influence a match by keeping our finger on the pulse of a game. Much like a living, breathing entity you can tangibly feel the energy of a match being distributed via players actions & words, their body language, facial expressions & outbursts & reactions to your decisions. The palatable tensions, forceful tackles, disrespect , unreasonable behavior , dissenting body language, verbal dissent & eventual abusive behavior with violent conduct. Every nuance contained in every action or reaction is where a good referee grasps how much control he actually has in managing the emotional volatility of a passionate group pf players.

It is not unwise to know history between teams, bad blood is a factor worthy of note. I am concerned about your comment that if aware of the previous altercation with the broken arm, by letting this player ('play angry ') it appears you are saying he is looking for payback and perhaps going into tackles with more than just winning the ball? When we see players with chips on the shoulder, obviously upset and thus on our radar, treading that thin line of cautionable or possibly send off behavior. A kind word or forceful reminder to take it easy is not against our interests as neutral officials, especially at this hot headed youth level. I have even mentioned to coaches that a certain player is running on yellow fumes. This is NOT a tactical TELLING them to sub but letting them know it might be in their interest and EVERYONE'S safety to consider resting the player for a few minutes to settle down. In fact youth soccer has sin bin and resting times if cautioned for that exact purpose

My colleague Ref Wright's comments are well founded except this action could be at the start of the match where a referee could read the riot act to the bench, putting your foot down such actions are not going to be permitted to repeat. Letting them know you are aware of the bad blood, raising the specter of possibility that cards for future comments or future indications of aggression or deliberate targeting of that player are not going to be tolerated. As my colleague Ref McHugh points out, you can now sanction the senior coach in a technical area for unknown unidentified group comments. This was a new change and demonstrates why REASONABLE behavior is encouraged within the technical area at all times!

In this case you record ALL actions & comments in your match report! While you could have shown the red card to the one coach as the representative of the technical area, the other coach running over is also looking to be disciplined. Whether or not cards were shown be sure you record the whys the who and the actions. Those responsible for league discipline will sort it out as to what further sanctions might be added or implemented.


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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Bruce,
As ref McHugh has pointed out, if there is an offence committed by sometime in the technical area and you cannot identify who is responsible, the senior coach present receives the sanction.

The explanation given by the IFAB states (in part) as follows:

''If the offender cannot be identified, the senior team official (usually the main coach) in the technical area will receive the YC/RC (as the person responsible for the other team officials).''

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bruce
The Laws of the Game were amended in 2019 whereby the senior coach will receive the sanction should an offender not be identified in the technical area.
Law 5 states and I quote
** takes action against team officials who fail to act in a responsible manner and warns or shows a yellow card for a caution or a red card for a sending-off from the field of play and its immediate surrounds, including the technical area; if the offender cannot be identified, the senior coach present in the technical area will receive the sanction**
This Law change was introduced because in many situations of shouting offensive, insulting and abusive words the offender in the group could not be identified and teams would not offer up the offender for the sanction. That has now all changed in that if the offender is not identified the head coach is dismissed and the report will state what happened. The team may subsequently offer up the real offender to discipline yet that is of no concern to the referee.
Now hindsight is 20 20 vision and it is always easier after the event.
In this case a player has been *injured* in some fashion on a challenge and he has taken retribution, using your term ** playing angry all match **
The opponents including those in the technical area saw the incident that led to an *injury * to his arm. Something has gone astray here with an injury situation missed causing a player to react negatively. As I said hindsight is easy yet if the original *injury* foul was dealt with and the players angry play was also addressed it may not have escalated into an abandonment.
You clearly sensed that all was not well with the player from his actions and that needs to be dealt with. We need to be aware of the mood of players and perhaps the first sign of *angry play* gets a caution which heads off the problem escalating.
Many games have what is called a *Moment of Truth*. A single moment that defines the rest of the game and it is the moment that is crucial for the referee to get right. Often it can be something as blatant as a particularly bad tackle, a show of aggression by a player, or a nasty comment made from a player. Handle it well and the game goes smoothly, handle it inappropriately and the game blows up.
The best analogy I can make is that match control is like blowing up a balloon. Each incident will add *air* to the balloon, some incidents more than others and it is up to the referee to let *air* out through his handling of match situations by using cards, strong words etc. If the air is not let out of the balloon it will burst eventually!

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Bruce,
Wow, what a disgusting incident. Well done for termination - clearly the safety of these underage players could no longer be guaranteed, particularly with the involvement of the spectators.

You would absolutely be within your rights to send off the coach who instigated it - in fact if you wanted to have sent him off but couldn't due to safety and the mass confrontation, then you should still report this. In my area, this would still have been submitted as a send-off report with the reasoning provided for not showing the red card or advising the coach of his send-off. I don't know what the process is in your area.

The comment would certainly be sufficient for red card -and if the player cannot be identified the coach is to be held accountable.

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