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: 33978

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 8/25/2020

RE: Competive Adult

Kano of Linkoping, Sweden asks...

This question is a follow up to question 33974

This is a follow-up to question #33974. Let's call that Incident 1.

Before Incident 1. The referee warns he will start distributing cards if the general aggressive atmosphere in the game continues. Mainly coming from the losing team (Team B). Player B had been quite physical, generally aggressive and frustrated throughout the game.

Incident 1 happens.

Player B shoves Player A in the chest with two hands strongly but Player A stood his ground (it did not seem very violent to the referee). Player B was screaming and using foul language. No one heard the details, and the referee was far. But the aggressive tone was clear. He literally stood up to his face and "made himself big" in a threatening manner.

Player A lifts his hands up in "surrender mode", and says "what is it, what do you want?". He was confused (and also did not understand most of the foul language).

Player B continues cursing and screaming in his face. Player A in response reaches his hand to shake with with him to calm him down. Player B refuses his hand. And makes an offensive gesture with his hand and continues cursing. Claiming that Player A used his elbow. Player A feels threatened and offended now, and says "ok f*ck off", as in to tell Player B to stay away from him. This is when the referee finally arrives.

Referee runs to the two and tells Player A "ok start from zero now". Player B goes quickly to his end of the pitch still yelling and cursing(without being properly cautioned). Referee signals a free kick for Team A. Player A complains to the referee that Player B should stop using foul language and should be handed a yellow card at least. Game continues.

Incident 2:

The incident

The ball is "free" between players A and B. Player A is half a second closer to the ball, stretched his leg and wanted to pass it with the inside of his foot.

Player B runs fast and performs a full borderline violent kick with straight foot with a substantial force on the ball (that was implanted between them now) which leads to serious injury to player A. His knee oscillated laterally, and he suffered an acute patella dislocation, internal bleeding and could not move a single inch.

The game is stopped and ambulance is called etc. Player A is out for a total rupture in one of his ligaments and has to do serious rehab for a year at least. Maybe missing out on football forever.

Question is: What is adequate punishment for Player B, if any?

p.s. It took a while for the referee to know that player B is the same in both incidents 1 and 2. All of this happened super fast he was confused. He did not see the tackle well even and thought it was an "on the ball" duel situation.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Kano
As we know cards are a tool that are used to control the game. Referees use them in differing ways and at times do not uses them when they should.
All games have many incidents that are not dealt with appropriately either because the referee did not see / hear the incident or he believed that a card sanction was not warranted or appropriate at that time.
In incident 1 I would be of the opinion that Player A should have been cautioned for unsporting behaviour as he was acting in an aggressive manner. Only the referee can say why he did not caution at that time.
Now that incident you describe happens at differing degrees in many games. Most referees can recall *spats* between players that did not result in cautions. Hindsight is 20 20 vision and there has been times when I wished I had cautioned a player which may have prevented subsequent actions that had to be dealt with. The may have is a matter of opinion. At the time I felt the best decision was no card.
On incident 2 it reads to me that Player B kicked the ball when Player A was also kicking the ball at the exact same moment. Without seeing the incident I would suspect that if Player B did not make contact with A then unless the actions of Player B was seen as reckless such as two footed, excessive lunge, reckless or using excessive force in the tackle there would probably be no sanction. It is just an unfortunate accident that happens in the game with no give on the ball causing an extension injury.
So I would suggest that Player B would probably not be sanctioned for a strong tackle that played the ball only and where an opponent simply played the ball in a way that twisted / extended his knee.
I suspect you ask this question on the basis that if Incident 1 had resulted in a caution then Incident 2 might not have happened. Also from what you describe Player Bs aggressive combative manner came across as a possible cause of the second incident.
I have refereed games where some players are just combative and as long as they do not infringe the Laws of the Game there is no sanction. However those players run the high risk of sanction once any challenge goes wrong.
Finally referees make calls based on what they see from one unique viewpoint at a split second in time. Most referees do not have VAR or multiple cameras to see what exactly happened in a challenge.
Have a look at this video
The tackle resulted in Gomez landing awkwardly on his ankle breaking it. Initially the referee was going to caution Son for a reckless challenge but changed it to red when he saw the injury. The red card was subsequently overturned on appeal. Some suggest that Son who had been hit by an arm by Lopez on the side of the head some two minutes earlier and that he was acting aggressively thereafter ending in the foul which resulted in the injury.
That could have been described as an Incident 1 followed by the tackle in Incident 2 and a very serious injury resulted. Depending on your viewpoint this can be seen a number of ways.
Hindsight as I said is perfect vision yet at the time not so clear
I hope the player recovers well and that he will make a return to the game.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Kano,
It is frustrating when a referee gives a general warning that he will card aggression but then doesn't follow through. I personally tend to take a dim view of players 'squaring up' like you describe Player B, though I know some referees (for whatever reason) are very reluctant to gives cards for this sort of thing. By your description it is difficult to imagine any valid reason for not issuing a yellow card for unsporting behaviour - but it is still a subjective decision by the referee. Depending on just how aggressive he was, as well as what language he used and the manner in which it was said, a red card for Violent Conduct or Offensive, Insulting And/Or Abusive Language And/Or Gestures may have instead been warranted. It sounds like the push itself wasn't too hard, but the rest of it is also a consideration.
As for the final incident, this one is a bit more difficult. It is impossible to determine, without seeing it, whether a foul has occurred. Winning the ball first (especially when the opponent wasn't touched at all) usually means there is no foul, but not always.
The referee will still consider whether the level of force used is proportionate - it is a direct free kick offence is a player tackles or challenges the ball in a manner that is careless, reckless or using excessive force. So a challenge that wins the ball first can still be a foul - and depending on the force used and the level of danger, may still be a card. The injury, while tragic, shouldn't be a consideration for the referee - after all, serious injuries do happen from fair challenges.
Given this was Futsal, there is usually less force used in challenges than in outdoor soccer, so that can affect what is considered proportionate. It sounds like your view is that the force used was disproportionate - that Player A used little force and B came in with an extremely high level of force using a straight leg (which further increases the force, as there is no 'give' in the leg). The referee should also be wary of any cues of malice in such a challenge. It could well be a foul and a card from your description. Another person at the match may offer a different description which might make it seem like a fair challenge.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Kano,
My esteemed colleagues lend plenty of common sense & factual approaches to how or why a referee might arrive at a decision. WE need to see it and hopefully we see the entire picture instead of a piece of the puzzle. The character and integrity of an official reflects their approach to what is at times is a very difficult job putting the puzzle pieces together. Their training & effort to understand not only the LOTG but the way the game is perceived or rather is felt by players , thought about by parents or fans and affected by result orientated coaches. In your very specific indictments there is little doubt players acting unsporting or engaged in escalating irrational violent ugly abusive behavior affect not only the emotional temperament to manage the match but the safety and enjoyment of all its participants and MUST be dealt with. A working team of good officials might isolate and respond better to outbreaks of aggression than others, because their situational awareness has it on the radar BEFORE it breaks. In other words they are preventive in trying to keep all 22 players on the pitch by being AWARE there are simmering issuers or undercurrents of tension. Yet even verbal warnings, clear body language and close proximity to the play by a hardworking intelligent aware official cannot prevent a player as a separate individual from going off the rails in fits of irrational or emotional anger. What a referee will tolerate & what a player will accept as fair or foul play is a bargaining position of sorts. The referee might try to mitigate the effect, but the referee can not prevent what is essentially an emotionally driven decision by an angry player. From the tone, length and blast of a whistle, to eye contact and body language, verbal exchanges and the use of yellow or red cards referees communicate to players of THEIR viewpoint of how the match is proceeding. It is not inconceivable the players fans, parents and coaches to have a different idea, principally because their NEEDS and wants are NOT the same as the official, they are result orientated based on winning & losing. As a neutral official the referee is aware of those conditions but he is not burdened by them unless he is pressured to do so. My mentor Esse one of the world's greatest referees had a great viewpoint that a referee has the best view of the game but victory was not in the result of which team won or lost, victory was keeping all 22 players SAFELY on the pitch IF they, the players, make it possible!! Its not that we make excuses for players who go off the rails but we try very hard to keep the train on the track, putting on the brakes when need be and letting the engines roar when it is safe to do so. Nothing is more entertaining than an exciting fast moving match where the players PLAY the game and the referee essentially watches the beautiful game from the best vantage point in the stadium. As I often say to all who blow the whistle in the center circle. Your match, your decision, your reputation is based on how well you fit the puzzles pieces into place and react to those critical movements when the train is going just a bit too fast around that curve and you apply just the right amount of brakes to bring it under control. Cheers

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 33978
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

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.