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Question Number: 33991

High School 9/16/2020

RE: U18/High School High School

Jason C. of Lacrosse, WI USA asks...

I'm struggling with away-from-the-ball confrontations that do not seem to rise to the level of violent conduct, and yet, in my mind, merit a caution. A typical example of this is a challenge on the ball, ball is passed out, and then after the play, the two players continue tussling, going chest to chest, lightly pushing, etc.

If the game has generally been free from this kind of thing, I might simply talk to the two players and/or call a foul on one of them. But sometimes it starts to happen in challenge after challenge, or it gets fairly serious where I need to intervene. In these instances, where there is no striking with the hand or head, or "the force used is negligible" in the words of IFAB, I sometimes issue cautions and cite "unsporting behavior/conduct."

The problem is that UB/UC is a category. Law 12 mentions "showing a lack of respect for the game." The NFHS rules don't even have that.

Should I instead either issue a red card or a verbal warning for off-the-ball confrontations, and not be showing cautions? If cautions are warranted, what specific rule are the breaking?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jason
Cards are a tool to aid referees to control a game. So if a player/s is engaged in unsporting conduct in a way that is not a red card offence then a yellow card is warranted. As Referee Manjone points out it is unsporting conduct. The rule states that it includes but NOT LIMITED to... those listed so the behaviour you describe is a caution.

Likewise in FIFA games the referee can use the caution / yellow card for any misconduct that he believes is unsporting behaviour. While not listed as such acting in an aggressive manner is a caution for unsporting behaviour. Law 12 unsporting behaviour is not restricted to those listed so acting in an aggressive manner would be a caution. Some Leagues list that as a code such as the FA who list it as AA while unspecified behaviour that was cautioned is UB. Those are not listed in Law12 yet understood to be UB.

My approach to these situations is that if possible I will wait for a stoppage and then have strong words with the players. A repeat of the behaviour is a card. If the incident merits stopping the game with one obvious offence then that gets called as a foul even if I have to caution both players. I try to warch to see who the instigator is and call the foul for that first offence where I have to stop the game.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


You indicate that the confrontations are not violent conduct, which as indicated in NFHS Rule 12.8.2.a results in a disqualification (red card). What you are indicating, therefore would be unsporting conduct (NFHS Rule 12.8.1.f) which is penalized with a yellow card.

After you have given a warning, subsequent misconducts of the same type should be penalized with a caution. It is my experience at the high school level that not following a warning with a caution for unsporting conduct will often result in escalated unsporting conduct and violent conduct.

I, therefore, recommend that you try using the caution much sooner than you have been doing. As you are aware, high school players when cautioned must leave the game until the next opportunity to substitute. After they return, a subsequent caution will result in a disqualification. In both instances, the loss of playing time most often results in better behaved players and less unsporting conduct.

I hope that you have a successful season and get to work the WIAA Boys Soccer tournament at Uihlein in November.

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