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Question Number: 34005

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/26/2020

RE: Adult

Laurence Hill of Christchurch , New Zealand asks...

After a free kick was awarded the fouled player threw a punch and the opposition player reacted by grabbing the player who threw the punch by the shirt near but not on his throat. Should this result in a red card to both players or just the player who threw the punch?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Laurence,
This would be a decision for the referee in the game to make. Without seeing the actual incident, it's very hard to judge.

I can say that it would be highly unusual for a player who had clearly tried to strike an opponent, to remain on the pitch and that when two players are involved in what sounds like a fairly violent tussle, it's commonly felt that justice is well served by meting out equal punishment to both miscreants. Having said that, just grabbing hold of an opponent's shirt is not necessarily a sending-off offence in and of itself so again, it's up to the referee to decide one way or the other.

The law says that a player who is guilty of violent conduct is sent off and here's the definition of it:

"Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball, or against a team-mate, team official, match official, spectator or any other person, regardless of whether contact is made."

I would say that the player that threw a punch is almost certainly to be dismissed but with the player who grabbed the opponent's shirt it might not be seen as deserving of a red unless it was a particularly aggressive grabbing action.

In the end though, it's down to the referee's judgement.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Laurence,
Attempting to punch a player should result in a red card for violent conduct.
As for the other player, usually grabbing an opponent by the shirt wouldn't result in a red card. The player needs to be exhibiting sufficient aggression to be considered guilty of violent conduct.
One thing to watch out for is when a player grabs a handful or shirt but uses that clenched fist full of short to throw a short punch - this will look just like a bit of pull-and-shove if you're not looking out for it this has received quite a bit of attention in a different sport, Aussie Rules Football (AFL), where it has been termed a 'jumper punch'. So, if the referee thinks that has occurred it may warrant a red, though in my experience it's fairly rare on the soccer field.

Aside from that, sometimes a player can be grabbing and shoving an opponent with such aggression that a red card is still warranted, especially if it continues for some time.

Without seeing the incident all I can do is mention some things the referee will consider. On the other hand, the referee may decide to caution the opposition player depending on their reaction - or the referee may simply decide that no action is warranted against that player.

Nothing in your description warrants a red card to the player committing the initial foul (unless the foul itself warranted a red), but if there was more to it (or the referee perceives more) then that may justify a red. Personally, if I felt that the 2nd player was just trying to stop his opponent's aggression rather than stir things up further, I'd be inclined to take that into consideration and potentially not issue any card.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Laurence
The easy part is that the player who threw the punch should be red carded for violent conduct.
A judgement decision has to be made on the jersey grab. I have seen jersey grabs that were aggressive enough with excessive force used that it was a red card for violent conduct. I have seen other jersey grabs that were for protection and at worst unsporting behaviour and a caution. In some instances no card may be merited just a stern talking to.
I once had a situation in a final where one player got involved, with an opponent who was on a caution, through very aggressive jersey grabs with jerseys ripped. I felt that the conduct was to ensure that two cautions would be issued with one player sent off. The conduct was certainly extremely aggressive by both and I sent off both for violent conduct. The player who was not on a caution complained to me that he did not strike anyone yet there was sufficient excessive force used by him to merit a red card. I was not going to caution both with one player getting sent off and the other staying on.
The other consideration is whether the challenge that resulted in the reaction of the fouled player merited a caution with the after perhaps a second caution and therefore a red card.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

Hi Laurence
it will always be up to the referee's to decide what degree of VC is involved! His match His decision His reputation
While we can readily admit football is an enjoyable game played with passion there is often a great deal of pressure and expectations places upon the emotional shoulders of players, be it self inflicted or the desires of a nation. When a FOUL occurs on the playing pitch it is an act committed by one player against another that in the eyes of the referee has transgressed the LOTG where it can not be ignored. Referees have discretion and can grasp that pain or an unfair incident can generate instant retaliation, Now while a referee who arrives at the scene, quickly, with a decisive whistle and a no nonsense demeanour stands a better chance of heading off EXTRA curricular activities, he will be required to act on WHAT the players ultimately CHOOSE to do.

THe LOTG are very clear it is a send off, show the red card on VC (violent conduct) not to be confused with SFP (serious foul play)

"Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball, or against a team-mate, team official, match official, spectator or any other person, regardless of whether contact is made."

An arm swing as a push with an open hand into the air or a balled up fist swung with fury at the point of a jaw. Either of these can miss or be blocked and the respondent can certainly engage in defending themselves by grabbing the shirt or arm of an attacker.

My choice in outlining, WHY a referee's intervention is SO important is we can affect HOW a player reacts if WE react quickly and effectively at WHY the stoppage occured! I GOT THIS! You HEARD the whistle! Now back off and let me deal with it!

Players will act out FAR more aggressively if they do not accept the referee is THERE for them. Certainly some instinctive lash outs are hard to control: a set of studs embedded into the calf or ankle does not endear you to any player . Nor a push or trip where a chance to score was taken away. If a player CHOOSES to react in an overly aggressive manner a referee is FORCED to consider if those actions are VC.

It is often galling when an attacking player reacting to an opponent's action leads to a send off and the attackers playing short . A decent trade off if you were the defender who only defended against the aggressiveness in a non violent manner . Inciting reactions is a ploy . One of the most infamous was when Materazzi verbally irritated Zidane to head butt him for no (APPARENT) reason in a world cup final to create a send off for the French . Here the referee had NO choice! Or the spectacular backward dive by Argentina's Diego Simeone resulting in England midfielder David Beckham who was BRUTALLY taken down being the one sent off. This however was a horrendous decision by the referee. who changed the match outcome by a foolish reasoning of perverted logic that the raised leg of Beckham constituted VC .

from our pitch to your pitch in the spirit of fair play

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