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Question Number: 34043

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/2/2020

RE: Pro College

Divyesh Lal of Doonside, NSW Australia asks...

Are you allowed to grab and hold during corners because I see this quite alot in the premier league and the champions league, also when does a shoulder-shoulder count as illegal because I've seen some pretty nasty ones this weekend in the arsenal vs united match

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Divyesh
Thanks for the question.
No it is not allowed and it has become one of the banes of the modern game which happens at corners and free kicks. It is punished elsewhere during play and this conduct has been with us for many years with several efforts to curb this activity.
It is illegal yet referees when it first started to happen failed to take the necessary action of awarding penalty kicks and free kicks. In tight games a penalty can be the sole difference in the result. When referees failed to take the strong action that was required, coaches and players began using this tactic to defend set pieces. Player are coached to get close to opponents and to do whatever is necessary to prevent an opponent from getting to the ball unchallenged. Many times it the opponents reacts back which then becomes "six of one and half a dozen of another" situations which then gets ignored. It happens at both ends and only blatant excessive offences get called.
In recent times FIFA and others including my association UEFA have advised referees to intervene which they now do BEFORE the ball is in play. It has frustrated me no end to see a referee get on the whistle to stop a set piece to speak to players about their illegal conduct which happens as they ready for the kick and then ignore it when the kick is taken. Why do players need to be told not to commit holding or pulling offences at set pieces. It does not happen elsewhere as it is called so the same should happen at set pieces unless it has developed into something nasty such as the recent Martial / Lamela sending off incident.
As to legal charging the game allows for two players to make physical contact with other shoulder to shoulder provided it is not done in a way that is careless, reckless or using excessive force. I describe it as easing an opponent off the ball using a shoulder. In the Pro game it is significantly more physical game and players are much more aggressive which referees have come to accept as *legal*. The bar is set higher as to what is considered careless or reckless. It would not translate very well to underage or grassroots where referees should see the same aggressive contact as illegal.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Divveshi,

Short answer is no they are not allowed to grab and hold during corners or at any free kicks but a lot of them engage and since so many are it takes a grievous incident to get called.
Shoulder to shoulder as a coming together is permitted but hard intersectional challenges with force at stationary or slower moving players is most likely charging. Recreational soccer should NOT be as physical as they are at the elite level.

Referees have a duty to enforce the LOTG to the best of their understanding and abilities, Referees are honour bound to be neutral in their deliberations with all the participants within the technical areas. Plus, an obligation to ensure the safety of the players and their fellow officials.

The character, work effort, experience and knowledge by the individual referee is given nourishment through the billions of matches and experiences of other referees as to what is the difference between fair and foul, tolerable and acceptable, trifling ot doubtful, applying the LOTG within the spirit of the game and expected match standards at EVERY level of play be it from a park kick around to world cup.

I have endeavoured to explain to those interested that a football match is NOT seen in the same way by the participants. Each has their perspectives, needs, desires and stress factors weighing in on every choice or decisions made by the referee.

A spectator or parent see the game from the perspective of what they think they see is their team being treated fairly, is their son or daughter protected.

A coach or manager from what he wants to see, he needs to do, to ensure the right tactics the correct players are out there doing well, results driven, focused on achieving victory.

A player from how he feels to see, the enormous emotional pressures to do well so he can be selected to play, achieve victory while shouldering the political expectations of a parent, town, city even an entire nation.

Whereas a neutral referee must simply see what he sees, deciding in a fraction of a moment, where the spirit of those laws live within the substructure of a match, to allow play or stop play, based on their understanding of the LOTG and the sanctity of the match free from unnecessary interference.

I mentioned earlier the concept of tolerance and acceptable as it applies to fair and foul this is similar but different than trifling and doubtful No referee makes a call of say awarding a goal or a foul if there is no conclusive view of certainty.

Take this situation a keeper kicking or tossing the ball out after stopping a shot might be pushing the PA boundary edges in his release . It is a doubtful call because the fact it looks suspicious is not a foul. If in fact he had marginally carried it outside by centimeters we might consider it trifling in there was no real advantage lost by the opposing team.

A VAR decision for offside at the elite level, no way you make that distinction at grassroots It would be too doubtful to make 2-centimeter head lean over a 1-centimeter foot placement. The thing is offsides are not trifling if they result in an attack, but they must be called the same at both ends if they are doubtful in determining position to that degree of certainty.

A referee CAN use advantage to allow play to continue AFTER a foul because in FAIRNESS the opposition attempt to stop the attack or shot failed and we are considering if allowing the arrack to continue is more rewarding than stopping play to award the free kick. We have few seconds if consideration and if things worked out play continues . If not, we stop play award the free kick. Yelling and signalling advantage indicates YES it WAS a foul. YES, I saw it, but could you benefit more by playing than stopping?

On that premise I will now address the conundrum that we have when faced with the situations you have mentioned. Players foul one another to stop attacks, prevent shots or mistime efforts to win challenges for ball possession. Defenders will delay and try to provide time for their teammates to set up, get behind the ball & mark opposition players to defend. Faking injury, rolling about the site of the free kick, blocking the outlet pathways to prevent quick kicks all play a part to force set up or ceremonial free kicks. Once there is referee intervention where a signal is required to restart, USUALLY a whistle to provide clarity, defenders will mark up or take obstructing positions to the attackers who will try to move away or into better positions for attack . So begins this dance of grab, clutch, push as they shift about trying to GET free or STAY close Occasionally when the ball is NOT in play simply goofy stuff can result in straight misconduct VC or USB of this gets WAY out of Hand Often the referee will try to talk and separate players from their group grope antics but can caution players BEFORE the restart if they fail to heed his or her warnings. Once the restart places the ball in play the referee will likely have plenty of reasons to see a foul, but will he be FORCED to call or find it necessary is ONLY going to occur if those actions are so blatant, they create a goal, cause a miss or are so forceful and unsafe they cannot be ignored!

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