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Question Number: 34164

Law 18 - Common Sense 3/20/2021

Petr of Prague, Czech Republic Czech Republic asks...


my question is about 'yellow card' challenges. The Referee Assistance Programme says that the referee has to consider the CHANCE OF PLAYING THE BALL. What can I imagine under this term? What is needed for a player to have a chance to play the ball? What do you personally follow?

(F.e. two situations, please. Both fouls are carelles.

First: The ball is a meter away at the time of contact.

Second: The ball is two meters away at the time of contact.

Is the second situation more cautionable than the first? Can it be similar to SPA in the penalty area?)

Thank you very much!

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Petr,

it's an intelligent question. Let remember that when a referee decides to caution a player & shows a yellow card for a RECKLESS challenge eg:(a slide tackle at pace inherently fraught with danger) it has more to do with force used and safety as opposed to the misconduct of USB which is in effect an unsporting action that degrades the game, eg:(a shirt pull to break up an attack)

For it to be deemed careless the referee would hold the opinion it was a reasonable effort not too much force but a tad late, a bit too far of a reach, a small amount of contact but not inconsequential

Then to the type of challenge, you can visualize how & why a slide tackle needs to have the ball closer to the opponent to be a reasonable fair effort then say if it started out as a fair shoulder-to-shoulder attempt but degenerates into a bit too much in the back or into the chest or simply a charge of significant force at an obtuse angle.

You need to think about how fast the players are moving with respect to how far away the ball is and whether that ball is stationary, coming towards, or rolling away? Take a player at a 20 mile an hour dead run, look at the length of each stride, compare that to the pace of a stationary player or a walking dribble? A very big difference in yardage, from 1 to 20 feet.

To legitimately challenge for ball possession & or rather to effectively SHIELD that ball without actually touching the ball, that ball needs to be within an acceptable PLAYING distance, which is, in my opinion, about 2 paces away at the SPEED of play!

A defending player trying to intercept a pass into the feet of an opponent, this opponent redirects that ball immediately in a fast give and go instead of a stop & or dribble. That ball is always traveling away at a high rate of speed so on a mistimed late tackle it could look worse at every rotation of the ball moving away!

The ball is just leaving his feet, bang, he gets tackled and contact made!
The ref sees a foul!
The ball is a yard away and bang, he gets tackled and contact made!
The ref sees a foul! but could be thinking caution because?
No ball is there to be won or possible safety compromised?
The ball is now 2 yards away and bang, he gets tackled and contact made!!
The ref sees a foul, could be convinced to caution because there was no ball to be won, player's safety was compromised!

Essentially on any challenge the -LATER- a player arrives, especially with contact, the greater the focus will be on the reason it occurred, the manner in which it occurred, and the force applied while it was occurring, particularly after a ball has been played away like as a pass.

I want to reiterate a very important point, a slide tackle is a LAST ditched effort by a beaten defender. You become in effect a human missile of speed and mass with studs. You wind up on the ground, out of the play, and often the creator of an opposing free-kick.

I have watched in dismay at well-timed and properly executed tackles getting free kicks awarded simply because there was SOME incidental contact after. Yet I have watched players slide in between a player's legs knock the ball away then contact the back of the legs upending the standing player thinking well I got the ball so it's ok?

Just for the what-if moments! While NOT a legitimate challenge, a careless foul can still occur with a ball even 10 or 20 yards away with no card required. Two opposing players. in pursuit of a ball one player stumbles and steps on the heel of the other, they both fall, a simple careless DFK trip. It could be a DOGSO should criteria fit but it is NOT likely a caution for reckless misconduct. Now with the ball so far away, if the one player was to pull the shirt MOST definitely a caution or slide into his legs and trip easily a caution but likely a red card for VC (violent conduct) because SFP (serious foul play) requires a legitimate opportunity to challenge. Cannot make an excuse at 10 yards away you were going for the ball now, can you? Or the dreaded, "I got the ball ref!", but you still slid in from behind and scissored the back leg or carried the tackle through the player in what we refer to as a cleanout in that the safety aspect was ignored.

The LOTG were altered to allow for a REASONABLE effort challenge!
If a legitimate challenge goes wrong inside the defender's own PA (penalty area) it does not count for DOGSO as the PK will be the opportunity, even though that same challenge outside might. The fact that challenge be careless or reckless the defender would suffer nothing for DOGSO, a caution would be awarded if the tackle was considered reckless
Mind you though if that challenge is NOT an attempt to win the ball, like a shirt pull or a push in the back then DOGSO would apply.

Yes, a well-timed critical stab in to knock a ball away can be the stuff of legends and heroes. Yes, a properly slide tackle where you cleanly play the ball away can indeed induce the opponent to FALL over you with no foul present on your part. That is assuming the referee decides it is a fall, not a trip because he is well seasoned and in a good position to see & properly evaluate the incident. Each referee develops foul recognition by sincere efforts to improve, applying what they are taught, what they see, using other referees' experiences to develop their own gut instincts that the foul is what it is and requires whatever color card it deserves.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

If we go back to why the DOGSO Law was changed it was because many in the game saw the DOGSO red card as being harsh as there was a triple punishment of being sent off, missing the next game and a penalty kick.
IFAB decided that in the case of a penalty kick the goal scoring opportunity was restored so it decided that where a player made a genuine attempt to play the ball rather than a cynical offence of a pull back, deliberate trip etc that the referee could issue a caution instead of a red card.
In the case of other offences the referee has to take in consideration factors such as whether the offence stops a promising attack and whether the offence is careless or reckless. The LotG sets out what is considered careless and reckless while other documents tries to assist referees in assessing further sanction. Again those are judgement calls although in my opinion a challenge that is made when the ball is not available to be played is certainly in the reckless category
Like all decisions of opinion it is left for the referee to decide what in their opinion is a genuine attempt to play the ball. Obviously the ball has to be there and it must look like there is a sporting chance of playing the ball.
Have a look at this video
Any doubt that if the challenge was inside the penalty area now that it would be a yellow card?
It is a stonewall red card now as it was back when it happened as the player made no attempt to play the ball yet his intent was to stop the player. The same offence that is not in a DOGSO situation is most certainly a caution as player has no chance of playing the ball.
In some situations referee will also see it as endangering the safety of an opponent and it is a red card for serious foul play. Here is an example
We have all seen some of these as cautions and referees may give the offender the benefit of what might be considered an *orange* type offence as one that is certainly a caution yet could be a red.
To me context and the manner of the challenge is everything. Does it look like a genuine attempt to play the ball that ends up an offence
In this video even if it was inside the penalty area is still a red card as the defender makes no attempt to play the ball but rather is just an attempt to stop the opponent.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Petr,
When the UEFA Referee Assistance Programme talks about how to judge challenges, it gives the following as factors the referee should bear in mind:

"Protection of the players

No tolerance / Strong action

Careless / Reckless /Using excessive force


- Element of intent or malice

- Chances of playing the ball

- Speed / Intensity

- Direction of the feet and use of studs

- Endangering the safety of the opponent"

I think it's important to say that you have to take all these aspects and assess them together - I don't think you should really separate them or look at them in isolation. So the chances of playing the ball is just one of the factors to be considered, in conjunction with all the others.

Having said that, when it comes to this particular aspect of a challenge, I also don't think distance to the ball is the main thing, it's more the positions of the two players in relation to each other - and the ball. In fact if the ball is a full metre away (and even more so if it's two) I'd say the ball isn't really within playing distance and that's very possibly not really a challenge for the ball, it's probably more in the nature of an off-the-ball challenge.

For me, the distance to the ball is not the main factor (though it may factor in partially). It's more to do with other things that affect the chance of playing the ball, such as whether the challenge is head-on, from the side or from behind. For example, if it's from the side or from behind, the chances of playing the ball become correspondingly less.

So I think what the advice is more supposed to indicate is that in a challenge where, because of the two players' relative body positions, there's less chance that the player making the challenge will be able to play the ball without making illegal contact with the opponent, the likelihood that it will be a challenge worthy of disciplinary action becomes higher.

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