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Question Number: 34187

Law 5 - The Referee 4/5/2021

RE: Other Other

Derek of Cary, Illinois United States asks...

In the Valencia-Cadiz match, the entire Valencia team walked off the field because of an alleged racial slur thrown at one of their players. To my knowledge the referee did not sanction the player who spoke it. Several minutes later Valencia returned to the field only after allegedly told "they had to or lose three points," inferring that they would've forfeited and/or been sanctioned by La Liga.

My Question: The referee cannot restart the game if there are less than 7 players on either team. If a mass walk-off like this occurred and the referee either "stops play" or "suspends play," who determines if and when the match can be restarted (referee or league officials)? I assume the nuances of the wording makes a difference here.
Also, if the referee just "stops play," should the clock be stopped, or should additional time be added to the half for the stoppage?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Derek
Thanks for the question.
As you correctly state a game cannot continue with a team having less than seven players. In this case the game could not continue when a whole team decided to walk off the field of play.
I suspect the teams may have felt that if they failed to return that the game would be abandoned and it would be up to the League in this case La Liga to decide the outcome.
In the absence of an official sanction of an incident involving racism the teams risked the loss of the game and further sanctions if the case was unproven. Without official sanction of an offence a League would be faced with a situation that might not be sanctioned without independent third party verification.

This is what is understood to be in the referee's report

"In the 29th minute I stopped the match due to a confrontation between players from both sides. Player number 12 of Valencia C.F., Mouctar Diakhaby, once booked for arguing with an opponent, tells me word for word: "He called me " Deleted" in reference to player number 16 of Cadiz C.F. Juan Torres Ruiz (Juan Cala).

"This fact was not perceived by any member of the refereeing team. After a few moments, Valencia C.F. decide to abandon the pitch. For this reason, the match is temporarily suspended. Both sides enter their respective changing rooms. After a few minutes of suspension, the Valencia C.F. delegate David Rangel Pastor, in presence of the Cadiz C.F. delegate Antonio Navarrete Reyes, tells us that they decide to substitute player number 12 Mouctar Diakhaby and continue with the game.

"Moreover, it was agreed to give both sides a five-minute warm-up in order to avoid injuries. The match was resumed 24 minutes after suspending it, and was carried out as normal from that moment onwards."

I once recall a team citing that one of their players had been racially abused during the first half. I did not hear such abuse and I did not note any such possible incident involving that player. I did caution him for interfering with the opponent goalkeeper's release of the ball and that certainly did not involve any words between the players. A one off derogatory comment / name calling made by a player towards an opponent in an off the ball situation would be nigh impossible for any match official to deal with. I told the team I would pay particular attention to any situation involving the player in the 2nd half. I put the opponents on notice of the complaint before the start of the second half and there was nothing of note in the remainder of the game.
In cases involving a game suspension the referee would stop the his watch at the point in which it was suspended and restart same when the game resumed adding all the time lost as added time. If it is not resumed the referee would report that the game was abandoned in the X minute. In this case the referee restarted his watch which was stopped in the 29th minute and played out the remaining 16 minutes of the first half along with the second half as normal.
The important point to make is that a team cannot arbitrarily decide that there was a racism incident to which it decides to stop playing. If that was to succeed then a team could cite a racism case unilaterally without independent qualification from a match official or an independent third party and that would pose all sorts of problems for Leagues to adjudicate on.

The Laws of the Game allow for a player to be sent off for using offensive, insulating and abusive language and in the case of outside interference by spectators etc a referee is empowered to stop, suspend or abandon a game for any offence or outside interference.
In a case a number of years ago in the EPL involving Patrice Evra of Manchester United and Luis Suarez of Liverpool involving an accusation of racism which was dealt with in a legal type commission where all the relevant facts, videos, statements, witness evidence including the referee etc where all gathered together and a determination made in a court type fashion by a three person panel. Like any court case the evidence has to go beyond reasonable doubt that the offence was committed.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Derek,
if there was an incident where a gesture or something said, that was considered to be, in the words of the LOTG, sending off misconduct - using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures, this would be a referee discretionary power not the choice of the opposing team. An indirect free kick is awarded if a player is guilty of dissent, using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures or other verbal offenses. Unless the altercation had physicality involved like a DFK/PK offense such as biting/spitting, or a kick, even an attempted face slap of striking.

The question is, was what occurred, substantiated by the neutral agencies?
Did the CR see it and not deal with it effectively?
Was it missed or did he fail to grasp its importance?
The ARs & 4th can certainly make the CR aware of something THEY saw/heard and he did not
The referee may also be assisted by a video assistant referee (VAR) only in the event this was a missed direct red card misconduct or foul of a ‘clear and obvious error’ or ‘serious missed incident’. The assistance from the video assistant referee (VAR) will relate to using replay(s) of the incident. The referee will make the final decision which may be based solely on the information from the VAR and/or the referee reviewing the replay footage directly (‘on-field review’).’

The referee, as the acting timekeeper, once he stops the match & suspends play because the aggrieved team is not making their players available to continue. It is likely he has suspended time and is considering if the match CAN go forward or IF he should just close the book and abandon it? It is likely he and the other officials are tracking everyone, busy writing down everything about what everyone is doing for further scrutiny, trying to ensure their safety and player safety? If the referee decides to abandon the match it is replayed unless the competition rules or organizers determine otherwise. The coach or team manager can certainly put in writing any action for any reason but to be the cause of the abandonment, no doubt there are bylaws that have harsh fines or punishments.

As a referee I have been approached about he said, she said or that player is mean please keep an eye on him with attitude if you do not do something we will. You can miss a CMI (critical match incidents) or fail to recognize a CMI. Both are very dangerous to match control. You can listen to some dissent for not all is without substance, but you cannot rule on things you know nothing about. If the team was hinting to walk off or take revenge a referee must counter that kind of talk with no-nonsense decisions of what actions are not acceptable. Even if you apologize for missing their primary reason for their being upset. I have had matches partially suspended due to a variety of issues, some weather-related, a couple due to bad karma like this where safety was a big concern, waiting for suspended players or personal to get away from the FOP. I restarted for the reason of the stoppage initially and finished out the half from the watch stop time I set once I knew we were done for a while until things calmed down! Yet there were bylaws on how long we could delay because of such things as field use schedules, travel teams had to get home, no night lights, etc. Often teams only had 15 minutes maximum and were forced to start with 7 no matter what or face a forfeit. Reasonable people in reasonable circumstances, a match gets played.

The IFAB & FIFA have promoted Fair Play & have no tolerance for an ideology based on race within the global football family. They endeavored to make Laws benefitting football at all levels and in every corner of the world, so the integrity of the game, the Laws, and the referees are respected, valued, and protected. Players have a major responsibility for the image of the game and the team captain should play an important role in helping to ensure that the Laws and referees’ decisions are respected.
Everyone must respect the match officials and their decisions, remembering and respecting that referees are human and will make mistakes.

The LOTG permits the referee to decide to linger in suspension attempting to find a way forward or outright abandon but likely it is the league or competition rules that will have the say in what punishment derives from the action. I suspect, they were told by -OTHERS- not the referee, of the consequences but that is just a guess.

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