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Question Number: 34262

Law 14 - The Penalty kick 7/9/2021

RE: Pro Other

Derek of Cary, IL USA asks...

Just wanting your opinion on the extra time penalty in the England/Denmark match.

For me it is a clear penalty. Contact was made by Maehle to the leg of Sterling, which stopped his attack. IMO anybody that thinks this is a "soft foul" and not worthy of a free kick does not understand physics.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Derek,
you and the referee of the match agree and guess whose opinion matters? I stated earlier that a referee needs to have the courage to recognize when a foul unfairly affect the play and award the PK if required by the LOTG. It makes it more palatable if blood flows in the tackle but a well-timed push, grab or trip has the same effect of a straight-up drag-down scything tackle that looks impressively foul as well as being illegal. It STOPS the attack! Part of the issue is so many players try to sell the contact rather than fight through it. Yet in truth that is not necessarily the fault of the player being fouled if they believe the referee is excusing it as part of normal play. The ability to draw a foul by creating a circumstance that gives it credibility is tough for referees to imagine the worst of a player who dives because it is cheating. To be labeled so does no player honor, and if it is clear a caution MUST Follow! When we suspect we need to remember a bite on the ankle, a clip of the heel can create a fall out of seemingly thin air!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Derek
The debate has been about whether there was contact or not and if there was contact was it enough to bring Sterling to the ground.
All the video footage that I have seen does not show irrefutable proof of contact on Sterling although my good colleague Referee Grove has seen footage that showed contact which is good enough for me. With that included all the signals point to contact from the planted foot of Maehle who fails to win the ball which is a careless foul.
As to the “soft” argument that is based on the fact that it is a contact sport and not all contact merits a foul. In the modern game some playera go down easily on any contact and many players try to win penalties through going to ground on any level of contact.

In this incident the referee believed that there was contact which was reviewed by VAR the correct decision was a penalty kick. VAR did not see any clear and obvious error in that decision by the referee hence no overturn.

As to whether Sterling could have stayed up on his feet that would probably resulted in no call and it is hard to say if he could have. Some say that he could have stayed up as the contact was minimal hence the reference to soft. We do know that when players are running contact can easily put them off balance.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Derek
On the coverage I was watching, it was very difficult to see what, if any contact there was on the first few replays that were shown in the immediate aftermath of the penalty incident. Then, about 6 minutes later during a break in play they showed another replay from a different angle. On this later replay, the contact was absolutely clear. It was as you allude to, a knee from Maehle into the knee of Sterling and from this angle it was obvious (to me at least) that this was a distinctly careless challenge from the Danish defender. Some might (and indeed many have) say this was a "soft" penalty but from what this later replay angle clearly shows, for me there was no clear and obvious error in awarding the penalty.

Just a word about contact and "going down easily." Firstly, the law does not include contact in the criteria for deciding whether a foul has occurred, only for deciding whether it's a direct or indirect free kick although having said that, I think most referees (myself included) do factor contact into deciding just how careless (or reckless or excessively forceful) a foul was. Also, whether a foul occurred depends on what took place in the moments up to and including the actual challenge happening. What happens after the foul cannot logically, be the determining factor.

So as far as I'm concerned, whether the player being fouled goes down "easily" or not, is not the way to decide whether the actions of the player potentially committing the foul, meet the criteria set out in the law.

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