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Question Number: 34325

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 8/31/2021

RE: Premier - Silver Under 15

Luis David of San Mateo, CA USA asks...

Player makes a second-long "middle finger" gesture to an opposing team player, but the only one that may have seen it is the ref: the offender is partially covering the sign with other sign, ref is 1 yard away from the offender, offender times it so that the other player is turned back, other players are setting up for the corner kick restart in opposite direction to the offender.

I'm trying to convince myself that this was either a send-off (per Law 12.3) or a verbal warning to the player. There is no Law support for a caution. What do you think?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Luis
This gesture is a red card for an offensive, insulting and offensive acton. The player is told that the action is unacceptable, he is shown a red card and dismissed from the field of play.

It is certainly a card and a strong word would not be sufficient on its own. I sense that you may have felt that a red card may have been too severe a sanction in a U15 game yet still wanted to sanction for it? A referee might and a big might, in the example you describe with a limited audience and some what disguised , decide to deal with it as a very strong word and a caution for Unsporting Behaviour. The player should be left in no doubt that his action is totally unacceptable and that he is being given leniency. The player as far as I would be concerned would be on very thin ice and any hint of further misconduct would result in a second caution or a straight red card.

If it was public with the action seen by most players, coaches etc then I would be going with a red card.

In a 2017 international game between England and Slovakia Dele Ali of England was retrospectively punished by FIFA with a one game ban for this gesture. The player said the gesture was towards his team mate yet the referee was in that general direction as well. The referee Clement Turpin did not take any action in the game and it was unclear if he saw it or not?
A Fifa statement said: "Although the disciplinary committee was not convinced that the player directed the gesture at the referee, and regardless of whether it was allegedly directed at a team-mate, it did consider such gesture to be offensive and unsporting. Therefore it amounted to a violation of article 57 of the Fifa disciplinary code."

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Luis,
If an offence does not fall neatly into any other specific cautionable offence category, you can almost always use the 'catch all' USB offence of "shows a lack of respect for the game."

Having said that, I would have to say that the highly offensive and insulting gesture you describe is almost always going to be a red card, as far as I'm concerned. I think I'd be hard put to find a scenario in which this is not worthy of a dismissal.

As the example given by ref McHugh shows, FIFA considers this worthy of a suspension even if it was not seen by the referee and may not have even been directed towards him.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Luis,
there is within the LOTG a catch-all USB directive whereby a referee CAN make a case the actions of a player disrespecting the game Princibly as an opinion it is hard to argue because an opinion is not fact-based more emotionally based with elements of truth as perceived by the referee. The degree by which a deed, action, word, or gesture of one might inflame one referee and not another could be anything from the essence or soul of an individual, historical contempt for a previous decision, an observance of a religious view, a moral character trait, or a simple disagreement of what was meant by the item creating the discourse? A referee who has the REASON and courage to call out a player who is acting in an unsavory fashion such a card is discussed within the disciplinary committee for review and justification is examined. That said a referee's decision on facts of play is final and as such indisputable unless a legally convened review board should decide not so! lol

It is clear the CONCEPT of FAIR PLAY and for the good of the game, give us a sense of propriety, a certain standard of public conduct befitting the theory we are in fact civilized and can agree to disagree and still function. The tolerance we all have for various situations are quite disproportionate to one another. For example, it could be as mundane as an utterance of a foul epitaph for a missed shot versus a racial slur. We should be able to sort out & filter the overall sensitivity to the necessity to react. One can be totally ignored the other induces rage-filled tirades which elicit a harsh response from an official be they directed at him or her or at another player. Cheers

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