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Question Number: 34476

Law 5 - The Referee 1/14/2022

RE: Competitive Under 19

Jason of Lacrosse, WI USA asks...

Did you guys catch the Fiorentina-Napoli Coppa game this week? There was an incident where a defender committed a tactical foul, which was his second caution of the game. The ref seemingly made a huge blunder (for this level) stopping a 3v1 to issue the card and send off the player.

If he hadn't stopped this and the white team had scored, would it be correct to go back and issue the caution for the tactical foul?

Sometimes high level refs go back and issue cards for tactical fouls after playing the advantage, and other times they don't. What's the dividing line here? If the foul seemingly does nothing to slow down the attack do you not caution?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Jason,

I would agree that play should not have been stopped here. While my esteemed colleague, ref McHugh, quotes the law on requiring a clear opportunity. I would interpret this as being a clear opportunity.

To put it another way if the remaining defender here committed a foul, its a red for DOGSO. Therefore, there is a clear opportunity. So, I do think stopping play was the incorrect decision.

The delayed decision also didn't help and would, I expect, also be a note on the assessment. I wonder if that was simply indecision trying to decide whether to play advantage or send them off? Or perhaps he was thinking of the advantage, but somebody over comms pointed out it was his second? Either way, that delay compounded if not created the issue. Had he blown the whistle immediately, nobody would even be talking about the potential advantage as the other attacker was so far away.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jason
Always a difficult one.
The Laws of the Game states and I quote
Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal.

In this instance it was a promising attack yet was it a clear opportunity to score a goal so technically the referee could opine that he followed the letter of the Law depending on his opinion, training on what is a clear opportunity. However by stopping the game he allowed the clear advantage opportunity to be taken away from the attacking team which had the possible effect of putting the game beyond the reach of Napoli with a two goal lead.

I believe most in the game would prefer that advantage was played here rather than stopping for the red card and the free kick. However I also think that when confronted with a red card situation a referee may allow the red card situation to dominate his thinking rather than the bigger picture. Referees hear instruction all the time about not playing advantage on red card situations. I recall sitting through a training session which included that particular subject and the advice was to stop play and issue the red card in most situations. In this game situation at speed would the numerical superiority of the attacking team be known to the referee in a split second or focussed on? I always recall Referee Terje Hauge not playing advantage in the 2006 Champions League final between Arsenal and Barcelona when a goal was scored which had to be disallowed as the referee had already blown for a foul outside the penalty area committed by the Arsenal goalkeeper. It was a clear DOGSO red card challenge yet there was also a perfect advantage opportunity, with the ball ending up in the goal. That certain advantage opportunity was squandered with the quick whistle. In an interview years later Referee Hauge bemoaned the fact that he stopped play so quickly and he mentioned in the interview that the reason was that he was thinking red card hence the quick whistle.

Without red card thinking Im fairly certain advantage would have been played in both situations. I also think that where advantage has been played some referees may not go back to the caution unless it was particularly egregious as many times the foul might be minor in the scheme of things and as play has not really been truly effected by failing to stop a promising attack the card may be let slide.

I also believe that it can depend on the mindset of the referee and perhaps his status within the pro ranks. I have seen FIFA badged referee adopt a strict approach on such cautions whereas some who are not in that category adopt a less stricter approach, a sort of whats best for the game and not following instructions by rote. Indeed it is why some decent Pro referees do not make it into the FIFA ranks.

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