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Question Number: 34664

Mechanics 8/15/2022

RE: Other

jeremy of portland, or usa asks...

What is your guys threshold for calling a penalty if the player stays on their feet and get a shot/cross in the box? I know that you should truly only play advantage on a potential PK if a shot on goal happens almost immediately. Had a defender hip check a possessing attacker as he entered the top of the PA going towards goal, attacker stumbled, stayed on feet with possession, got a cross into the middle of the box.

I definitely would have called a penalty if he went down, which causes the issue of saying that players should go to ground instead of playing through things, but I just feel like, especially at this game's level (U19 boys mid level competitive), I felt that calling a penalty for a hip check while the defender still is on his feet with possession would be relatively weak.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jeremy
Thanks for the question.

There is no clear answer here and it depends very much on the referee's threshold and opinion on the day whether the contact merited the award of a penalty kick.
My threshold for a penalty kick is always high in that I was never accused of awarding a "soft" penalty. I also always tried to allow play to continue particularly when the player wanted to continue. I would also never surprise teams by the award of a penalty kick that was not expected. So in your example I too would have allowed the advantage and let play continue.
I will recount two examples.
One was a situation where a player was through on goal and the goalkeeper fouled the player just as he passed the ball to a team mate. That player took the ball, moved it on a few yards and shot with his weaker foot into the side netting. I could have gone with a penalty award and a red card yet the miss was so obvious that the attacking team did not even complain about the foul.
The second incident I watched a referee award a penalty that caused him all sorts of problems from that moment on. He had good control of the game and from that incident it went pear shaped. An attacker got into the penalty area and he lost control of the ball which went to the goalkeeper who was advancing. Now at the very moment the goalkeeper picked up the ball there was some sort of coming together contact between the forward and a defender. In my opinion the referee should have ignored that contact as it was questionable as a clear foul. It certainly could have made no impact on attacking play. If he ignored it there would have been no real complaint from the attacking team as they knew the attacker had lost possession of the ball.

The law makers always allowed for such situations as *doubtful or trifling*. They said that the Laws of the Game are intended to provide that games should be played with as little interference as possible, and in this view it is the duty of referees to penalize only deliberate breaches of the Law...A trifling infraction is one which, though still an offense, has no significant impact upon play. A doubtful offense is one which neither the referee nor the other officials can attest to.
The section is no longer part of the laws yet the spirit of it is still there. If referees were to call every single offence the game would be a start stop affair. Those would be the slight push, the tug of an arm, the shoulder that unsettles a player etc. In fact some players like the Maradona situation referenced by Referee Dawson expect contact and sometimes don't even know that they have been "fouled". You mention about players going to ground and that is a blight on the game where players at the slightest touch go to ground looking for the penalty. That is why I have a high threshold on big decisions like a penalty awards. I'm not calling contact that the player plays through or for that matter could easily have played through.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Jeremey,
love the question as it shows the thought and care you have for the game in your capacity as the referee. As the arbiter of justice using threshold is an excellent way to describe the compromise between what players will accept as fair even when it is not and what referees can tolerate within the boundaries of the LOTG.

I recall a seminar where the conversation was centered around Maradona in a match where this particular referee was striving to protect him from the challenges of the opponents that certainly involved a fair bit of clutch, grab, hold, push, kick, as much like Messi he was a difficult player to win the ball when he had control of it.

This official felt it was beneficial to call these challenges to ahem, protect the STAR player, when in fact he got angry and after a stoppage in which he was afforded the foul in his favor, he still yelled at the referee , "For goodness sakes let me play!" The thing was, he was used to riding out the unseemly challenges given his style of play and manner in which being of short stature he could weave and slink around those who tried to take the ball away.

Understand we are not talking about a full on cleat to the mid thigh of a brutal slide tackle, but the coming together of players where a certain amount of contact is expected and endured. At the lower levels, in grass roots football it might be of greater benefit to CALL these niggly fouls but in the upper stages players can handle a greater degree of unfair fairness! lol So understand the advantage of letting play continue without interruption is not always a clear obvious decision, but one that takes in account the skill & temperament of the players when managing the match. The KEY component that YOU bring is the CONSISTENCY in how you have decided to make these decisions as a neutral official.

I like the inflection where stated if they try to play through you are looking to see it through! Your evaluation sounds correct , in my opinion some contact, but the shot or pass is on its way as intended no foul given! Yet same contact other end but player decides to assist you with a theatrical dive to ensure you saw is annoying! This is a favorite video of mine, it has SO much of what is good in officiating but at 1.10 it speaks directly to your own thoughts about advantage.

The PK is a sphincter tightening area, if we are afraid to make a wrong decision it stands to reason we are equally afraid to have the courage to make a correct one! The potential of a PK is a game changing event hence we as the referee and ALL others subject it to intense scrutiny. I am certain we all prefer a solid no nonsense foul that CLEARLY eliminates an obvious goal or scoring option, where no one questions those. AS you can tell when listening to the video how much courage it DOES take when they do! !

Selling a foul or a non decision where uncertain, minimalistic or assisted diving features play a part definitely bug us and will haunt us should a review latter in video show we MISSED IT or we IMAGINED IT ! Our angle of view, if compromised, one can easily miss a telltale contact event and place that uncertainty burden of a situation, where we know something occurred. This is why your ARS are so important in as much at grassroots we have no VAR to safeguard a bad or missed decision.

Was there a foul that met all the DOGSO criteria?
I stress this because a foul that has no DOGSO criteria but is still a PK or free kick has far less impact in the no decision, Not sending off a player claiming there was no missed opportunity when in fact a PK and send off was there looms large as an incentive to not see the advantage as met even if a shot got off!
IF advantage was applied does the NEXT or new opportunity meet the standard of a CLEAR opportunity that is better than the chance thwarted earlier? ?

I am a big fan of the WAIT and see approach where a foul in the PK creates a probable free kick but the attacking control is maintained by the fouled player or the ball floats over to a teammate for a simple tap in or a defender creates an own goal. WE do not want to be too quick to stop play if good things could still occur!

Yet the "could" is diminished perhaps by the narrowing angle of approach, the arrival of new defenders, the repositioning of the keeper, the agility and balance maintained by a stumbling player or the chance of a ball in clear or decent control of a team mate, not a lunging extension of trying to get there.

It is true no one likes to think a weak penalty changed the match but the FACT is not every foul is a from behind excessive slide tackle that the entire audience goes, oh my gawd. I can only offer this , if you have integrity and can see the radiant character of what I believe was one of the best referees in the world in that video everything that can make you better is there to dwell on!

In a u-21 match attacker 1 shoots ball is on its way into the goal keeper clearly beaten, defender arms a bit too wide spread handles the ball PREVENTING a goal, cries of handball ring out! Ball rebounds out to a different attacker who shoots, fantastic save by the keeper but ball spills to original attacker 1 who was in an offside position when his 2nd team mate shot, now scores.

Now if we consider the handling as deliberate it met all DOGSO requirements thus red card sendoff for DOGSOH! However the ball eventually wound up inside the netted area could we ignore the offside aspect, count that goal and NOT send off the defender? Technically No, the fact is, it is a PK, show the red card send the defender off reducing his team by a player . The goal cannot be counted legally. .

When a blatant ball and arm collision occur I will either yell Nothing there! if I am sure it was accidental or play the silent advantage as I did here! I was relieved see the ball go into the goal and then rather unhappy my AR had raised their flag for the offside infraction. This was an inter city men's u-21 div 2 match between hometown and a visiting team. I did consider counting the goal and not sending the player off but went with the LOTG solution no goal and PK, red card, short the team by a player . If the handling was questionable I likely would have let the goal stand given it would sell as a compromise

Yet I was reminded

I had witnessed a professional match where a too early whistle after a handling sounded as the ball was in the process of crossing the goal line. I watched in wonder as the goal WAS given & the defending player cautioned shown a yellow card . The DOGSO was ignored so no red card and the fact the ball was NOT in the goal when the whistle began but was when it ended seemed to be enough to convince the on field official it was better to award the goal and not send off but to say he had the ball in the goal was why he did blow the whistle. The team with goal happy, team with no defender sent off also happy so win win . He did get railed in the post game! lol

Watching a u-18 girls match player full sailboat shirt pull but released, ball poked at with the leg flick as her momentum was stalled, off the post at angle oncoming following attacker from 3 yards directly in front somehow skies the ball up and over the crossbar. Now that holding foul certainly had DOGSO criteria met but it was clear the oncoming attacker missed the sitter from directly in front of goal , no defender /keeper or hindrance and an almost stationary ball. Was that opportunity better than the one lost? Heck there was no defender or keeper here? For me while usually only a goal rectifies that situation for others the shot was there, thus advantage gained and tossed away. The referee could have sent the shirt pulling player off restarted with a PK but everyone was so aghast at the shooter missing the wide open goal a goal kick out without even a caution was the restart

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