Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 34926

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 3/20/2023

RE: Adult

John Brown of Nashville, Tennessee United States asks...

I was refereeing a men's game and mostly letting them play. Play was sometimes physical but well controlled. Emotions were in check.

In the 69th minute two players chased down a loose ball at a high rate of speed. The Yellow player tackled the ball away with both cleats in the air, making contact with the ball about a foot and a half off the ground. The Blue player ran into the Yellow player's legs, still a foot and a half off the ground, and screamed as he flew through the air and came to a stop about fifteen feet on the other side of the Yellow player.

Before the Blue player had landed several Blue players were screaming for a red card. I thought the play was not a foul and did not blow my whistle, but play stopped anyway. Players from both teams were yelling at each other and three pairs of opponents had formed as if they were getting ready to fight. This all happed within seconds, with no pauses.

A player near me shoved an opponent, and I thought things were going to very quickly go very bad. I called out to the player, "Relax, I got this!" and pulled out my yellow card. The Blue players started to relax and I showed the yellow card to the Yellow player, who complained that the play wasn't a foul. The Blue player was furious that it wasn't a red card.

I believe that I probably could have announced that the play wasn't a foul and gotten out of the immediate situation without any red cards, but I was convinced that it would result in many, many cards during the remainder of the game.

As it was, there were no more cautions shown and the game proceeded without further incidents. If this had been semi-pro or above, or even a different men's league, I know that I would have let play continue regardless of the fallout, but at this level I was concerned it would end in cops and ambulances.

I'm conflicted as to whether or not I handled the situation properly. Comments?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi John,
thanks for the question.
As it was your match, your decision, your reputation is in the process of being made.
Good or bad you accept the responsibility, in as much as you might control outcomes. Given you made it to the finish and the match did not go sideways, good for you!

In situations where I hold the opinion, it was fair, but there is a collision, be it a fair charge or a well in timed tackle where the pursuing upright player is falling over an outstretched leg thus not considered a trip.

I have no hesitation in stating exactly that!

" Well in! Good tackle Nothing there! Keep going!

I do advise you not say, PLAY ON as that should be reserved for advantage!
Advantage signal indicates a clear message! There WAS a foul, but we are thinking to allow play if it benefits you, here you are saying, get up, get going, no stoppage is forthcoming.

Understand, even a fair tackle can inflict hurt or cause dissent plus if you indicated it a was good tackle by saying nothing or indicating it was ok as I suggested and you were wrong, then you live & deal with the consequences. Rather than a stoppage to address the considerable dissent that could follow a decision to allow play to continue, check on the player, "You ok, Can you continue?" for a possible injury.

If there is a serious injury after a benign tackle or a missed one you need to ensure no reprisals. Get to the spot ASAP. Your, "Relax I've got this!" statement is a good one, as is a strong whistle blast as you separate potential for conflict.

Although I am uncertain of the general direction this tackle occurred from, your description of the tackle does raise the hairs on the back of my neck!
Was it a chase down, side by side with a 45 degree angle backslide into the front of the player or 45 degree front slide, a 90 degree perpendicular interception?

Two footed cleats showing jumps at above ground level is not a tackle made in good faith or without potential for harm, regardless of contacting the ball first! The chance of a serious injury is much greater with no chance of withholding momentum or avoiding a collision. .
Single leg in tackles at lower elevation, the pursuing upright player has a an option or at least a reasonable chance to leap over the prostrate players body parts.

Once you realized the players were taking matters into their own hands, it obviously prompted you to stop play and deal with the possible fireworks that your decision to not stop before just created.

Yet you did not whistle?

Instead you quickly read the pitch so to speak and thought it best to caution this dude and quell the uprising? Your comment, "Relax I got this" to all intents and purposes was your whistle. Once the card was shown it becomes a ceremonial restart of sorts! Good thing he was not on one already but you knew that right as you said emotionally the match was not a festering explosion waiting to be ignited!

So the blue dissent had the power plug pulled but the downed one was still somewhat red faced but at least got to draw the foul .

So did you restart with a DFK for blue?

Perhaps, given the results it was what was best for the match.

You could have stated, there was no foul, stop this and restarted with the DB. Rightly I think you were of the mind this would simply ramp the tension up . Who gets the drop? Yellow last touch, Blue likely goes berserk.

Was ball in the PA then keeper of course but still expectations and perceptions! Hey ref what's going on? will be reflected in all decisions.

Whether the sideways eyes cast, as you half raised a whistle, then took it away, you are always being judged by the players.

Yet by not saying something initially I think the caution and restart for a hopefully non threatening DFK could be deemed a save! Chances are your gut screamed, craptastic, "I may have missed this but I found away to smooth it over" There are no perfect referees just those with integrity, those who love the game and respect its values are the best of what can be expected and hoped for a FAIR but not perfect match! Having not seen the incident I cannot say 100% a red card send off was an absolute, but Blues' reaction tells you something. I can almost certainly see it as a necessary caution despite Yellows' weak, I got ball defiance. I do urge you in the future though to not accept two footed lunges as a reasonable way to win the ball.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
The key phrase for me is when you say " both cleats in the air, making contact with the ball about a foot and a half off the ground."

One of the most disliked tackles in the game is the two footed challenge where the tackler leaves the ground. The Laws of the game tells us that and I quote
" Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play."
Note no mention of contact on the player just the lunge.
Even at the Pro level players take a huge dislike to these out of control lunges particularly with two feet.
In this video the referee dismisses White for the SFP challenge
This one was a caution and somewhat fortunate

I also like to show this video

The referee in my opinion should have awarded a penalty kick and a caution for the first lunge by the goalkeeper. Instead he gave nothing other than speaking to the goalkeeper who paid no need to the advice and made heavy contact which ended up as a red card and a free kick which resulted in a goal.

Leaving the ground in any challenge puts the tackler out of control as the player is now dependent on gravity and momentum to decide the location of contact or not with whatever is at that location.
Okay running in the same direction lessens the risk of injury yet the law references all directions including from the side. There is no need to leave the ground two footed in any challenge and at best it is careless in a challenge for the ball. It can more likely be reckless where the player ignores the danger to, or consequences for, the opponent and the final option is where excessive force is used which is justified by intensity, momentum and weight against an opponent.

Blue players reacted negatively like most players in the world as I have seen this with these types of challenges in the past. The sound track and reaction of players in the GK incident testifies to that. I can recall three challenges in the past where I sent off in two and I cautioned in another one at Youth level. To this day I regret not sending off the player in the third instance and in that situation the player lunged with one leg. He played the ball yet in a manner that was without doubt reckless yet on reflection it was excessive force. I subsequently learned that the same player got his ankle broke some months later which probably did not surprise me given the way he was making rash challenges.

So I can see why players get upset by these type of challenges and to use the phrase "what football expects" as to the sanction for these type of challenges I would say certainly an offence and a caution for being reckless. It is not an accepted method of challenging for the ball and this player I suspect may have this in the playing DNA which is not good.

Thankfully the game ended without further incident and I have little doubt that was due to the caution and I assume a free kick. Perhaps not punishing it would have been the moment of truth in game where players decide that the referee has let that reckless play slide so action will be taken by the opponents which then lets discipline go into freefall and regaining match control can be nigh impossible.

So for me the best call was a caution and a free kick as that is what was expected.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34926
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.