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Question Number: 34988

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/26/2023

Larry of Danville, California United States asks...

The following is copied from Law 5 FAQ’s:
QUESTION: Two players from different teams commit an offense at the same time: a player from Team A challenges for the ball in a reckless manner a player from Team B strikes an opponent with excessive force. What is the referee’s decision?
ANSWER: Both players must receive the appropriate disciplinary sanction:
• caution (yellow card for a reckless challenge
• sending-off (red card) for violent conduct
Play is restarted with a direct free kick for Team A because the player from Team B committed the more serious offence.

My question is what does “at the same time” mean? Giving the free kick to Team A might makes since if the fouls literally occurred at the same time (say Player B is falling down due to the reckless challenge and they strike Player A), but does this restart for Team A also hold if the violent conduct is retaliation a few seconds after the reckless challenge?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Larry ,

Two players, on opposing teams, creating simultaneous fouls both requiring a stoppage situation at EXACTLY the same time? Super rare event yet the the LOTG do cover most situations, including clarifying the weird simultaneous entanglements of even the remotest possibilities. Avoid massive or unrealistic ‘what-if’ scenarios that might lose the crowd as being “too ridiculous”. In discussions though allow each person to speak or share ideas, and don’t hesitate to talk through why various ideas might or might not work.

You can base your restart on which player committed the more serious offence .

I must point out a single player can create a simultaneous dual set of fouls and this punish the greater or more serious offence portion of the LOTG would determine the restart to upgrade be it a indfk to a dfk or dfk to a pk

An example would be the double touch.
Take a player, he restarts with a free kick but it's weak and upon seeing an opponent trying to get there, the kicker chooses to kick it a 2nd time. THAT is an INDFK BUT if he jumps on the ball and used his hands that is a DFK/possible PK offence which outweighs the INDFK for a 2nd touch .

Now lets get back to multiple players doing ridiculous silly things simultaneously

Player a on team 1 recklessly challenges player b on team 2 just as player c on team 1 elbows player d on team 2. Same team created two fouls . The reckless tackle is cautionable show
a yellow card and was just inside the opposing PA whereas the elbow to the head was just outside the oppositions PA but it is VC thus red card sendoff . The restart for this is a DFK outside the PA. BUT the reckless tackle restart is the PK inside . As a player on team 2 what restart would you be hoping for? You bet the PK. If team 1 is saying WAIT! the LOTG say you must restart with the DFK outside it is of greater advantage to restart with the PK.

Player Z on team 1 grabs player X on team 2 by the hair inside team 1's own penalty area and drags him out, mad he is just lying about there just as player M on team 2 makes a reasonable effort tackle on player K of team 1 that denies a scoring opportunity in team 2's PA . If truly simultaneous then the VC at the other end of the FOP is of greater significance according to the LOTG. The tackle at the other end though denying a scoring opportunity is only cautionable for breaking up attacking play. Thus head hurting player X is responsible for forcing a PK for team 2 and its player M is only shown yellow card as team 1 K player scratches his head watching his teammate player Z being shown the red card sent off and he gets no pk??

Yes, I know far fetched, likely one foul occurs a bit before the other and yes would only go with VAR and replay showing 100% on the clock otherwise gut check time!

In cases where just two opponents are challenging for the ball, say both holding onto each other, quite common, and their feet become entangled. OK tripping, holding but who gets the nod? Do we reward the attacker if it's inside the defenders PA? Chances are screams for that restart will outweigh the denials of the defenders. You could say 50/50 nothing there and play continues , both teams likely upset but neither can object too much

As the CR official if you can not ascertain who started first?
What are you going to do ?

I will highlight this. WHAT EVER restart you choose, it MUST fit the reason for your stoppage . You do not take a DFK/PK back and walk it out to an INDFK outside just because you think the PK is too harsh and you are uncertain. You might sell impeding and ONLY an INDFK from inside the PA but if that is the decision, then that restart is correct for THAT decision. Your foul recognition could get reviewed if there are assessors in attendance

Weigh in all the parameters including previous match antics! Yes the LOTG DEMAND a restart but you can gauge that restart more or less as an one off moment!
If you determined that both were at fault equally, but perhaps one was often at fault earlier you might lean the restart to be a greater deterrent to his actions even if you felt you needed to card or caution both.

As a CR you obviously go to the ARs, the 4th, the VAR & gather the actionable & allowable neutral information you are uncertain on but can use their input to help determine an appropriate outcome.

However, at grassroots generally the guy or gal in the middle, will have to go with their best gut decision as play MUST be restarted even as both teams will be screaming it's the other teams' fault.

In judging if both players are guilty of some form of misconduct be it cautionable and yellow or VC SFP and send off thus red that needs to be dealt with.

Now deciding which act is the worst or which occurred first?

In the very very rare chance that the two players started EXACTLY at the same time, one say a reckless challenge the other a VC strike then the VC strike is the restart you could go with as the LOTG state .

Yet if you are certain that player 1 started his crap before player 2 started their crap. Then the restart will be attributed to player one's actions. All other actionable misconduct by player 2 occurs AFTER! In this case a caution to team 1 player & a DFK in team 2s favour even as you send off the team 2 player for VC!

At one time a DB restart for an event undetermined could be a get out of jail card but the reality of match play today is PICK one and make it stick!

With ADVANTAGE we can upgrade the DFK outside to a PK inside an example could be a player's shirt is pulled and held outside the PA by a defender. The attacker struggles and fights his way into the PA . The defender retains his hold continues pulling. The PK is a better result from the same continuing foul. Another example could be a defender makes a direct throw in to the keeper who is outside his PA and grabs the ball anyway with the hands, that is a DFK for deliberate handling NOT an INDFK for illegal handling.

In your situation I find it easy to break it down

Player is fouled 1st!

THEN retaliation

NOT simultaneous! NOT occurring at the same time.

1st FOUL is reason for stoppage and determines for restart.
Any misconduct associated with the foul dependant on the severity of the challenge. Reckless is yellow card, if it was a 2nd yellow then a red card send off player

Retaliation is MISCONDUCT ONLY, if considered as VC, red card send off player
Restart remains the same for the 1st foul!

Learn to look at things with 360 degree focus – not just your own! Look at what others might be seeing. How is that different from what you’re seeing? Communicate with your team of officials Did they consider what happened before, during, after? What is the likelihood of A happening? B happening? How likely is it that there have been other factors impacting the situation that you are not aware of?

Question everything! “Not just “Why did they do that?” – also, ask “Maybe this made sense at the time, but not now?” Questioning without judgement is a key factor in successful situational awareness. Practise listening to what others say just as much as relating what you think .

We have some cognitive biases. The implications of which need to be factored into our awareness of situations. Unconscious bias affects your view and potentially your team.
In order to effectively engage in situational awareness, make logical decisions, and look to the future with a strategic focus, the subconscious must be engaged and assessed.
Put simply, situational awareness should be open to a variety of perspectives and insights. When those WT?? moments occur we find a ready response


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Larry
Thanks for the question.

Truly simultaneous offences are rare and certainly ones that require different card sanction. A truly simultaneous offence would be say a player handling the ball on a double touch offence. The handling as the direct free kick offence would be the more serious offence that is punished.
Older referees will recall that the Law called for a DB when the offences were committed by separate players at the same time yet most never used that and made a judgement call on who they thought committed the first offence.

On paper it is fairly easy yet in the heat of a game with two players making a challenge for a 50 / 50 ball it can be very difficult to separate them with differing sanctions.

The key message for me is that the more serious offence is punished that is in the example cited the red card offence.

Now you know that it is a judgement call as to whether a particular challenge is a caution or a dismissal. I describe those as a "orange" card type challenge. So while it is easy on paper in reality it is more difficult.

What makes the example somewhat easier is that one player has challenged for the ball in a reckless manner whereas the other has struck the opponent in the same situation which is violent conduct and not serious foul play.
More likely to happen is a reckless challenge followed by retaliation which is a caution for the challenge and a red card for the violent conduct. I don't think I ever saw violent conduct on a reckless challenge.
The scenario posed by IFAB will look to the referee and indeed most others watching that the violent conduct needs to be sanctioned with a red card and that will be expected while the reckless challenge will not attract as much attention but nonetheless is deserving of a card. I suspect though that some might perhaps pass on the lesser sanction in a red card situation where there is violent conduct as part of the challenge. It is much easier for a caution for a reckless challenge followed by a red card for violent conduct yet the restart is for the 1st offence

I remember a particularly difficult game a number of years ago and there was one player who was putting himself about in a manner that required me to speak to him about his conduct.
Some time later on a 50 / 50 ball that player and another lunged at each other. One of those moments where one gasps as to what is the likely outcome. Now to use a phrase it was six of one and half a dozen of another type challenges yet I could not let it pass so I blew the whistle and awarded the free kick against the player I had spoken to and I cautioned him. He was none to happy about it yet I told him that he was already warned. I spoke to the other player and told him to calm down and that if he came to my attention again he would be carded. I had no more problems after that.
Now both players committed the same offence of a reckless challenge roughly at the same time so in many way the decision was not correct. It was however for me the "best" decision for the game given the way play had unfolded up until that point. Had I not spoken to the player previously I would have decided which of the two challenges was more deserving of a foul or for that matter the least questionable.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Larry,
Two offences occurring at the same time means exactly what it says. The two offences must occur at exactly the same nanosecond. There cannot be even the slightest time difference between them. If there is any lag whatsoever (no matter how tiny) between them, then they are not simultaneous offences and whichever one occurs first must be penalised.

This is why, as my colleagues points out, truly simultaneous offences are exceedingly rare.

For what it's worth, as I interpret the question, it is not about two offences occurring at the same time involving the same two players, it's about a reckless foul being committed by a player on team A at exactly the same time as a separate incident where a player from team B strikes a different player from team A (not the one committing the reckless foul).

Again, I think this is something that is extremely, extremely unlikely to happen, whether it involves the same set of players or different ones. In fact I would go so far as to say that the only time most referees will see truly simultaneous offences is when one player commits them both, for example a second touch offence which is also a handball.

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