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Question Number: 35120

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/28/2023

RE: Pro Adult

Ross Jeffery of Doncaster , South Yorkshire England asks...

Hello! Whilst watching Arsenal v Tottenham in the English premier league on Sunday I noticed a player (Gabriel) shouting at the spurs player (Son) in an attempt to distract him while attempting his shot on goal. The Arsenal player was running directly behind the Spurs player and would have been heard. Son did score to make it 2-2 but I wondered what should / would have happened if he had missed because he had been distracted by the shouting?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Ross,

Verbally shouting to distract or deceive an opponent falls under Unsporting Behaviour, meaning it should be punished with a yellow card and an indirect free kick. If doing so affects a shot on goal when there's an Obvious Goalscoring Opportunity, then this would be a red card - though you probably wouldn't see this unless there's a clear impact.

On the pitch at stadiums like this it's very, very loud - it's likely that the referee didn't hear it. Heck, even Son may not have heard it.

At this level, rightly or wrongly, referees have a lot of pressure to not make significant, game-changing decisions that aren't clearcut to everybody. Because of that, I'd be very surprised to see this penalised at this level, though I could be wrong.

At lower levels? Referees don't have the pressure of how the game is sold to televised audiences, so have a bit more freedom to apply the laws as written and intended.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ross
The Laws include an offence of verbally distracting an opponent during play or at a restart. The offence is punished by a caution and an indirect free kick. If the offence denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity it is a dismissal and the restart is still an IDFK.
An example would be shouting at an opponent to LEAVE IT who obliges and the ball is lost. Obviously unsporting behaviour and it should not be confused with communication between players just because a name is not used which is not an offence.
Also if a player uses offensive, insulting and abusive language in a game it a dismissal and the restart is an IDFK.
All verbal offences are punished by an IDFK

Now in this example it is unclear to me what happened. If it did happen the correct decision is to play advantage and then caution the offender. In a packed stadium with loud crowd noise it can be difficult for the officials to pick up unsporting verbals certainly from a distance. Pro players are well used to shouting and the only shouting that offends them is racist shouts.
The only players that can say for certain what happened are Son and Gabriel. Gabriel could be shouting at his goalkeeper to come out or indeed if could be unsporting. Son certainly does not react in any way to it and he goes off to celebrate in front of the Spurs fans in the corner. Without any certainty of what was said the best decision was to award the goal and leave it at that.

At park level it might be easier to pick up on a *quiet* pitch so the referee has the option to deal with under the law depending on what happens and what was said. The restart if play is stopped to deal with a verbal offence is akways an IDFK

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ross,
As my colleagues have pointed out, if the referee decides a player is guilty of verbally distracting an opponent, the sanction is a caution followed by an indirect free kick, or if the offence denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity it is punished by a red card (with the restart remaining the same).

However, as they have also pointed out, it's not clear what Gabriel was shouting and Son still scored so there was definitely no DOGSO offence and possibly no offence at all.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Ross,
at the pro level, to be distracted from shooting on a clear scoring opportunity best find a new profession.

There is indeed potential USB for verbal diarrhea but it would have to ne noted as game changing, directly impacting language where it affects the opponents decisions or ability to play. THIS is different than, foul or abusive targeted language, with is considered the same as violent conduct and thus the player shown the red card & sent off, reducing the team by a player

Now going up into a crowd to challenge for a ball, as a coach I asked my players to put a name on it, to communicate better, than saying "MINE or I got it! because that is exactly what that cry is about, NOT a cheat to fool opposing players. There was a persistent myth that to use words like (MINE! or Let it go or I got it) was an automatic INDFK. That is not the case the opponent must be unfairly affected. These words are communication orientated not deception.

THAT said, there is no verbal impeding LOTG but there are marginal USB actions that could taint fair play proceedings! As noted by my colleagues, there is more of this at youth level, where an aggressive youth might yell, Argh!, into the ear of a smaller opponent as he was chasing him, perhaps similar to your EPL scenario.? I even had a fellow cup his hands like a mega phone and scream into the ear of an opponent, MIKES BALL!

In both cases I cautioned the player and awarded the INDFK. There was no chance of a goal being denied, which if it was, a red card could be shown for DOGSO, however, the restart would STILL be an INDFK, not a DFK or a PK!
In the EPL case you mention, given a goal resulted it might be best to let it lie and have a quiet word. As there was no yellow card shown after the goal stoppage before the kick off I suspect the referee did NOT apply advantage so much as common sense.

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