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Question Number: 35207

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/8/2023

RE: Adult

Roy Agyei of Burgess Hill, West Sussex Great Britain asks...

In 2016 Arsenal were playing Swansea in the English Premier League In the 70th minute Granit Xhaka was sent off for tripping an opponent somewhere near the half way line. It’s what is usually called a professional foul. Instead of the expected yellow card, Xhaka was given a straight red. At the time it was explained that because Xhaka could not and made no attempt to play the ball that this was a red card offence. Since then I have never seen any other player receive a red card for this type of offence. Players pull shirts and arms and trip players and all they ever get is a telling off or a yellow card. Is this now just a yellow card offence and that Xhaka remains the only player ever to be red carded. I hope my explanation of the scenario and my question makes sense. I realise it was some time ago, but it has played on my mind whenever I watch a game. Thank you.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Roy
Thanks for the question.

Yes I recall the incident well which can be viewed at 2.40 on this video

There are a few other red cards for cynical fouls in that compilation so Xhaka was not alone. The Ralls one is a similar offence which ends up as red. Some ended up as cautions with the most recent one of Anthony should have been a red card in my opinion.

Now the Xhaka one was certainly a cynical foul and the Swansea player was injured by the kick type trip. Perhaps on another day with another referee it might be considered a caution yet that would be not taking the correct decision in my opinion.

The red card was for serious foul play which is any tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play.
So while excessive force was not used a referee could and did determine that it endangered the safety of an opponent. The player has no intention whatsoever to play the ball, he can't play the ball and his sole intention is to bring the opponent down. Barrow the Swansea player took no further part in the game after the challenge so it did injure and endangered the safety of an opponent which is a dismissal.
So while Referee Jon Moss did not know that Barrow was not going to take any further part in the game he certainly knew that the foul had all the ingredients of a risk to injuring an opponent.

I suppose the modern game has less tolerance of cynical offences such as offences that deny a goal or goal scoring opportunity or offences that the game has a dislike for.
Now there is a long way between cynical arm pulls, shirt pulls, blatant blocks unless it gets into the denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity situations and this kick trip of an opponent.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ron,
I think perhaps you are slightly misinformed about this type of challenge only ever having been punished by a red card once. I can remember several almost identical challenges that have resulted in a sending off for the player involved. Now, it is true that whenever an attempted trip like this is punished with a red card you almost always get some pundits claiming that it was harsh. However for me in many if not most of the cases, the challenge was overly forceful and/or endangered the opponent to such an extent that I thought the miscreant most probably deserved the dismissal that came their way.

I distinctly remember these incidents because they always engender the exact same debate about how players normally only get a yellow card. A good example of another one where the player got a red card for this was Felipe of Atletico Madrid with an overly dangerous, cynical trip on Sadio Mané of Liverpool in November 2021.

This was admittedly in a UEFA game but there have been several similar in the English leagues as well.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Roy ,
Your question makes perfect sense as the game is continually evolving to consider the, what if moments?
As my colleagues noted, unfortunately cynical play is not uncommon and the breaking up of a promising attack as the professional foul is in fact a blatant cheating effort that in ice hockey would result in a penalty rush, one on one with the goalie. Just like there is no effort to win the puck, when there is no effort to win the ball, how or better yet WHY? should you excuse the outrageous behaviour only as USB ?

Perhaps you are aware the LOTG regarding DOGSO were altered? So when a reasonable challenge for the ball inside the defenders' own PA results in a foul that denied the goal scoring opportunity, the resulting PK restores the scoring opportunity! Only a caution show the yellow card was mandated -IF- the referee felt the challenge was a reasonable effort to defend and win the ball, not a SFP or violent effort and not on a challenge that had nothing to do with the ball at all like a jersey neck choke pullback '

We often talk about safety and the need to minimize dangerous play as even a clean simple tackle can unsteady a player to come crashing in a heap, breaking, ankles, legs, arms etc...

If we use the same metrics that is now used in the PA to NOT show a red card what about using the same reasoning as to the nature of the incident and how it relates to normal play? Seeing the senseless danger in a debilitating action act that can ONLY end badly for the opponent? There is no PK to even it up! The distance for DOGSO is likely too far to declare with certainty if any of the 4 the criteria is met. The chances of an injury are certainly present given cowardly attacks generally from behind or stiff armed create hard falls.

Law 5 allows the referee discretion as to what constitutes the NEED to do something as opposed to being TOLD, it MUST be!

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