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Question Number: 35250

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/25/2023

RE: Competitive Under 15

Jose of Miami, Florida United States asks...

I am aware that a SPA (Stopping a Promising Attack) is a cautionable offence. It is not, however, altogether clear to me which considerations a referee must make before determining whether a SPA has occurred. I would appreciate if you could add further clarity to this topic.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jose
A tactical offence is a deliberate act of foul play intended to bring about an advantage for the offender and a team . It usually involves a defender committing an offence in order to prevent opponents from advancing the ball into dangerous attacking positions. Other considerations include speed, such as moving forward with pace into an attacking space in front of the player with the ball to dribble, pass or shoot and/or space in front of other attackers who could receive the ball and that either the player with the ball has options to take on opponents or has other teammates to pass the ball to.

The key here is that these considerations relate to a promising attack which has the possibility of becoming a promising attacking opportunity, and not simply every forward movement.
The considerations are generally distance from goal, direction of play, and number of opponents.
So let’s say a player gets past an opponent on the wing and that player has thirty yards of space to run into yet the opponent pulls the player back or down to stop that happening. That is is an SPA. Another example is that a ball is played over the top and a defender knows that if his opponent gets the ball it is going to start a promising attack in a favourable position so the player reaches up and handles the ball away. That is an SPA.

For me most referees see any egregious attempt to thwart an attack in the attacking half as possibly an attempt to stop a promising attack developing.
Watch any Pro game and the pundits will talk about situations where players commit an offence to halt play and that the player has taken the card for the team to stop a promising attack.
The interesting part is that if advantage is played on stopping a promising attack the offender is not cautioned.
Just watched Man City v Liverpool and McAllister attempted to pull his opponent back to stop him entering the penalty area with the ball. He failed to stop him and the referee played advantage which resulted in a good chance on goal. Restart was a goal kick and no card. If play had been halted it would have been a direct free kick and a caution for SPA.

Now do referees get those correct all of the time and plainly the answer is no. I have seen referees failing to caution for SPAs simply because they did not see it as such and believed it was just a minor offence or felt it was not the beginning of a promising attack.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jose,
overall it is still in the opinion of the referee as to what constitutes SPA criteria! By holding on and general passing and probing while in possession of the ball whereby one team is using up the match time to get into good positions and set up the attacking play is not viewed the same as creating tactical possibilities to breakdown defences effectively . The more direct pressure in and around the the PA results in attacking possibilities with a shot at the goal in mind creating the need to foul an opponent from doing so,

The professional fouls, deliberate tactics designed to thwart the opposition and give time for team mates to get back and defend. Beaten defenders' last ditched slide tackles and trips have a bit more credibility than say a shirt pull or a reach up and swat the ball deliberate handling. One foul is challenging for ball possession or at least giving the appearance of doing so, the other, is a tact admission the dude is not going anywhere, show me the card and lets get on with it!

The type of fouls NOT related to actually challenging for ball possession are adjudged differently as the intent here is clear. "Thou shalt not both pass!" Either the ball or the person, but not both . These are USB or reckless violations and if DOGSO criteria is met the punishment upgraded to red card send offs no matter if in or outside the PA. Not just SPA as
a need to intervene simple frustration creates it's own criteria where iffy tackles are made in trying to regain ball possession.

SPA offences can certainly be, careless or reckless type tackles for ball possession. Challenges that imply a reasonable challenge to win the ball, have SOME merit. Yet they often fail to convince the referee it was not a SPA foul, just a normal mistimed tackle. Some of that is experience and foul recognition. It tests the referees understanding tactically how a game is played.

Inside the PA, there is no DOGSO, if a PK is awarded, as the PK supplants the lost opportunity. As stated if advantage is applied to an foul event OUTSIDE the PA but the advantage is conceptually realized & occurs, that caution is no longer carried forward. The idea being the foul did NOT stop the attack, did it!

Of course if there is SFP or VC involved while we might let play continue if the ball was headed into the goal. Red is the only colour of card shown.

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