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Question Number: 35256

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/27/2023



Guys, I need your help. This happened to my team (U16) twice, and on both occasions, the referees made diametrically opposed decisions and offered me diametrically opposed rationales. In both instances, an attacking player from my team had possession of the ball on the offensive side, when a defensive player deliberately grabbed his jersey and attempted to pull him down. My player was able to free himself, continue his run and pass the ball to a teammate who proceeded with the attack. The referee applied the advantage law in both instances. However, after the ball was out of play, on instance 1, the referee cautioned the defensive player who attempted to stop my player, and, on instance 2, the referee did not. I asked both referees why. One told me (instance 1) the attempt to stop the play was so obvious that the player deserved the YC even though he applied the advantage. The other (instance 2), said that the foul was obviated (in his own words, "became non-existent") once the advantage was applied, and thus, no YC was warranted since there was no foul. Who is right?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Fred
Thanks for the question.
The correct answer is that when advantage is played on an attempt to stop a promising attack the caution is not issued. This was Instance 2

In the case of Instance 1 the referee interpreted that the offence deserved a caution due to what he termed as an obvious unsporting act meriting a card even though it did not have the intended outcome.

Technically Instance 1 might not be a caution as advantage was played and realised yet I can see what the referee’s thinking was.

Now we also know that a referee can still caution for an offence even when advantage has been played. The card is issued at the next stoppage.

Have a look at this video
Advantage was played by the referee and he cautioned the Ajax player for USB at the next stoppage. One can consider that the pull down was somewhat reckless and therefore deserving of a caution.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Fred,
Without knowing exactly what the reasoning processes of the two referees were, it's difficult to be sure, but strangely enough, it's possible they were both right.

Working backwards, I'll take the second scenario first. What the referee was probably referring to here, was the fact that while what the player was doing would normally constitute stopping a promising attack (SPA), since the advantage was played and the promising attack was not in fact, stopped, then there is no SPA offence.

Law 12 has a specific clause for this, as follows:

"If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution/sending-off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution/sending-off must be issued when the ball is next out of play. However, if the offence was denying the opposing team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour: if the offence was interfering with or stopping a promising attack, the player is not cautioned."

However, in the first instance, what the referee may have decided (and seemingly did, based on your description) is that even though a promising attack was not stopped, the offence itself was so egregious that it still deserved a caution (possibly for unsporting behaviour or for a reckless challenge) in and of itself, the provisions about stopping a promising attack notwithstanding.

I have to say that still cautioning the player even after playing the advantage would be relatively unusual and depending on the referee's exact justification for it, might potentially have been an incorrect decision - but only if the referee in question was simply not aware of the passage from Law 12 above. However, looking at what you report the referee as having said, it does sound as if he was not unaware of the clause but decided to caution anyway - as is his right, if he was using the correct justification in law.

Interestingly enough, I actually sent an inquiry to the IFAB about this issue (and a couple of others) when this clause was first inserted. Slightly redacted in order to maintain the focus on just this specific issue, here are excerpts from my question and their reply.

Question. "What if the offence that interferes with or stops a promising attack is a reckless challenge? Should the referee still not issue a yellow card?

Please let me know, thanks.

Peter Grove"

Answer. "Dear Mr Grove

The ‘no YC’ does not apply to a reckless challenge

Best wishes

Name redacted"

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Fred,
each referee has their own experiences and resources of understanding when applying the LOTG .

Cards are a management tool, a rather heavy handed one, as two yellows you are no longer part of the game as is a direct red.

When the LOTG simply state IF that occurs THIS happens, a referee has no choice! The example of a shirt removal after a goal is unfortunately one of those idiotic mandatory cautionable show the yellow card truths!

However, not all circumstances are a MANDITORY showing of a card, where there is room for discretion. In cases where a card COULD be shown, the referee has discretionary power to decide if it is necessary to set a threshold of conduct.

A caution applied to a foul is based on that foul being reckless (unsafe purposefully so) or excessive (dangerous to an extreme) . If it is just careless then it is just a free kick restart.

Yet the term/phrase SPA ( stopping a promising attack) has de-facto declared that even a careless foul is in fact an act of USB and should play be stopped, a yellow card is shown for the what is known as the "professional foul" where the defenders mantra is, Thou shall not both pass! " either player or ball but not both.

It might seem unfair that if the tackle was reckless in of its self, a hard slider that upends the opponent the caution for that is the same as for stopping the attack with a careless trip where the ball is bobbled and lost by the foul but no real harsh contact? In both cases the ball falls favourably to a teammate who carries on the attack. The LOTG stipulate that should the foul FAIL to stop the attack and a scoring opportunity arises from the advantage if applied, we can forgo the caution, as the foul did not STOP the attack as was intended. That is great for the careless foul, makes sense to me, but not so much for the RECKLESS ones that anywhere else any other circumstance would be shown a yellow card .

The LOTG allow for a referee to show a card BEFORE the restart of play for a previous foul's misconduct. In applying advantage, while it is not recommended to do so, in incidents of explosive situations, a 2nd caution or direct red for SFP or VC unless the ball is almost for sure headed into the goal. More of a delay of whistle than no whistle! That conduct is not automatically shrugged off.

Yet the LOTG do ask us to consider doing so at times!
"If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution/sending-off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution/sending-off must be issued when the ball is next out of play.

However, if the offence was denying the opposing team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour: if the offence was interfering with or stopping a promising attack, the player is not cautioned."

Personally I hold the opinion if a goal results to downgrade the punishment and with careless fouls it is easy to ignore the need to caution for SPA if the attack was in fact not stopped. Yet if the OBVIOUSNESS and INTENT is so blatant that the foul was deliberately designed to be reckless or that handling to keep the ball out of the net saved a sure goal but the results of allowing play does not result in putting it right I likely WAIT and see the resulting consquences that we have a goal rather than signal advantage for something that cannot be undone!

The fouls outside the PA are governed slightly differently than that same foul inside the PA! What you say? You are aware DFKs foul outside the PA if they deny the goal or the scoring opportunity even a careless foul is a direct red if DOGSO criteria is met. Yet INSIDE the PA that same foul is pushed to at most a caution if it was reckless and even no caution if the referee felt the tackle was a reasonable effort to challenge for the ball .
A shirt pull or a deliberate handling are generally not seen as reasonable challenges in that they discount the player entirely or the ball entirely. Thus a red card shown to this type of DOGSO is justice! The idea that awarding the PK replaces the lost scoring opportunity hence no send off red card for the DOGSO that foul may have thwarted is best for challenges that the defender made were within reason!

The same here in SPA that tackle in the FOP was very RECKLESS borderline excessive almost SFP or VC. Now a shot gets away and misses or saved is good enough to ignore that reckless misconduct just because an attack continued? The LOTG do say we can ignore it but should we?

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