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Question Number: 35340

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 1/26/2024

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

Hi all.

Here's a link to a FB discussion over a challenge where the White player knocks the Red player over, without actually going for the ball.

Many players say it's a foul, as the White player seemed only interested in sending the opponent to the ground. The ball was destined to be a White throw-in, so the contact was not needed.

On another FB discussion, a poster challenged that 'going for the ball' is not required, as long as the ball is within playing distance. He asserted that the Laws do not require an attempt to play the ball... just that it be in a playable distance.

The phrase 'tacit understanding' has been used on this site, to cover things that aren't spelled out in the Laws. Do we tacitly understand that this play was a foul in certain leagues, but fine in others?

In this video, at the point-of-impact, the ball is within a long step of being playable. The Red player goes to ground so easily because he has not readied for the surprise(?) challenge and hasn't braced his left foot for the impact.

Before White's tossing of the ball, I'm going with a 'fair challenge' and maybe a quiet word for the White player to "lighten up" if his ruggedness is out of step with the rest of the game. It appears that he may be a 'A' player in a 'C' game.

The ball toss may be elevating him to Yellow status.

Your thoughts? If we're whistling for the rugged tackle... are we going straight to Yellow? It wasn't merely 'careless' if we are seeing it as a foul.

Thanks as always. We're back on the pitch tomorrow, after Christmas and snow shut-downs.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Barry,
I kind of agree with your versions!
Except the ball was potentially available to red BEFORE it eventually exited into touch. The ball was moving fairly slowly and there could easily have been a challenge forth coming near the touchline. You are spot on in the deconstruction of the events and how you might have approached it if indeed you saw it this way but, it was in my opinion, at best only careless, it was not reckless or excessive, it was in my opinion, more of a physics call because of the disparity in strength. The shoulder to shoulder charge is not an easy one to time, as it cannot be into the back, nor should the arm go chicken wing or push away in an obvious manner.

We are somewhat tainted when we review from an angle the on-field referee might not have had. The fact he dragged his leading arm into his mid section, was in my opinion, to not push with the arm but to block with the shoulder as that arm did not swing free. That red player was smaller and off balanced so that impact had a dramatic effect that looks harsh!

With the apparent knowledge it would be the white player teams' throw in, he knocked over the red opponent with a well timed hard challenge , allowing the ball to roll out into touch? If he had only shielded it, say by spreading out the arms in a holding pattern, that too might be considered a foul. That decision though, is not part of the foul conjecture of the referee, who's only concern should be, "Was it fair?" Given the dismissal of the call with the backflip of the ball away down the touchline, I readily assumed the referee called it a foul. Only the referee in that match can explain what he saw from his vantage point. Perhaps he saw arm movement and a separation that was in his opinion, a push charge rather than a coming together shoulder barge where the larger massed player simply out muscled the off balanced slighter player?

Admittedly not completely sold from this camera angle but perhaps on the FOP from out in behind play we cannot be sure what we think we would see. Who can say if the player was or should not be booked for delaying the restart by tossing the ball away? In cases like that the referee may be feeling the foul was a bit iffy and along the lines of the physics call where we tend to punish bigger players for knocking over smaller ones and decided NOT to punish the obvious dissent? So too as single incident, we might be unaware if it was a clamping down to prevent things escalating further!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
Thanks for the question and the video.

Looking at these video clips in isolation never tells the whole story. The referee could be struggling with match control, could be on the case of the offender who has already been spoken to, the referee has seen other arms movements by the same player etc etc. All sorts of reasons for the call.

Anyway my take on it is that these can go a number of ways and it is very much in the opinion of the referee on the day.
My view on it is that there is more of a push with an arm rather than a fair charge with all that entails.
The referee has a great view as he is looking between the players and I suspect he sees the un sleeved arm / elbow move towards the opponent rather than shoulder to shoulder. If you look closely enough the White player raises the left hand upwards and then makes an elbow movement down with the left shoulder coming away from the opponent.

While it might resemble a fair charge it is not and in my opinion it was a correct call.
I watched Tottenham v Man City in the FA Cup on Friday night and the referee called a similar offence against De Bruyne as he knocked his opponent to the ground over the goal line.

One can argue that it was a careless charge worthy of a free kick and ultimately it was the referee’s decision on the day. There is more arm use than shoulder so I am of the opinion that it was the correct call.

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