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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 35431

High School 4/4/2024

RE: High School Team Varsity High School

Amy Clabaugh of Clear Lake, Iowa USA asks...

During first half of game, player A (captain of team) yells at his teammate to "SHUT THE #$&@ UP" as his teammate was being unsportsmanlike. Player A captain immediately is given red card.
No warning at all. Is this normal or a rule in high school soccer? He shouldn't have used the swear word but he was trying to be a captain to quiet the unruly teammate.

Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

Hi Amy,

The high school rule concerning offensive language which the captain shouted is NFHS Rule 12-9-2e. This rule states: "A player, coach, or bench personnel shall be disqualified (red card) for committing serious foul play be using insulting, offensive, or abusive language or gesture."

The "SHUT the #$8@ up" is considered offensive language when it is shouted out so that others, especially the referee can hear. It does not matter that it was directed at the captain's own team member. The rule does not require it to be directed at an opponent.

Having lived in Iowa and worked both Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls Athletic Union Games, I do recall that both groups expected officials to be very strict concerning offensive language.

By the way, I worked many Clear High School Games when I lived in Forest City. I always enjoyed working Clear Lake games, because of sportsmanship demonstrated by the coaches and parents. Hopefully, Clear Lake will get to play in the state championship game this year.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Amy,
The demands & expectations the schools placed upon kids to act with nobility and sportsmanship are worthy goals but some times the reality of the Laws or in this case RULES can be applied strictly.
If the referee did choose to react to the outburst it is certainly within their rules and procedures to show the red card and send off the player.
Is it fair?
In my opinion, not really, but there are STATED and ENFORCED consequences to actions taken on the pitch. I might have cut the kid some slack if I was the referee but the attitude of that player might have been called into question earlier and told to mind his P's and Q's.
It is sad that the captain, in trying to quell one ugly issue by the team mate, wound up being sent off simply responding to fix one thing but unfortunately using loud public vulgarity!
This places referees in difficult positions even if they understand. Context is a meaningful consideration, so in my opinion, the how & why should play a part. If seems odd though, just the captain was sanctioned give the explanation? .You did mention that USB behaviour was in plain sight as well?

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Amy
Thanks for the question.
FIFA games and NFHS game differ in certain applications of the Laws and Rules respectively.
NFHS games are played in a school setting and as such the use of swear words can be strictly sanctioned with a card.
FIFA games have a more lenient approach on swearing although for some it can still be considered for sanction.
Punishment for specifically using foul language was taken out of the FIFA Laws of the game as far back as the 1997/1998 season following a complete rewrite of the Laws. The wording of the sending-off offence was changed from 'uses foul or abusive language', to 'uses offensive, insulting or abusive language'. That was in response to the prevalent use of swear words in society in general with referees ignoring foul language and only punishing when it was abusive. Many stricter referees cautioned for loud swearing while others either ignored it or spoke to the player to *watch their language*. The law change tidied it up in FIFA games.
So in a FIFA game your example would unlikely to be sanctioned with a card. It would more likely result in a warning about swearing or maybe a caution for unsporting behaviour by a strict referee particularly if a player was already warned or the shouting was affecting match control. It makes no difference who the words are directed at which could be a team mate, opponent, spectators, technical staff etc.
It is however a different matter in NFHS games.
So in this NFHS game the referee implemented the rule as set out in Rule 12-9-2e.
I have refereed many school games including 2nd level and college level games and I know that if referees are asked to deal with certain matters in a particular way that is what gets implemented. Some referees may decide otherwise doing their own thing which is always difficult to deal with yet as Referee Manjone attests to that if referees are asked to be strict on foul language that is what should gets done.
Yes it is somewhat unfortunate that the captain got sanctioned for trying to deal with a team mate and his use of foul language results in a red card. In someways the sanction may not have fitted the offence yet if that is what the Rule is and everyone heard the loud swear shout the referee has to implement what is asked.
I also think that when players play both codes that it can cause problems in that say the player says the same in a FIFA game or hears the same that it is not sanctioned as strictly.

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