Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 35432

High School 4/5/2024

RE: High School Team Varsity High School

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

This question is a follow up to question 35431

More context I maybe should have added - the comment to his teammate occurred while he was coming off the field and not heard by spectators or even the other teams players.
The teammate he was talking to had just been reinstated for a red card from previous games and known to have unsportsmanlike language (is one of his friends). I understand the rule but to not have a warning first when other language was being used prior by other players seems a bit harsh when he was telling his own teammate to stop and trying to keep him in line as the captain. The ref knew that so to me context and intention should have played into the decision. It drastically impacted the outcome of the game which is unfortunate and will likely impact the next game as well since he cant play. The ref then allowed them to still play with 11 people too which we thought was strange. The other coach was also yelling for him to give red card prior when he heard his teammate.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Amy
Thanks for the follow up yet the answers don't change.
It is clear that foul language was used in whatever context and that the coaches know that the use of foul language will be sanctioned. It is a coaching matter ultimately.

As the other coach was shouting about a red card for language it puts pressure on a referee to act accordingly and to implement what is expected.

The lesson in all of this is that foul language will attract sanction and therein is the warning. When I coached teams many years ago one particular referee did not like swearing including in frustration. Part of my team talk before kick off included a warning not to swear as it would result in a card. I said to the players that getting cautioned for swearing put them at risk of getting sent off on a 2nd caution and it was not to happen. They may be substituted accordingly. It had the desired effect.

If a player is red carded the team plays short. If a substitute or substituted player gets red carded the team does not play short yet that player takes no further part in the game. My take on it was that perhaps a substitution was in process hence the decision not to insist on the team playing short. If it was not then again it is up to the coaches to sort the matter out with the referee. If a coach is questioning about a red card I am pretty sure that playing with 11 will not be accepted unless it has a justified reason.

What happened may have been a tough lesson yet in many ways it is a coaching question ultimately. Team discipline is key and a coach should be insisting on foul language not being a factor in a game when it is likely to draw a heavy sanction. Without the use of swear words the question does not arise.

I recall a number of seasons ago a local Pro teams reserves which had young players hoping to progress was playing and I had occasion to caution a player. At half time the coach of the cautioned player approached me inquiring about the reason for the caution and I told him that it was persistent infringement as I had warned the player previously about challenges. He knew that the challenge on its own was not a caution and he said that was no problem yet if it was for dissent towards me the player would not be playing in the 2nd half. Obviously he had instructed his players that dissent was not to happen.
Very much an outlier yet no doubt that these young players were being coached that needless cautions for dissent did not help the team and that it should not happen. I always wondered if those players brought that coaching into their senior soccer careers. I would like to think that they did or at least understand the risk.

I will finish by saying that a young Man Utd player recently got sent off for a 2nd caution after removing his shirt at his goal celebration in the last few minutes of a game with Liverpool. What did he expect? His team played short for that last few minutes plus he missed participating in the next game. Harsh? Had the referee not sanctioned the player the focus would have been on his failure not to caution.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Amy,
The decision of a referee to decide the outburst warranted a red card cannot be challenged given the way the HIGH SCHOOL rules specifically state, it is essentially a no fly zone, and as a matter of respect & control coaches must ensure discipline and players must refrain from swearing.

The confusion I am now having is in the timing?
Was this at the halftime as they were exiting for the break?
While technically the players exiting are still deemed as players with regards to disciplinary actions once into touch over the boundary touchlines as there are unlimited substitutions one might make the weak argument they were being substituted out?

If the referee was in the area DEALING with the teammate also engaged in foul language aside from you mentioned additional USB actions or was it strictly a language issue?? Possibly when the captain has the outburst could the referee have thought it was directed at him?

If the opposing coach is pressuring the referee to red card & send off the team mate for language but then the referee directed that irritation towards the captain for the blatant outburst. It is not permissible for a player to be shown a red card and sent off to not have his team reduced to 10 players, IF, it occurs while the player is on the FOP during the match.
To not consider the Captain as a player but as a substitute, only then is his send off NOT affecting the number of players! !

I have some sympathy, as you indicated there was previous things said that went unpunished yet certain foul words offer some people greater offense. It could be a last straw effect, a cumulative decision to just red card anyone, who said anything. The sad part is we tell our youth to act better than us as adults yet we fail to lead by example far to often. It is difficult that the FIFA/IFAB LOTG interpretations versus HIGH SCHOOL RULES on such things are not adhered to as red card situations unless prolonged personal and persistent. Anyone watching or playing in leagues that do use the FIFA LOTG could be forgiven that outbursts are often seen more as USB and thus slightly surprised at the severity of a high school decision.

Hopefully the young lad & the entire team including his friend who lead him astray that day, figures out for any choice of action, there is a consequence, some more painful than others!

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


Thank you for this additional information. As mentioned previously, this was offensive language which the referee obviously heard since the red card was given. This was a correct call as required by NFHS and Iowa High School Athletic Association Rules. Unfortunately offensive language context and intention do not affect the call. Your player should have used non-offensive language which, most likely, would have worked just as well or even better.

You mention the player was coming off the field. If the player who got the red card was being substituted for, allowing the team to continue with eleven players was because the referee had beckoned the substitute into the game before the offensive language occurred. In this case, the player getting the red card was no longer a player, but a substitute assigned to the bench area. This situation is covered in 3.3.3 Situation F on Page 21 of the NFHS Rules Book.

If the referee had not beckoned the substitute into the game before the offensive language misconduct occurred, your team should have played with only 10 players. Are there any videos of the calling of the misconduct and the giving of the red card? A video could show if the game should have continued with ten or eleven Clear Lake players.

Please remember that high school sports are an extension of the classroom, and high school sports are to provide a learning experience for players. Although winning is a goal, the learning and other positive aspects of sport participation are just as or even more important. My experiences are good example. High school soccer started at my school when I was in my junior year. Because this was a new sport and the first soccer game my teammates saw was the one we played in, we did not win one game in the two years I played. However, those two years of playing provided me with the knowledge needed to continue in soccer after high school and for 66 years as a soccer official, coach, and administrator.

I do know losing the captain who obviously is one of the best players on the team for this and the next game could impact the outcome for both games, but this is a learning experience not only for the two players involved but for the players from both teams involved in this game. They now know offensive language is not allowed and will be penalized by a red card which means missing the next game. Unfortunately, this learning experience comes at a high price for Clear Lake.

I do hope this experience will make your team stronger and Clear Lake will go on to have a great season.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe Manjone

View Referee Joe Manjone profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 35432
Read other Q & A regarding High School

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The free opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>