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Question Number: 35558

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/2/2024

RE: Competetive Adult

Gabriel Barraza of Nogales, Az USA asks...

What happens when a player from another team threathens to shoot and kill you during a game?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Gabriel, are you serious?
There have been referees attacked and killed by knife and gun as well as beatings, so I do not arbitrarily dismiss such an outrageous claim.

If it was a public threat?
HEARD by the referee?
Not only is he dismissed for VC, shown the red card and all that entails depending on circumstances. I'd report it to the police where likely criminal charges could be filed! In fact the safety potential to abandon the match if there was such a hostile attitude is quite likely!
A match report with the relevant details might even have the culprit banned from play or the league once it is reviewed by the competition authorities or the associations disciplinary coordinators? If an actual weapon was produced? I can only shudder at the chaos!

The difficulty in any threat of he said, she said, incidents is if a referee does not hear it what can be done? Zidane was insulted, head butted the player, got tossed, the other player NOTHING. Referee had no information and did not witness or over hear anything. It was the 4th that saw the incident of the headbutt but knowing it was provoked and proving it are much different.

Retaliation often gets caught more than the incident that triggers it! It is not uncommon to slag one another and try to mess with another's head space. My opinion as a man, to be so threatened, is basically an assault! Do we flee in terror, get mad and retaliate or ask for help?
While not every threat is verifiable or carried through, ones like this could create
abandonment considerations due to the melee that could result after such a provocation! Such a comment, no matter how angry one might be, has NO PLACE on the soccer pitch! EVER! Stay safe!


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Gabriel
Certain verbal altercations between players can be extremely difficult for referees to deal with. Most times what is said is not heard by the referee and as such the only action that a referee may make is to speak to both players and deliver a stern warning on conduct.
In situations where a referee hears the offensive, insulting and abusive comment the player is dismissed and shown a red card. The matter is reported and the matter dealt with by the appropriate ban and fine.
If the words used threatened the safety of participants a referee could abandon the game. Sometimes it is just trash talk with no real intent.

Where it is not witnessed or heard a referee would have to evaluate the situation and most likely decide to pay close attention to the players who were alleged to have been involved in the verbals.

I once had a manager complain to me that one of his player was verbally abused during the first half. I told him I did not hear anything nor did I see any obvious incident where it could have happened such as players squaring up. I put the opposing manager on notice of the complaint and I said to both that I would be paying close attention to these players in the 2nd half. Nothing happened in the 2nd half. What transpired in the first half I have no idea what was said. Perhaps it was swearing which unfortunately is fairly common place.

Throughout all sports sledging has become a problem and referees find it difficult to deal with as it is never plainly heard. It is covert and it happens when a referee is well away from the location of the players. A referee can and should report such incidents that have been brought to the referee’s attention in a match report yet Leagues find it difficult to deal with as there is usually player accusations only and no 3rd party proof. For such instance referees could not send off players for something they did not witness or hear.

Having said that I also believe that the burden should not always be with the referee. Both teams have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a sporting manner. If your team threatened to walk off due to the threat what would be the reaction? What responsibility has the team officials in controlling its players.
Clubs can also report such matters to the League who then will seek the opinion of the referee. The alleged offender and the club could be brought to a hearing to hear that side of the accusation. It may result in a denial that it happened and with no independent proof it is more than likely to be unproven. A repeat by another club might raise serious concerns that it is happening.
At the highest level there has been a number of high profile cases where lip reading of TV video were used and that evidence used in the disciplinary process. A player in the EPL was banned for 8 matches and fined heavily for racially abusing an opponent with the words captured by lip reading.
The referee on the day just spoke to the players and no action was taken.

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