Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

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
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
Panel Login

Question Number: 16176

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/31/2007

RE: Other

Nicholas Broderick of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada asks...

These two questions are about charging and when it can and cannot be performed:

I went to and found the following presentation on Law 12 which contained the following on charging.

The act of charging can be performed under the following circumstances:

- Shoulder-to-shoulder (not to the center of the opponent's back), taking into account the differences in height, weight, strength, etc.
- Within playing distance and not using his arms or elbows
- One or both feet on the field of play

It is an offense to charge an opponent:

- In a careless manner
- In a reckless manner
- Or with excessive force

So my first question is: What is meant "by taking into account differences in height, weight, ... ?" Does it ask, for example, that a larger player be less aggressive when charging a smaller player and to not use his size to blatant advantage, or does it ask the referee to be conscious of the fact that, when a larger player charges a smaller player with the same effort as any other player, that the charge will have more effect and to take this into account when deciding if an offense has occurred?

My second question: Excluding the case where a player has patently failed one of the three above requirements in charging an opponent, how would you characterize a careless, reckless or excessive charge? I find it hard to find fault in a strong challenge when the above are met, but at what point should I throw those out and decide a player is at fault for at least a careless charge?

This is the page where I found the above:

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Actually it is almost impossible for players of various statures to FAIRLY charge each other as a taller player will lean down thus push or hold and a smaller player might have to jump up.
A larger mass player may use his size to intimidate or move through a player rather than bump in to him if you catch my drift. While it is unfair to punish a player for being bigger the physics of mass does not undo an offset of equilibrium where you catch an opponent with the inside foot off the ground sending him falling in spectacular but certainly not illegal fashion.
We judge each foul on its own merits, the willingness of the participants to accept a bit of thuggery as fair and when we must say enough is enough. The angle of intersection and the speed of play factor huge in our decisions to see reckless orexcessive as opposed to a careless intervention. In MY opinion shoulder to shoulder means the players are stride for stride in pursuit of the ball jousting each other without the sharp tip, sort of equal force opportunity etc..

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Gil Weber

Nicholas, the disparity in player sizes can cause problems for the referee if the referee allows himself to be distracted and overly influenced by the size differential, and as a consequence forgets the basic criteria of what constitutes a fair charge.

I have witnessed may instances, particularly in boys' games with players about 14 years old, where there may be a foot or more in height disparity. The top of the smaller player's shoulder might be at elbow level of the taller player (or even lower). If those two players go "shoulder to shoulder" it actually means the taller player's shoulder is against the shorter player's head. Now, is that unfair? And if it's unfair, to whom?

Do the LOTG require a stronger or faster or taller player to play with less intensity simply because the opponent is not as big or fast or strong? Of course not. Nobody in the EPL insists that Peter Crouch has an unfair advantage as a result of being 6' 7" tall. And in the recent U-20 WC did anyone expect much bigger opponents to give Argentina's Maxi Moralez (5'2") any consideration? No, of course not.

So to your question. If the players are of quite different sizes then a true shoulder to shoulder charge may not be possible because the shoulders are not at the same level. Then you must decide if it's "close enough." Only you can decide, but I suggest it is unfair to penalize the taller player simply because of his height, and simply because his shoulder is higher than the opponents. If he's trying to play fairly, then let them play.

Now, as to what constitutes a careless, reckless, or excessive charge... you have to be there. I suggest that a fair charge is where the two players come together running in a generally parallel path, with both players close to the ball and with their focus on the ball. However, if one player comes at the other in a direction and with force designed to "blast" the opponent into the next county rather than fairly muscle him off the ball, that's where it rises to reckless and, possibly, excessive force.

Now, simply knocking down the opponent is not what I'm talking about. A slight nudge at exactly the right moment (i.e., when the opponent's weight is on the foot closest to the charge) can send that player tumbling. It takes much more force to knock the player off the ball if his weight is on the foot opposite the charge. What I am talking about is something more akin to a big "hit" in American Football -- something with no purpose other than to smash the opponent.

So, you have to be there to judge. But I would suggest that you be very cautious penalizing a bigger, faster, stronger player who knocks over a smaller player simply as a result of there being a size differential.

Read other questions answered by Referee Gil Weber

View Referee Gil Weber profile

Answer provided by Referee Ben Mueller

Shoulder to shoudler is ok. Recklessly, or carelessly ramming a shoulder or back into an opponent is not ok. This needs to be called and delt with. If it is a natural part of play...fine, but no player should be ramming their body into another player in an effort to play opponent.

Read other questions answered by Referee Ben Mueller

View Referee Ben Mueller profile

Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

The bottom line is a player may create space for him to play a ball by using his body against the body of an opponent. The meeting of two like sized bodies is usually shoulder to shoulder. The meeting of two unlike sized bodies can't be shoulder to shoulder because of the size differential so the players involved, in creating space to play the ball [charging], must use only the force necessary to create the space. Force over and above that necessary changes the fair creating of space [a charge] into foul play [charges an opponent]. If done and timed correctly, Ref Weber alludes to this, it looks like a "thumping good challenge" and the recipient is always on the floor even though minimal force is used!

Another thing that changes creating space to play the ball from fair to unfair is the location of the ball one is creating space to play. If the ball isn't there touching is not allowed! Without the ball creating space is a form of impeding the progress of an opponent and results in an indirect free kick even though physical contact is made. This stems from the indirect free kick offence, prior to 1997, charging fairly, i.e. with the shoulder, when the ball is not within playing distance of the players and the players concerned are definitely not trying to play it.


Read other questions answered by Referee Chuck Fleischer

View Referee Chuck Fleischer profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 16176
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

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 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.