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Question Number: 27935

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 10/24/2013

RE: High School

Rick Suntag of Rockaway, NJ USA asks...

Simple foul, caution, or send off?

Ball is in the blue team's penalty area and is played high in the air. As it drops, a red (offensive) player attempts a bicycle kick, misses the ball, and kicks a blue player who was standing directly behind him in the mouth. Blue player drops like a rock to the ground with a head injury. Red player likely had no idea the blue player was there when he performed the bicycle kick.

Looking at section 12.3 (careless, reckless, excessive force) of the ATRs:

'Careless' indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play. Clearly this is true, so we have a foul.

'Reckless' means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage. This does not appear to be the case - movement was natural (bicycle kick) and was designed to play the ball, not intimidate the opponent.

'Involving excessive force' means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball AND has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm. The attacking player was taking a shot on a bicycle kick, so the level of force should be considered reasonable. He has clearly placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.

My question on whether to send off or not lies in the word 'AND' and the determination of 'far exceeded the use of force necessary', so my question becomes -
simple foul, caution, or send off?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Rick
There is no definitive answer on this and it is up to the referee to judge each situation on the circumstances at the time. Everyone wants to see skill and the bicycle kick is exciting to watch. However it must be done in such a way as it does not pose a risk of injury to opponents.
Now without doubt it is a foul and in my opinion, a caution for being reckless when it results in a kick to the opponent. Now whether it gets elevated to a dismissal depends on factors that the referee takes into account such as whether it was foolhardy and did the player know the risk and high probablility of injuring an opponent. Also did the opponent contribute to the incident say by his movement.
I recall Robin Van Persie getting dismissed for a high kick into the head of an opponent in the Champions League while playing for Arsenal against Thun FC.
This is what the Arsenal manager said about the incident
'' 'He (Van Persie) got a high ball, and never saw the opponent, never looked somewhere else than at the ball - it was an accident. For me, it is never a red card.''
This is what the Thun manager said.
''I thought it was unlucky, 'I said to my player 'that was pretty hard' - but Ljubo does have a black eye and you can see stud marks, so from that point of view, it was a red card. But I would not say Van Persie did it on purpose.'''
The referee when he weighed up all the circumstances felt that Van Persie had endangered the safety of an opponent which is a dismissal. Perhaps another referee might just go with a caution. By the way Arsenal did not appeal the one game ban that was given by UEFA to Van Persie for the sending off for serious foul play.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

It certainly is a foul. The question for the referee is whether is should also be punished as misconduct.

Sendoff. Was this serious foul play? The referee should consider: the speed/force used; any indications that this was intentional; the aggressive nature of the action; the opportunity to play the ball; the position of the player and inability to control the body once the player left his feet; and the atmosphere of the match. We send off the player who lunges into an opponent with both legs in the air and no chance to play the ball because it endangers the safety of the player. A bicycle kick in which the attacker had no realistic chance to ever play the ball could be treated similarly. My experience, however, is that the bicycle kick attempt usually fails because the defender moves to head the ball - - had the defender not acted, the bicycle kick would have been successful.

Caution. In amateur play, this would be the likely default judgment of the referee. The kick was executed in a reckless manner, and the card is likely to protect the attacker from retaliation by the teammates of the one who was injured. Again, the atmosphere of the game will give the referee clues whether the players viewed the conduct as unacceptable. The players in a professional match may view this as 'just soccer' but amateurs rarely will.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

From your description I see no mention of the defender doing anything other than standing there. A well executed bicycle kick is something we all enjoy watching. It's also fairly rare that a high school player can execute this maneuver safely and the fact that he missed the ball with no interference from the defender leads me to believe he probably should not have attempted the bicycle kick as his skill sets weren't up to the task.

To me, this elevates beyond reckless and we have an opponent kicked in the face. Of course it's a 'you have to be there' situation, but my inclination is this is serious foul play and the attacker should be sent off and shown the red card.

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