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Question Number: 28855

Law 8 - Start and Restart of Play 10/15/2014

RE: College

john of Madrid, NY USA asks...

Can the referee penalize unsporting conduct and award an indirect without giving a card? (If, in the referee's judgement, the free kick will accomplish the desired effect as he feels the addition of a card is too harsh.)

Answer provided by Referee James Sowa

No. If the referee stops play without giving a foul or misconduct, this would fall under the description of stopping the game for 'any other reason' and result in a dropped ball.

I am not quite sure what you mean by Unsporting behavior though. If the referee thought it was a foul, they should award the foul. A card may or may not be necessary. If the ball is out of play already and unsporting behavior occurs, the restart is whatever it was prior to the behavior. If the referee stops the game specifically to deal with the behavior, a card should be issued and the restart would then be an IFK.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
No that is not possible yet it does happen unfortunately. The most common example is where the referee stops play for an unsporting shout by a player and rather than issuing the card the referee just goes with the IDFK. That is wrong in Law. If there is no offence or a card issued then there cannot be a free kick restart.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone


The answer to your question is no. If play is stopped for a behavior that a caution is given, the referee is to give the caution. If a behavior does not merit a caution, the referee can warn the player at the next stoppage of play, and the restart would be for that which resulted in the stoppage.

Please note that College does not use the term, unsporting conduct, instead there are seven types of behaviors that the referee is to penalize by caution. (Rule 12.5, Cautions on Pages 55 & 56). You are most likely referring to the occurrence of one these which as indicated in the rule are to be penalized by a caution.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Under NCAA rules where the referee stops play to chew out or warn a player who has not committed a foul, the restart is a drop ball. There is one exception: if the ball was in the possession of the keeper at the time play was stopped, then the restart is an IFK for the team in possession.

The referee cannot decide to award an indirect free kick because that seems 'more fair.'

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi John,

The only answer is 'no'. If it's not a foul but still serious enough to stop play for, then it's still serious enough to card. If not that serious, then the referee can manage the situation verbally.

Awarding an indirect free kick for something that isn't elsewhere listed in the laws without issuing a card is an error in law.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi John,
a referee can not rearrange the laws to suit his sense of justice only apply the existing ones in the spirit of fair play. t is not possible to stop play for an act of USB and not show a yellow card cautioning the player and restarting with a free kick.

The only correct restart if you stop play to bawl out a player but not card is to do a drop ball. Better think very carefully! Do you really need to do this? Consideration of utmost importance here is where is the ball is if you stop to do this! A drop ball could be done say just to the keeper so he can use his hands to punt it out but you would have to orchestrate the proceedings in such a way as to eliminate controversy as nothing prevents an opponent from challenging. Best have a terse word on the fly or a more involved harangue at a normal stoppage to set a player straight if you do not want to show a card.

Certain leagues have bylaws or clauses which sit players out for brief time periods so it is recognized that a cool down at times is good and with UNLIMITED Substitutions a wise referee COULD mention loudly to a nearby coach their player was looking very yellowish and could really use a rest!

The referee can not tell the coach he must substitute as that is a tactical decision! Yet a referee, making it plain what the consequences might be if the coach chooses not to, is a consideration to joint management of fair play and I think most coaches could respect that.

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