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Question Number: 29082

Mechanics 1/3/2015

RE: Select Other

Richard Medvitz of L.A., CA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 29072

Can someone please clarify Referee Gene Nagy's response to this question? I had understood that, indeed, 11 consecutive fouls against the same player is likely persistent infringement. Is that not the case?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Richard
There is a difference between unsporting behaviour and persistently infringing the Laws of the Game. If its the players first infringement then obviously it cannot be PI. It can though be easily unsporting behaviour based on the fact that the player has targeted an opponent as part of a team effort.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

A team ganging up on one player - multiple fouls by different players against one opponent - is certainly unsporting behavior. It looks like persistent infringement, but the caution is for unsporting behavior.

A twist to this: If player 1 fouls opponent 1, player 2 fouls opponent 2, player 3 fouls opponent 3, ... all the way down to player 11, and it happens in a relatively short time frame (not spread out over the whole game) that isn't persistent infringement. But it certainly could be construed to be unsporting behavior if the referee sees it as a pattern.

In either case, the ref should state that a pattern of fouls has been observed, and it needs to stop, NOW. Don't promise that the next foul is a caution, that's only digging a hole for yourself. But make it clear that the fouls have to stop.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Richard,

Many fouls against one player is often referred to as a form of Persistent Infringement (I've heard it referred to as 'Team Persistent Infringement'. While the argument could be made that PI could be stretched to cover this interpretation, I think there's an easier way to cover this situation).
While the persistent nature is something referees should be aware of - and get tough if it's clear that one team is trying to foul a particular player out of the game - the correct sanction would be Unsporting Behaviour.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Richard,
Admittedly I think we are talking red apples and green apples instead of apples and oranges here. PI = persistent infringement!
As a TEAM tactic PI focuses a series of fouls by different players on a notable opponent to intimidate or try and slow him/her down! So YES it is the case, you are correct in understanding that 11 consecutive fouls against the same player is most definitely persistent infringement. In fact it sounds more like a medieval vendetta! br> A singe team mate tasked with defending this great opposing player could be easily identified for PI if he was the ONLY one doing the fouling or if in fact he was simply the only team mate doing ANY fouling at all against any opponent. He shows up on the referee radar being involved on a regular basis thus present front and centre in the memory banks. Whether he fouls only one opposing player 3X in a row or simply fouls three different opposing players in a row it is PI/

Fouls scattered throughout the match by different team mates against a single opponent makes this tactic no less unsavory just more difficult to spot. PI as a team tactic tends not to be noticed until 5 to 6 fouls where a single individual committing the fouls it is 3 or 4. Particularly when fouls are close together as opposed to spread out say one every 15 minutes. An astute referee can realize and perhaps focus in on the tactic and take the corrective steps necessary if he can realize the time in between fouls may stretch over the whole match as opposed to a series of fouls over a short time.

When I refer to PI as a team event and that next player is cautioned for USB it is a calculated targeting of an opponent with the idea of individual players from one team regularly fouling an individual of another team.

When I refer to PI as a cautionable event by a single player it is generally a series of fouls against any number of opponents or a single opponent usually in close succession, none of which might be cautionable as reckless on their own.

I am trying to grasp what level of misunderstanding is present? If one team fouls their opponents by taking turns fouling each and every opposing player in order it seems rather ludicrous as a tactic. Who knows if any tackle might not be reckless as opposed to careless? Deliberately creating a series of soft fouls like interference or a hold away from play is not uncommon to prevent speedy attackers from getting away from their mark.

Tactically fouling opponents is generally a last resort, but the foul is deliberately inflicted usually when defenders are desperately trying to prevent attacking opportunities .

Where I see a certain tactic like a reckless foul in the first few minutes of a match it is a common myth held by some players that a referee is somehow reluctant to show a card so early. Mind you some referees buy into the myth as well sigh.

The training and experience to isolate and focus collective details in foul recognition is as much art as science and an element of luck of either the CR or ARs/4th being in good positions to see and smart enough to recognize what is going on!

I recall calling the captain of a certain team over after a striker was tripped for the third time in about 6 minutes by 3 different defenders. I told the captain I was very unhappy at the PI tactic of targeting this player if I see this player having to pick themselves off the deck again there will be consequences. True to my word, the very next tackle I show a yellow and caution for USB. It was the player's first tackle of the match, it was another trip and it was done because the player with the ball was in fact very good with the ball at the feet and frustrated defenders felt the only way to stop this player was to foul and only give up a DFK before the player could enter the PA to draw a PK.

I have shown a yellow card for a reckless tackle 30 seconds into a match as well as a red card for the slide tackle from behind that followed moments later. The first was surprised I could caution so early the second was more surprised as the felt they owed the other team for that first harsh foul and I should just show yellow reckless. They were the only 2 cards I showed in the match.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The question is not whether this is misconduct, but how to report it. If the same player commits multiple fouls, the caution is reported as persistent infringement of the laws. It a team targets the same opponent, the caution to the player who committed the last foul (even if only his first foul) is reported as unsporting behavior.

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Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy


Perhaps we can think of it this way. There are no 'team' fouls or misconducts (cautions and send offs) in the game. Only players and substitutes can be found guilty of those two puppies. In other words, a player cannot take the fall for what the others have done.

Let's say the 11th player fouls an opponent, who has been fouled by ten different teammates of the player committing the foul. Yep, sure enough, the team has indeed persistently committed fouls and they all happened to be against the same opponent. But all of the bad boys just fouled once each! So there were no players, who fouled more than once and therefore, simply none of them could be accused of persistent fouls. So we have a problem. What can be done?

A 4th Division team is playing Manchester United in an FA Cup game and Eric Cantona is to be stopped by any means. One foul, two fouls, three fouls, all against Eric! The referee cannot let this go on because people came to see the best player in the league. I can tell you, he will not wait till he was fouled by 11 players and see him carried off on a stretcher. He will have a quick word with the captain that this must stop. Next foul on Eric, the player gets cautioned but not for persistent fouls but for unsporting behaviour. (Well, in those days it was called ungentlemanly conduct but we have come a long way since those days...)

Game management. That's the real question here. It is true that in a way the last player, who fouled Cantona and who gets a caution is actually taking the fall for what his teammate have done but by that time. the referee has identified the problem and warned them against the unsporting practice of "targeting players". He is not cautioned for the foul so much as for the fact that he has been caught in unsporting activity.

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