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Question Number: 29108

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 1/17/2015

RE: School Adult

Rachel Doerr of Chester, Uk asks...

During a game; a paid referee awarded a free kick (which resulted in a goal) as during play my son shouted to a fellow team mate 'Your Ball'.

To my amazement this was awarded as he Should not of shouted it. Really??

Can you confirm this was a Legal ruling decision please.

Rachel Doerr

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Rachel
Frequent visitors to this site will know that this type of question is raised regularly. Unfortunately a myth has developed in the game that saying MINE, LEAVE IT without the use of a name is a technical offence punished by an indirect free kick. There is no such offence. Communication between team mates is legal and indeed a part of the game.
Now there is an offence of verbally distracting an opponent during play or at a restart which is a caution and the restart is an indirect free kick after the yellow card is shown. Examples would be where a player unsportingly says LEAVE IT to an opponent who duly obliges or shouting MISS IT, ARGHH etc to distract an opponents attention say at a penalty kick. Clearly those are unsporting behaviours for which the player should be punished by way of a caution.
Now a player shouting your ball or pass it or whatever which is communication between teammates is not an offence and should not be punished. What has happened here is a referee has heard a shout without the use of a name and has incorrectly called an IDFK offence only. The test of the decision always is whether the shout / words merited a caution. If there is no caution there cannot be an IDFK. The myth is perpetuated by such decision and by players being told to *put a name on it*. *Your ball Joe* would never be punished whereas *YOUR BALL* was incorrectly called as an offence.
The game is finding it difficult to eradicate this myth as more than likely the referee will call it again in the future.

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Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy

There are constant verbal communication between teammates during a game. This is clearly part of the game. But if the player uses his voice for the sole purpose of misleading the opponent, it is regarded as unsporting behaviour. It is the referee who decides if the whether it was unsporting or not. So to answer your question, it is indeed a 'legal' ruling because in the opinion of the referee, something unsporting happened. He may have been wrong in coming to that conclusion but nonetheless it was legal. He is authorized to form his opinion.

Letting out a shout just as the player is about to kick the penalty shot would be a clear example. Your example does not fit the 'unsporting behaviour' with which the player seemed to have been charged. I cannot imagine how a 'your ball' would mislead or be intended to mislead an opponent. My conclusion is that the referee has bought into the myth of just saying 'my ball' or anything similar is not allowed.

Probably the best way to handle this situation is call the referee-in-chief of the league and ask him to discuss this situation with the referee.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Rachel,
The referee's actions are not following the LOTG but a version of his personal preference!
As a coach I like the use of a name by players i.e. "Richard's ball" to help communicate better as a tactic but saying words like, mine, I got it, or my ball, are not in of themselves an offence. As far as I know free speech is alive and well even in the UK.
However, in the UK it is little wonder that this verbal impeding myth is active because I watched a former EPL referee Jeff Winters in a premier men's match here in Alberta Canada award an INDFK for the exact same thing and no card was issued. When asked, he said it was best for the match to award the free kick, because the players expected it but not necessary to caution. I was as flabbergasted then as now, even if I get that in a recreational match such an action might be ok for match control despite against the LOTG.
In truth perhaps the verbal impeding, if it actual stops an opponent from challenging should be worded into the LOTG as ONLY an INDFK but as it stands currently, it is a form of USB, like screaming Arghhhhh! into an opponents ear and thus a caution show the yellow card.

What is said is not the real issue, how and why and effect it has is what is judged for USB. I had a player cup his hands like a mega phone and screamed his name directly into an opponents ear 'JOHN'S BALL!' Mr. funny guy was cautioned shown the yellow card awarded an INDFK to the other team and I ripped a strip off him a mile wide. I nearly showed the red card and sent him off as it was close to being in my opinion, a violent act.


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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

In high school play, a deliberate verbal tactic is unsporting conduct and a caution (NFHS rule 12-8-1-f4). The restart would be an indirect kick from the spot of the infraction (NFHS Rule 13-2-2l).

If this was a high school game, the referee would have to decide if the yelling was a deliberate verbal tactic done in an attempt to confuse or impede the play of the opponents, the referee should then caution the offender and have him/her leave the game and award an indirect kick.

In your example, the referee must have determined that a deliberate verbal tactic occurred, and if this was a high school game, your son should have also been cautioned.

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