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Question Number: 30181

Law 3 - Number of Players 3/7/2016

RE: Rec Under 19

Peter of Stockton, CA USA asks...


In a recent game we had two players start getting verbally abusive towards each other. The referee yellow carded both players. Now it gets tricky...

I nearly always will substitute a cautioned player, knowing this my player starts walking off and I call for a sub. My sub is standing on the line waiting to go on. My cautioned player gets close but the opposing player has kept up with him and the two of them are continuing their 'battle of words'. As they come close to the line, the AR tells my sub that he can enter the field, which he does. Then the two arguing players decide to stop the words and start running towards each other. My sub (who has been allowed on the field) is the closest and gets between the two now wanting to fight players. Both teams run in and help separate the two players before either of them actually hit each other. The referee gets over and orders both players from the field and asks the coaches to maintain control of the two players.

After a brief consultation with the AR, the center referee issues a red card to both fighting / arguing players. So both teams get to play the remainder of the game a man down.

I feel that the referee did the correct thing for the spirit of the game but my question is this, from the laws of the game, did the referee do the correct thing? Since my sub had been let onto the field of play, does that mean that my fighting player should have been ejected from returning to the game, but my team not have to play a man down since the player had been substituted?



Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
Your question highlights the importance of the referee crew adhering to the correct substitution procedure. The entering substitute should not have been allowed to enter the field of play UNTIL the departing player had crossed over a touchline / goal line . Once that cross over happens the player becomes a substituted player and the substitute becomes a player.
So the AR in this case should not have allowed the substitute to enter until the departing player had left. As the fighting players were still on the field of play both were still players with the substitution not fully completed so the teams had to play short once they were dismissed. So the referee made the correct decision. The error was made by the AR allowing the sub to enter prematurely.
If one looks at the substitution procedure at the highest level one notices how particular the 4th official is about the cross over and timing of the players entering / leaving at the substitution.
Notice in this incident how the 4th official prevents the player from leaving the field of play before the 2nd caution and at the same time does not allow No 30 to enter. As a result the substitution has not been completed so Blue play short.
Had Blue left the field of play with No 30 entering the FOP and the Blue substituted player then committing VC or OFFINABUS off the FOP then Blue would not play short as substituted player and substitutes dismissals do not affect team numbers.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Peter,
thanks for presenting such a clear example of why proper substitution process are essential to a well run match.

Your situation highlights several additional items due some attention, not the least is your intelligent idea of reducing tensions by substitution. Hopefully it is unlimited substitutions to allow time to cool down and re-enter later. In many youth matches I believe it is a mandatory five or ten minute sit out when cautioned designed exactly to cool the hot heads.

Next up the CR and AR must grasp the situational awareness . these two combatants are in far too close proximity. If Cards were shown do not just expect them to walk away, interject your presence and separate, use the captains to help express the concept that failure to desist could result in additional sanctions.

The AR was incorrect to allow your substitute to enter until your player who should be HUSTLING off, has completely left the FOP! Your substituting player could be cautioned for entering without permission or if he engaged in VC, he MIGHT be granted player status or might not . No idea how a CR will interpret such, which is why we DO NOT PERMIT THIS!

I recall a highly competitive cup match when coaching a u -15 team, my highly agitated and aggressive player was involved in a confrontation after a crap tackle by an opponent, they were nose to nose and I knew he was a split second from punching this guy on the nose . I yelled out WE ARE A TEAM! WE NEED YOU! He turned and ran across the field leaving the opponent with a WT?? look on his face fully expecting a confrontation. My kids were on board not to let a personal gripe get then into trouble. We won that match on the 7th shot of a penalty shoot out, my very upset but controlled player scored in the first 5 goals to set us to be able to win and he was pleased to be on the field in victory rather than being sent off in the 1st half leaving us possibly short handed. Youth can control their impulses when they realize they have a bigger stake in responsibility for the team than themselves..

In your situation the substitute is not a player as the exiting player has not yet left the FOP. If he had exited THEN returned to fight you could be correct if the opponent had not left. Once the player exits he is a substituted player and your team could not be forced to play a man down. Bad mechanics can result in bad decisions although I agree the CR was ok in sending them both off and reducing the teams each by a player it might have been a better decision to think preventative and anticipate a bit more. Remind your players the score sheet is where you hurt them the most!


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