Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 31779

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/12/2017

RE: MLS Professional

Kenneth of SAN DIEGO, CA US asks...

How much leeway can/should be applied to the definition of serious foul play.

The clip at 3:33 shows a defender unabashedly, completely cynically, holding and pulling down an attacker on a promising attack. However, I believe that the foul goes way beyond the typical application of denial of a Promising attack-yellow.

Let us assume we accept the referee's decision and Simon's judgement that there was another defender that could have stopped the goal, thus negating the DOGSO red. I still feel as though the player deserved a red. It is one of those calls that I would think the attackers would expect and the defenders would not really object to that much. (relatively speaking).

But the only allowance in the LOTG for us to interpret this as a red would have to be SFP. IT's not DOGSO or VC, but we could interpret it as holding with excessive force using a very liberal definition. Basically making the argument that the defender used every once of strength possible to stop the attacker in an unfair way, thus using excessive force.

This would seem to be a spirit of the game decision more than anything. It was a foul play, and it was serious. Thoughts?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Kenneth
Thanks for the question.
Let us deal with the easy part first. It is not serious foul play as excessive force has not been used. It also certainly did not endanger the safety of an opponent. It is a cynical pull back.
The referee then has to judge whether the foul met the four conditions of denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, what we call the four Ds
They are
# distance between the offence and the goal
# general direction of the play
# likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball
# location and number of defenders
All four must be present
Now I would opine that the first three are certainly present and the doubt hinges on the last one. That factor hinges on the timing of the foul as I do not believe the foul happened until the pull back by which time another defender was coming across plus there was a fast moving defender also about to get involved at the ball. The referee could be clearly seen motioning towards the #7 player as he believed that his presence did not make the opportunity truly obvious.
As always it is a matter of personal opinion and some will agree with the call, others will not. It certainly cannot be SFP so it is solely a DOGSO question.
Now I believe that some referees may try to find the reason to go with the DOGSO due to the nature of the foul that is not giving any benefit of the doubt. I think there is a few seconds in there where the conditions may have been present had there been a foul in which case the red would have been justified. I think at lower levels of the game the decision may be easier due to less speed and mobility of opponents plus the review of the decision is not going to be as challenging as in the Pro game. I read a Senior Group referee who opined that grassroots referees should not base their learning or decision making on what they see in the Pro game. If there is a sending off here it has to be a DOGSO, nothing else.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Kenneth,
holding is generally not considered as SFP unless we are talking tight lining the jersey around the neck and putting the opponent on his backside as a form of striking and violent conduct. It is certainly an act of USB given there is no real challenge for the ball itself and can certainly create DOGSO circumstances. There is from what I see a series of holding fouls it could be said the player was pulled, fought to get free , did so momentarily , apply advantage, then was pulled again, then grabbed and only then tripped after a third action so a double caution yellow = red card is not with out consideration. The DOGSO element was there I think right at the beginning. If we consider the initial contact as a foul initially so he could not get away then the trip as a 2nd action . Given the spectacle unfolds over a few seconds it permits time for the intervention of other defenders.
It is always difficult to outthink a CR in real time given what we think in slow motion replay armchair mode but this was designated as not DOGSO and only cautioned for USB. His match his decision, his reputation

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Kenneth,
Doing as you say and assuming for a moment that DOGSO is not a consideration, let me turn to your main point about whether this can be considered as serious foul play.

The Laws of the Game contains the following:

''Serious Foul Play - A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses
excessive force or brutality ...''

Based on that fairly clear and unambiguous statement in the laws, I don't really see how you can garner enough leeway to consider the kind of holding being discussed here as SFP.

I can sympathise with the viewpoint that sometimes the particularly cynical type of holding that we see seems almost worthy of a more severe punishment but I just don't see a justification for it in the Laws as currently written.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 31779
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.