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: 32064

Other 11/28/2017

RE: Select Under 19

Bill Ark of Calgary, Alberta Canada asks...

From a 34 year coach, 40 year player, Ref 20 years;
It is difficult to watch European, Mexico, Central and South American,( African ?), professional soccer/football with all the Pushing and Holding Interference with arms and hands. This wrecks the real object of the game.

Clearly unfair and cheating but in large part ignored (condoned) by pro referees.


MLS in US and Canada seems to control this easily; players know refs consistently won't allow it there.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bill
Your point is well made and probably a number of reasons as to why that is the case.
Certainly in Europe over the previous 10 years or so it has become a problem in the game. I watch referees intervene before corner kicks, free kicks telling player to desist from fouling and many times it is ignored. Instead referees should be just allowing play to continue and sanction the fouling when it happens. We do not tell players any where else to desist from committing fouls so why at set pieces. I can see the point of stopping something escalating into VC yet that is not what is happening.
This is partly due to advice that UEFA give to referees and I quote
** The illegal use of the arms, particularly prior to the taking of corner kicks and free kicks near goal, has become increasingly apparent. Referees should be pro-active prior to play re-starting at a corner kick or free kick and they should be clearly seen to take preventive action. Conflict can be avoided by taking early preventative action e.g. when players are jostling for positions in or near the penalty area. Players identified should be isolated and given a clear public warning. Where possible referees should use their assistants to ensure the ball does not enter the field of play until he gives a signal for the game to be restarted**
Another factor is that many in the game suggest that if strong action is taken it will result in multiple penalty awards. Yes that might be the case until players get the message that foul play will be sanctioned.
Interestingly referees clamp down on the same action in open play yet fail to deal with it at set plays. This I believe is that games are now so competitive and tight that a penalty decision is such a big call that refs just shirk the decision in the setting of a corner kick, free kick when it is somewhat expected that there will be some level of holding, pulling, jostling etc.
Now it is changing and I see more strong decisions beginning to be taken yet we are still a long way off from eradicating it from the game.
The final point I would make is that what has become somewhat acceptable to the players becomes somewhat acceptable to referees, a sort of acknowledging that it is the players game. There are many actions in the game that go unchecked such as encroachment at penalty kicks, throw ins from the wrong place, six second release, illegal shielding back to the goalkeeper to mention a few that referees do not call as they should. I watched a PL game this week and a most blatant foul close the goal line by a defender shielding the ball over the line was not punished with an AR some 5/6 yards away who signalled for a goal kick. Anywhere else it would have been a stonewall free kick. When Referee Pedersen penalised the Canadian goalkeeper for the infamous 6 second breach in the game v USA she became public enemy number one in Canadian soccer. So cue the defensive mechanism of not calling something that colleagues are not calling regularly and not to be the outlier or the rarity. That cycle of no calls continues until a group decision is made to clamp down on it. The group decision can be a decision made by the Director of Refereeing to the senior group panel.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Bill,
When we say it is the players' game it really does exhibit an excuse to overlook many obvious deficiencies of fair play given if we did try to call them no game would finish without controversy and a plethora of PKS. I can find a foul on nearly every corner kick or free kick in professional soccer yet as it affects overall play that is something I wonder about.

I put in a corner cross that sails overhead and only the last defender manages to give it chase before it exits the FOP and there was a solid push or hold at the near post? What does it matter? There was NEVER a scoring opportunity YET we COULD legally manufacture one?

On a PK keeper holds the line, PK kicker whiff kicks the ball a mile over the crossbar as defenders encroach. What does it matter? YET we COULD legally retake!

Now take the SAME incidents

The corner it is a solid delivery to the near post the holding or push prevents the opportunity to play the ball

Our PK shooter blasts a solid shot hits the crossbar bounces back and is cleared by the encroaching defenders

You can mentally picture the PK and the retake in my last two incidents but would you be so ready to do so in the first two?

I suspect the VAR program to catch out the VC aspects and the offside or non offside good or bad goals in the same way the chip technology solved ball in or out of the goal. Yet if they wish to highlight EVERY illegal push, pull, trip, kick or hold matches are going to be quite tedious.

I find it interesting you give the MLS higher marks for dealing with this? If true it would be a RECENT development. I do know they are diligent in trying to address concerns. But plenty of of incidents still unfold on their pitch at set pieces.

One major issue for me was FIFA & IFAB incorrectly rethinking man management stratagem of an individual referee to reduce their choices by trying for uniform decision making to certain aspects of an ever changing landscape particularly at the WC level with must instead of could responses. . .

I recall the send off for David Beckham after being brutally taken out. The Argentinian player was yellow carded but while laying on the ground Beckham bent his leg and touched the back of his aggressor's leg with his foot who fell over like a dead tree in a windstorm. Rather then get a second yellow for the dive the referee in his infinite wisdom decided to send off Beckham for unwarranted VC. It was the perhaps one of the worst WC decisions of all time. I hold it was unethical in not allowing the referee himself to grasp the significance of the action/reaction but forced the red card based on the pregame push/ talk about retaliation and referee control of setting examples. I watched good referees trying to referee a completely different style due to of directional overrides. I am of the opinion be it right or wrong it is painful to watch decisions made under orders rather than need. It became a critical match incident ONLY, because in my opinion, it was dead wrong to send him off! The match did not need it nor was it an action that screamed for it. A yellow caution would have been the correct example and would have been accepted by all as fair .
The incident of the referee calling out Canada for the INDFK of the too long keeper possession then awarding the DFK /PK immediately after on the next restart is one that players have difficulty with because their desire to win was compromised by a LOTG that rarely is enforced. Never mind that the keeper was warned repeatedly about this prior to the call being made. Never mind the Canadian striker had viciously stomped the USA defender earlier and was not sent off. The unfairness is perception because of the result if the INDFK had gone astray no goal resulted no PK awarded the decision would be glossed over. We rarely hang on to what does not affect us.

As I say Your match Your decision Your reputation but if you wish to referee elite you follow orders, make only nominal mistakes, become tight with those who have the say in assigning and score high in fitness and exams

I recall the Russian referee get blasted because of the Portugal Holland match in which Blatter the bloated, proceeded to claim the match outcome was all the referees fault. All the referee was trying to do was keep players on the Pitch a part of being told what to do instead of trying to referee his own match. I would be down to 9 aside very early on if that had been a recreational match played with the same ferocity and indiscriminate tackles.

You make a poor choice you go under the microscope no matter the choices you made before. The Italy Korea match the referee was on track for best match of the tournament when he sent Totti off for a dive on a 2nd yellow. Now that referee is a drug mule ridiculed and off to jail for match fixing and cocaine smuggling.
It is amazing how quickly you rise and how quickly you can fade off into nothing . My mentor Esse was a great referee and yet HIS defining moment came in the foul not seen but 3 days later otherwise you can be sure his prominence on the world scene would not be as it is now! What we do with our heroes is ALL based on perception not necessarily truth or fact.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32064
Read other Q & A regarding Other

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.