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: 32560

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/1/2018

RE: 8

Chris Thomas of Fairfield, CA United States asks...

What has changed in the Laws of the Game that allowed a yellow card to be issued to Denmark during their match with Croatia when a goal scoring goal opportunity was denied by a penal foul in the box? More importantly, how did the VAR referees not see that as a Red Card?

Prior to VAR, one could say that the ref got the call wrong. Not so with VAR. FIFA has lost all credibility.

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Chris,
What has changed is the amendment saying that when a DOGSO offence is committed and a penalty is awarded, the player is only cautioned if the foul was an attempt to play the ball. The change was brought in two years ago, with slightly different wording but currently reads:

''Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offender is cautioned if the offence was an attempt to play the ball.''

Now, I would say there has been some debate around whether this was a truly genuine attempt to play the ball or not. I think that while it was a challenge that looked like it might have been an attempt for the ball, it might equally have been intended simply to bring down the player. However even if that were so, I do not think it was a ''clear and obvious error'' to see this as an attempt for the ball and so it would not be subject to VAR review.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Chris
One of the great challenges that IFAB the law making body has had is communicating law changes to the wider public.
Over the past 10 plus years or so there had been calls that the triple punishment of a penalty kick, a red card and a one game suspension was too harsh and that change needed to take place. That change took place in 2016 with a significant change to Law 12 was made where in the case of a award of a penalty kick in a clear goal scoring opportunity that the referee should issue a caution if the player makes a genuine attempt to play the ball. It is still a red card if it is a pull back, a deliberate handball or no genuine attempt to play the ball.
In the Denmark game the player made a genuine attempt to play the ball, in fact he came very close to playing the ball away so the referee as per the law gave a yellow card.
The thinking behind the change was that the penalty kick restores the goal scoring opportunity. Had the penalty kick been scored there would have been little complaint about the decision. Now this was a particular outlier situation and one that happens very few times where a foul clearly and without doubt prevents a goal. Most times it is not so clear with a doubt that a goal would be scored without the foul.
Had the same foul happened outside the penalty area it would have been a certain red card.
Final point is that it is IFAB responded to what those the game were asking for which was to amend the triple punishment. There will always be outlier situations in any change yet this has been in operation since 2016 with little if any complaint so far. I have seen other situations that in my opinion were less of an attempt to play the ball yet there was little if any complaint as the penalty was converted and the foul was somewhat less of an obvious denial

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Chris,
the change in the LOTG came about 2 years ago when they altered the wording to diminish the punishment of a defender, who, while trying to play the ball, fouls his opponent inside the PA . MY astute law interpretive colleague Ref Grove has given you the correct wording already. This is a discretionary call based on the opinion of the referee as to the excessive nature or reckless nature or careless nature of the event. As a DFK foul there WILL BE a PK so an OBVIOUS opportunity to score HAS been returned. Given that under the old laws the player would be sent off AND A PK awarded it was decided that if the attempt to challenge was a reasonable attempt we could lessen the impact on the game by only cautioning the player rather than red card and send him off while still awarding the PK. It is still possible to BE shown the red card & sent off if the tackle was say excessive for SFP rather than or there was no serious attempt to play the ball thus an actual DOGSO . A tactical shirt pull for example is a red card for DOGSO as there is NO attempt to play the ball where a slide tackle that knocks the attacker off balance in trying to poke the ball away would only be a yellow card.
The fact that this tackle would not be subject to a VAR review is the CR is still in charge of deciding the nature of the foul if he has seen it. In awarding the PK and cautioning he has indicated to all he had a clear view.


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32560
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.