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: 32608

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/30/2018

RE: Competitive Under 17

David Israel of San Jose, CA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 29295

Regarding I have a son playing up an age group and so maybe biased but I am increasingly perplexed why soccer allows any contact from behind a player. First there was FIFA's failed attempt to have rules about tackles from behind. But even if a player is just shielding the ball I don't understand why bumping is routinely allowed. Demanding a referee determine 'trifling' or not at the upper levels seems unnecessary - almost all the contact from behind is a foul.

The benefit of the doubt currently seems with the defender unless the attacker makes a particularly good show of falling down on contact. For younger players or smaller players like Neymar we end up with the effectiveness of that player varying from game to game depending on referee interpretation. Particularly at the youth level this ambiguity is destroying technical player development. Players must either be super strong or super fast and shielding is a lost art.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
One of the challenges that referees constantly face at all levels of the game is mismatch between players. Nothing I like more is two evenly matched players giving and accepting physical contact.
Whether we like it or not soccer is a contact sport and there is always going to be contact between players. the test is to interpret what contact is fair and legal and what is not.
So when shielding not all contact from behind is a foul. The shielding player has to accept that there will be contact and it is up to the referee to determine if that contact is illegal or not. It should also be noted that shielding players also engage in some illegal contact such as holding off with an arm.
I would say that most referees have zero tolerance on careless or reckless contact from the rear.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi David,
Association Football (soccer) has always been a game that involves a certain amount of incidental physical contact between players. It is not an object of the game but is an inevitable part of the way the game is played. The referee is not simply deciding whether contact is trifling, rather whether the contact is careless, reckless or uses excessive force. Whether the contact is from the side, from the front, from an angle or from behind, the same three considerations apply. It is true that a tackle from behind can be more dangerous as the opponent does not always see it coming and so can't always adequately protect themselves or take evasive action but for me, shielding still is a part of the game.

When I was a coach we used to have whole drills teaching players how to shield the ball and I would say they were some of the more popular drills with our players. Learning to use your body weight and position to hold onto the ball, hold off the opponent and retain possession for your team is one of the essential skills in soccer and I hope it will remain so.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32608
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

The following questions were asked as a follow up to the above question...

See Question: 32615

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.