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Question Number: 33162

Mechanics 3/19/2019

RE: Under 17

steve of houston, tx usa asks...

If a fight (not mass confrontation) breaks out in a youth game should you be physical with players to break them apart? Obviously in a mass confrontation situation your crew needs to just record numbers. But if say two youth players are fighting, and you're a grown adult who can pull them off of each other to stop the fight, should you do it? And would it be any different in an adult match?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Steve
it is usually a very bad idea for a referee to physical restrain or intervene against players at most any age. The parents of the kids could freak out, or coach even younger teens or young adults can be so aggressively undisciplined they will swing away at you .

Youth we can generally intimidate them to stop by a piercing whistle, body language, voice command & presence. Adults we try the same and depending on our character it can be enough but best to watch observe and be aware of everything! Do not get drawn into just the altercation of the 2 individuals as the benches and other field players will come barreling in like express trains at times!

At the adult level the worlds best Pierre Collina was one of the few FIFA refs I ever saw get away with pushing players apart

If say a player was face stomping or eye gouging I could imagine myself likely to push or pull them apart but then at just under 6 ft & 250 plus lbs I tend to be able to pull this 0ff easier than say a 18 year old 160 lb teenager.

I have on rare occasions physically laid my hands on a player or two in my time. One was to escort a player off quickly as his actions were about to precipitate a huge crisis after a nasty tackle. I literally forced him of the field into the change rooms so quickly the impact was diminished . He was red carded and in fact never player the rest of the season .

In youth I have advised coaches that rather then red card fighting or players involved in a tussle that substitutions and cautions could work better then send offs, assuming the incident was not too outlandish where red was the only possibility .

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

LHi Steve
The advice is not to get involved physically with players at any age. It is advised to get to the situation quickly and to take disciplinary action to prevent it happening in the first place. Generally if it has already kicked off the best advice is to try through the use of the whistle and voice to try to get the players to desist. Sometimes if the circumstances allow it the referee can find an opportunity to position himself between the two players particularly once they have bern pulled apart by team mates.
The reason it is never a good idea to get physical is for the following reasons
1. The referees personal safety can be compromised.
2. The referees will have a poor view of what else is going on particularly if it escalates or something happens behind the referee.
3. The players can take exception to anyone being physical with them.
Now we have all seen senior referees perhaps try to separate players. Some referees have a big presence physically and just by moving into situations can have the affect of separating players. Some referees can be in the police and military and it is part of their training to handle these situations in a certain way. I have watched EPL referees like Howard Webb who was a police officer isolate players and move them away from confrontation without it looking like being physical.
I myself am not comfortable doing that so I just use the whistle and voice and positioning to try to quell the matter. I leave it to the teams to separate players.

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