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Question Number: 33335

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/11/2019

RE: Rec Adult

Brian Lutke of Whistler, BC Canada asks...

I can't find anything in Law 12 that states a foul is nullified if the defender 'touches' the ball during a tackle that would otherwise be deemed a foul. It's frustrating to hear on-air commentators complain of fouls being called after an apparent 'touching of the ball'. Can anyone please clarify if any/all foul(s) are exempt if the defender (in this case) makes contact with the ball while tackling an attacker.


Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Brian
The reason you cannot find it in Law 12 is because it is not there. Touching or playing the ball is not a 'get out of jail card' for committing an offence in a challenge
Law 12 tells us that it an offence to tackle in a careless or reckless manner. So playing the ball and then following through into an opponent carelessly or recklessly is certainly a foul and a card to boot.
Now the genesis of this flawed thinking I believed has it roots in the old Laws of the game which stated
**A direct free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following four offences: # tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball**
That has since been removed from the Laws as it was felt that the wording of touching the ball allowed contact on an opponent to be in some way legal. That was never the case yet it did prevail in the game for many years.
Unfortunately that thinking still pervails in the game. There are times though in challenges for the ball where a defenders gets a foot to the ball to play it away and then there is a coming together of the players through momentum. That is not an offence. There us a huge difference between touching / playing the ball that results in a subsequent trip and one where the tackler has no regard for the safety of an opponent.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Brian,
how things in Whistler?
Do you guys have a team that still travels to Squamish to play on Sundays?

You can not find it in the LOTG because it does not exist! Soccer is a contact sport despite the inferences that it is not rugby, it does involve some hard coming together moments. Especially when players travelling at 20 MPH in opposing or intersecting directions come to together in a challenge for the ball. Now often one player is in the drivers' seat (the better position to play or shield) The other is trying to stop that advantage by assuming that position for themselves in a fair challenge or knocking the ball away in a fair manner.

The issue is what is fair?

AT a full dead run I get to the ball that an attacker has allowed to run a wee bit too far out in front . I use a stiff extended leg sliding tackle, studs out ,coming directly straight on frontally from the opposing direction . I contact the ball, push it into the feet of the opponent, my studs ride up & over that ball. My continued forward uncontrolled momentum drive my cleats into his shinguard twisting it around almost 90 degrees as he is upended and goes flying over top of me, crashing to the ground where he is rolling about in agony holding his shin, covering the large painful purple lump fast forming over the bone structure. Referee comes over and says to him ,'Hmm well he got the ball, you let it get away from you tough luck.

That referee is in desperate need of foul recognition retraining for not recognizing my tackle had zero control of an outcome that was always going to end badly. I should be sent off and shown a red card because at 20 mph and a locked leg with studs extended at 250 lbs I pack a big mass speed ratio of incredible force! Ball or no ball, I had this guy lined up for a trip to the hospital.

The same situation except I remain on my feet, I square up, use the side of the foot to meet the ball and use my body to prevent that ball from getting by me as it is pinched in between us. The attacker falls over the ball and I dribble it away . Referee blows the whistle says hmm you tripped him DFK and a caution for USB.

That referee also requires retraining for not recognizing my tackle had perfect control of the outcome that was always going to go my way because I was set and well positioned to challenge and win possession. The fact I got there and forced a tackle by getting in the way of his forward momentum it is not a foul because we collide on opposite sides of the ball .

Slide tackles are generally TERRIBLE last ditched attempts to win a ball or dispossess an opponent by a beaten defender . Now when executed correctly, great results, great praise, but contacting the ball first is not a licence to carry that tackle into and through the opponent. Even when executed with proper timing, the force used, the direction the speed and subsequent body movements must mitigate the pounding or running over or through the opponent BECAUSE not to do so is endangering his safety. Nothing in this beautiful game permits you to function without regard for the safety & well being of your opponent.

The ball is no longer the focus here the SAFETY of the player is.

My colleague is 100% spot on quoting the old text where the LOTG state 'making contact with the opponent before touching the ball' somehow implied that you can go ahead and make contact with the opponent if you touch the ball first. It certainly is a prerequisite to NOT be a foul to begin with but it is not a blanket insurance policy , I got ball! so I can now run over & through my opponent with no foul as he MUST now avoid me. This is simply a MYTH!!!

I will point out that on many a fair slide tackle by the defender, a disgruntled attacker will use his upright position to step on or jump on a sliding opponent using the excuse he could not avoid him as the tackle was coming into him or felt you, as CR, missed the fact he was fouled, deciding to achieve retribution on his own . The wise referee should be fully aware of the positional reset of a foot coming down, the reduced or extended stride or a twisting motion to drive those studs into the leg ankles of the sliding defender beneath him just as much as that sliding defender might be doing something similar to the upright player.

Although from behind and straight on tackles at speed are usually self evident if fair or foul careless, reckless or excessive (you can poke a ball free from behind through the legs) it most often is the sideways intersecting slide tackles that create the most controversy . Because once a ball is poked free the slide across often wipes out the opponent.

Now the determination the referee is forced to make is is did the attacker who showed to much of the ball fall OVER the opponent who got to the ball first legitimately winning the ball. Was it a Fair challenge?

Or conversely was the defending tackle designed to ensure that upright attacking player was NOT going to remain upright to pursue any loose ball? Was it a foul challenge in it was performed in a careless reckless or excessive fashion?

Just because there is some contact after the ball is knocked away is of itself not a guarantee of good or bad tackle because how that tackle was performed will now be looked at in a fair, careless reckless or excessive functionality. If one or both legs cutting across are extended, toes pointed or only one with the other opposing leg bent at the knee and out in front of the extended leg. As long as these body parts are out in front of the opponent then that tackle unless they decided to drag him down with the arms is generally fair 100% of the time. The arms can not be deliberately used to hook a leg to say stop the upright player from pursuing the now loose ball but if the arms were used warding off the opposing players' knee into your face, given you are sliding along the ground, is not a trip either. That upright player if he does contact you and falls or tries to jump over you & falls notice I say FALLS not trip. Then there is no foul present .

Where we begin to have issues!

The leg extended to play the ball is it out in front of the opponent pushing the ball away or like the front on tackle, is that leg locked with studs out carrying on through into the body of the player via his ankles or feet shin or knees even hip, waist, chest or head, seen it all at some point. The other leg, is that knee bent or do we see it slide in behind the opposing player's legs to scissor and ensure he is tripped? Or the foot is used in some manner where it is jammed into the opponents vulnerable body parts ?

Yet in a fair sense we look to see once that leg makes ball contact is the sliding player attempting to bend it, pull it away dragging the ground trying to stop? Is his other leg bent at the knee and are his hands trying to cushion the impact not ensure the contact? We can see the bailout as a reasonable effort to minimize any additional contact and that will help see it as fair not guarantee it mind you, as speed, direction, was it a jump in with two feet, a slippery wet ground etc.. these all factor into the decision because going to ground is RISKY!!! You simply have very little control.


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