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Question Number: 33353

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 5/15/2019

RE: Select Under 15

Thomas of Citrus Heights, CA United States asks...

In my scenario there are two players who have been going at it a bit too aggressively with the arms and hands on 50/50 balls. They are both doing it equally and so I have not called a foul on them yet. I have verbally warned them twice. On another fight for the ball they both escalate to a reckless manner in which both of them simultaneously start pulling on each other's jersey and are practically wrestling for the ball. This is clearly cautionable for both players but there is no telling who initiated it and they are doing the exact same thing so there is not one foul that is more serious than the other. I cannot allow this play to continue and both need a yellow card. How do I handle this? If I blow the whistle and give both of them a caution, what is the restart?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Thomas,
As we have often said in answer to similar questions, it is very rarely the case that two offences both start at the same exact nanosecond - one will almost always start to occur first, even if only a tiny fraction before the other. I think that in many if not most cases, the easiest way to deal with this is to decide which player started their offence first and penalise that one.

Having said that, if you really can't decide which came first (or didn't see enough to judge) and consider them as truly, truly simultaneous then the laws tell us that when more than one foul occurs at the same time, the referee:

''punishes the more serious offence, in terms of sanction, restart, physical severity and tactical impact''

So even if the two offences are the same in terms of sanction and restart as in your example, you can still try to differentiate between them on the basis of which player is being more physical. Again, the chances are that one of them will be being slightly more physically aggressive than the other, even if only by the smallest margin. Finally, if you still can't separate them even on that basis, you can go to the final tie-breaker, 'tactical impact.' As explained in the FAQ that accompany the laws, this means that:

''an offence which stops an opponent's attack is more important than one which ends a player's own team attack''

So basically, in a manner similar to what many people see as the prevailing philosophy behind some of the recent changes in offside, you are giving the benefit (and the free kick) to the attacking team.

As to the restart, that depends on the nature of the offence - in your scenario where there is physical contact, it is a direct free kick (or penalty) to the opponents of the player you decide has committed the more serious offence using the criteria given above. As you say, and based on your description you should almost certainly be cautioning both players.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Thomas
Thanks for the question
At one time in the laws simultaneous fouls by two opposing player was restarted by a dropped ball. I did see it used once or twice at Underage although most referees considered it as weak officiating. That is no longer in the laws and referee Grove quotes the current advice.
Now we know that offences between opponents do not happen simultaneously. There is always a first mover as they say. If it is truly close with no way of determining then give it against the challenger who is trying to stop an attack.
Now we have all been in these situations. I recall a similar situation a few seasons ago and both players were being aggressive and strong in the challenges. I spoke with one of the players and warned him about his conduct. A few minutes later both players lunged equally into a 50 / 50 and it was one of those tackles that makes one wince. Anyway I picked out the player I spoke to and awarded the foul against him to which he was not too pleased. I could have cautioned both yet I decided not to caution either. Very soon afterwards I had to caution both for separate offences.
As to cautioning together for the same incident that is generally not a good idea although at times it has to happen such as what you describe here. Nothing wrong with a caution for the foul and then one for the aggressive afters. The experience here is to know that this conduct is perhaps not going to stop by these players without a caution and the best way is to caution on the first opportunity.
In your instance I would give the restart against the player for the first caution issued. The advice there is to pick out the initiator of the incident generally the challenger. I usually use my gut instinct as to the main offender

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Thomas,
under the old LOTG we would use a drop ball as the restart but as REf Grove points out FIFA / IFAB have reworded to force a decision. The fact you want to caution these guys for doing what they are doing means they are obviously not listening.

I am not in favor of a double sanction then give a DFK or PK away for something I am unsure of. WE can caution the tackler for the reckless and the recipient for retaliation as USB once we make a decision. So at the initial coming together was either in a better position to challenge? Can we assume it was not a dead ball and both were facing it from 2 feet away. In other words could you have made an earlier decision rather than wait until both are so embroiled as to be unsure who is fouling who? Many times I see just a slight pull or re positioning of the player who was at a slight disadvantage do just enough to get even up without a serious significant obvious foul. Then the both dig in with the arms grabs & holding & pushing . The advice to pick out the the challenger is more right then wrong 90% of the time.

The LOTG do allow for referee who gets contact with the ball to award a drop ball, inside the PA it goes to the keeper, if you could wrangle a way to get hit with the ball, inside the PA drop to the keeper & caution the two miscreants. lol That is a joke, not a serious solution.

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