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Question Number: 33618

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/3/2019

RE: Travel Under 13

ED of Cleveland, OH USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 33608

Thank you for the detailed discussion. This confirms largely what I observed, that some youth ref's are taking bright line stances on things that require judgement.

I want to follow up the issue of two players simultaneously shoulder charging a player and sandwiching them. To me this seem reckless (yes, I would give a card, but the only card I have ever seen given in a youth game EVER was for foul language, where the ref gave the card to defend their own integrity, not directly to protect safety of players on the pitch.) I believe there are many situations where the severity of foul depends on what is going on around the ball/player in possession/ etc. Committing in with the shoulder charge without noting the teammate (i.e., 'disregarding it') who is about to shoulder charge from the other side. If it was not intended to knock down the player, I would give a yellow. If the intent (as I say, just as in American football) was to knock over and squash the player, I would like to see a red given. So then there is the question, to which player gets the red. If it is simultaneous, I think both deserve the red. That being a particularly harsh consequence to the side, I would say the player who carried more intertia into the player in possession (larger / faster player must show more appreciation of the damage that reckless play would cause) deserves the red.

Also on the same token, I recall the instructor's explanation of 'dangerous' play when I was getting my ref's license. He said that for youth games, the threshold should be subjective TO THE PLAYER BEING TACKLED. Meaning that when you see players backing away or pulling up off the ball because they are expecting to be flattened, it could be called for dangerous play. I see this happen all the time when the referee doesn't intervene early in the game and allows the game to become a rock-em-sock-em contest. There will be one or two players who will stop contesting the ball when there is a member of the other team in playing / tackling distance. On the other hand, there are also usually one or two players who decided to 'give as they get', which takes the game out of control.

I guess I just wonder if other youth ref's here -- or more to the point, referee assessors -- have the same opinion or is the prevailing viewpoint that the referee should refer to his/her own subjective standard of what is or isn't dangerous?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Ed,
To take your last point first, it is indeed true that (to a very large extent at least) the judgement of fouls is a subjective matter. There is no real objective measure by which fouls can be judged, it is always up to the referee to decide.

The IFAB sets out this principle in the Laws of the Game document using the following wording:

''Decisions will be made to the best of the referee's ability according to the Laws of the Game and the 'spirit of the game' and will be based on the opinion of the referee, who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game.''

I can see that you are motivated by a concern for the safety of players but I think that perhaps you may have to accept that your subjective view of charging in particular is a little towards one end of the spectrum whereas most referees' views of charging practices may be a little less stringent.

For instance, you say that you would like to see red cards given for charging but I am in agreement with my colleagues that red card-worthy charging fouls are actually quite rare. I used to referee a large number of youth games and despite the fairly frequent size mis-matches that were present I can honestly say that in several decades of refereeing such games I never once saw a charge worthy of a red card - or for that matter many simultaneous charges either.

So I think that I would just echo what I said in my previous response that the referee should try (subjective as this might be in the final analysis) to apply the criteria given in the law and penalise challenges that deserve it while allowing those that are not, at a minimum, careless. As I also said in my previous answer, just because a player ends up on the ground, it doesn't necessarily mean that a foul has occurred.

I have to say, I have never previously heard the idea that the judgement of the foul should be subjective to the player being tackled and I really don't believe that to be good advice. The player being tackled will almost always think they are being fouled if they come off worse (and the player winning the challenge will usually believe they have acted fairly). My feeling is that the referee should ignore the subjective views of the players which will always (understandably) be skewed towards their own perspective and judge any potential fouls on their own merit, as far as that is humanly possible.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Ed,
I often predicate my opinion as to how a referee gains respect is based on the concept of its' your match, your decision, your reputation! It might sound as if I am chiding you, for that I am sorry but I must speak plainly to what I feel is right not expedient. Solid positioning, strong on the whistle, early intervention with firm demeanor should work at stopping rock em sockem UNFAIR soccer. Cards IF required but sort the kids out first! A referee working WITH the coaches can use substitutions to sit out the hotheads

I coach & play and referee at all levels, I do not say I understand the game any better than another but I find it is best to teach correct techniques and establish good habits so skillful implementation for all participants is striven for.

I am very cognizant of the safety of youth players but I do not reward passivity either. As long as the player plays FAIR the opponents can shy away as much as they wish . That is not dangerous or foul!
You are incorrect if you judge being knocked down as a form of foul. I explained carefully how a proper tackle will in fact knock over the opponent due to poor positioning, NOT excess or reckless force. Nor can you fault larger players for being bigger or stronger, all things being equal at a 50/50 tackle physics wins, big guy takes the ball mass speed force etc...

To accept that soccer is NOT a contact sport diminishes the really good players who are well aware of what can and can not be done fairly. Smaller players become very good at keeping low. HARD to match shoulders while pivoting on bigger taller guys. Cards are a tool, not a weapon. Reckless is in HOW its done, not THAT it is done

Based on how upset you sound with rough play I get that for safety you want to implement your version of less impact-full tackles. While loose play can certainly result in bad tackles, punishing fair ones is not correct either! Not very often is there a NEED for red card for a charge unless it is done to a standing still player from a behind or right angle at top speed. Leaning in at the right time can send a wrong footed opponent flying. I also find your take on two versus one is harsh even if if I grant you safety is always a consideration. Leaning in from opposing sides freezes out an attacker from running through.

Key foul recognition points'- angle of contact - is more V shape running together then straight on ___ or L shaped intercepts from distance.
- The speeds of the players reasonably the same with ball in playable proximity, watch for free arms sweeping across, holding back or pulling! The leg, hips or thighs making contact ahead of the shoulder, as you say its not hockey.
-What is also NOT permitted is straight arm barges or push offs, leaving the ground with both feet, directing the force of the charge into the back or chest of the opponent or leading with the elbow .


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ed
Simultaneous charges by two players on the same opponent are rare and I would suggest that it could not be orchestrated in that one defenders knows what his team mate is doing or plans to do on the other side of the opponent. Two players challenging an opponent together is much more frequent with perhaps one or both committing offences such as holding, pushing etc.
I have been around the game for a long time and rarely have I see charging that used excessive force which is a red card offence. From time to time I see strong illegal charging that is reckless which is a caution yet rarely if ever do I see excessive force endangering the safety of an opponent in charges while running alongside an opponent. I have seen players run from a distance to crash into opponents which is certainly a card and it is a long way from charging with the ball at playing distance.
Most times that I see illegal charging it is a foul only with a player getting pushed over.
I show this video on charging questions.
Note there is no foul and no complaint from the opponents. Should it be a foul with a yellow / red card?
Clearly the referee in this game saw it as no offence and in many ways there is no great complaint from the opponents. Your judgement if I understand your opinion correctly suggest a foul and a card?
Now have a look at this video
Free kick awarded and no card which if the referee deems it a push, not a legal charge then fine as was the decision to not card. Again your judgement would suggest a card.
So for me the referees' judgement will be very much shaped by what is accepted in the wider soccer community in his/her area. That will be consistent across most of the referees not isolated to one or two. Personally in both these videos I do not see a disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent's safety which is a yellow card nor do I see a player exceeding the necessary use of force and/or endangering the safety of an opponent which is a red card. If I were to card in both those situation I would very quickly be rounded on by players and coaches alike on both sides as I would be consistent in the awards throughout the game on both teams.
Now do not get me wrong in this. In legal charging there has to be contact between players which at Underage may mean many players will go to ground. That though is not an acceptance that a team can rough house it way through a game with illegal charging, kicking, pushing etc. That will present though entirely differently than the use of charging. If I look at any game the opportunity to legally charge will be very limited as the condition for a legal charge only present infrequently. Also in Underage the mismatch is sizes is common which leads to all sorts of difficulties for referees as to challenges between big and small present as a huge imbalance in strength with obvious consequences.
As to the use of cards I have refereed a lifetime of Underage games and at U14 and below I rarely need to resort to cards. I refereed in a tournament recently some 12 x 30 minute games over two days @U14 /U1/ and I had one yellow card for misconduct. There were the usual fouls like any game yet I did not have to resort to cards at this level. I would also say that there was not one injury in any of my games. So while cards are there it is up to the referee to use them to control the game.

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