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: 33671

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 9/24/2019

RE: U10 Rec to U18 Competitive Under 19

Jason C of La Crosse, WI USA asks...

Where do you stand on challenges that involve heavy contact, but are otherwise legal, in rec league games with younger kids? Specifically referring to shoulder charges. Say a charge comes in that's shoulder to shoulder, feet on the ground, ball within playing distance, but it comes in with some momentum and sends the attacking player flying.

I ref everything from U10 recreational to competitive adults. Where on that spectrum of age/competitive level does this become 'careless'? In practice I typically will whistle otherwise legal heavy contact in the rec league where anyone can play, but not in the competitive league that has tryouts and travel and everything.

I know a great deal has been written about this topic on this site, but I'm still fuzzy on how to pinpoint contact that's technically okay, but careless.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jason ,
Shoulder charges can be legal, hard and could cause injury but that does not make it a foul. The fact they call it a fair charge gives the impression charging is ok. I think it should be called a shoulder barge. Take away the idea that charging is fair
The reasoning is what speed and what intersection angle is occurring? Are they players in sync in terms of pace and angle?
I charge using my shoulder into the back of an unsuspecting player or step in and drive it into his chest even at slow speed it is a foul and unsafe. I come in at an extreme right angle at speed against a standing player even if the contact is shoulder to shoulder, used as a battering ram it was unsafe given the speed & mass applied. It was dangerous to the other player because the are not able to prepare for the assault. No different than a slide tackle that gets to the ball first but the angle & momentum & force are so unsafe it carries through into the player wiping him out.

This is much different than the upright player falling over the downed player after a well timed executed tackle. .
This is akin to a shoulder charge applied at a critical moment where the one player is ill prepared with feet close together standing or running with with the inside leg raised at the moment of contact. Chances are he goes flying and loses the challenge but it DOES not make it unfair or unsafe in the sense the opponent who timed his lean in right should be punished.

Whereas agree with my my colleague phrase when it comes to easing an opponent off the ball indicates a V type intersect is far better than an L shaped intersection . Which by the way the ball must be within playing distance which is about 2 steps at the speed of play give or take. If you research the site we have responded many times on this aspect of the game 33608 just recently.

Have a look at this image this was a straight coming together PERFECTLY fair but at high speed. This brutal coming together look at the body faces and you can visualize how hard they BOTH came together . This was not one player stream rolling over another. They competed FAIRLY for a loose ball but one was injured.

Tom Cunniffe and Peter Harte go shoulder to shoulder but Harte left injured. This was a HARD LEGAL tackle look at their faces.

Players running at near the same speed who lean into one another is VERY different than intersecting at high speed that creams out an unwary dribbler. Players can come together quite hard and quite fair but it has equatable forces at play.

Here is an example where the referee has determined it was a foul, not all agree. I see it as plausible to be a more resolute attacker being stronger on the ball but there is room to think the free arm pushed and the inside leg tripped.

Here is a larger stout player leaning in but note the contact is NOT shoulder to shoulder but into the breast/chest and note the eyes there was no doubt the player was a target

clear foul this one interesting the free arm extra is certainly wrong but note that it shows the inside leg is up and how off balanced the defender was.

clear foul push from behind


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jason
The reason it is fuzzy is that it varies among age groups and referees have varying opinion on what is a fair charge At the lower age groups charging is rare and if it does happen using your term *heavy contact* I would call a foul.
I also like to use the term *easing* a player off the ball. If a player runs from a distance and knocks a player over shoulder to shoulder then that is in my book careless and an offence.
For me both players have to be close to each other with the ball at playing distance. That is a reasonably rare situation.
This a video that I came across recently
A straw poll of referees will give a mixed answer from yes it is a foul to no it is a fair charge.
Personally I agree that it is a foul
Here is another that was not given
Now the key for me is consistency. I want players to know fairly quickly what I will tolerate and the level of physicality that I will accept. Another referee can have a higher or lower bar and that is fine. What I will do is call these consistently throughout the game and hopefully players get the message that rough heavy charging will not be allowed.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 33671
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

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.