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Question Number: 33749

Other 11/1/2019

RE: Men's Sunday League Adult

Patrick OShea of Sacramento, CA USA asks...

We had a player from Team A run across the field and headbutt a player from Team B. Team B was winning 2-0 in the 78'. When the player from Team B was headbutted in the face, causing bleeding from the mouth and nose. Player from Team A was given a red card, but after that, players from both teams were pushing and shoving. The ref decided to call the game at that point, however no other punches were thrown. Players from Team B were retreating to their sideline as players from Team A continued to fight them the whole way. After the game, the league contacted us and said due to IFAB (FIFA) Law 5, both teams acted in violent conduct and took points away from Team B, resulting in a 0-0 draw.

From a referee's persepective, what constitutes violent conduct? Pushing and shoving happens after almost every foul?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Patrick .
sounds like nasty business occurred at what should ALWAYS be a fun recreational match?

I cannot answer for why another referee did what they did.
A referee with integrity calls it as he sees it.

Given the astounding violence of the attack, whether or not it was in retaliation for something earlier seen or missed by the referee. If there was no semblance of a challenge, I suspect that player and the team could be fined and possibly banned for a long time .

The Soccer association handing out discipline has nothing to do with the referee .
The referee abandoned the match due to the threat to the players, coaches, spectators & possibly their own safety was compromised.

For what it is worth, that headbutt is a CRIMINAL offence! If I was that player I could definitely press charges.

The referee obviously felt the atmosphere of the match was too volatile to continue and as such abandoned the match .

Law 5 The Referee is simply the listing of the duties, obligations & responsibilities of the referee to manage a game under the LOTG . It is Law 12, Fouls & Misconduct that describes violent conduct.

The use of the red card & sending off a player or team representative is to denote certain acts of VC (violent conduct) which can occur on or off the FOP, when the ball is in play or not, by a player or team representative or just about anyone, against anything. Seen players tossed for kicking dogs & or spectators on the FOP.

Given there is evil harsh violence and mean spirited nasty but less forceful violence both are equal under the LOTG, a red card send off for violent misconduct. I run over and slap you or push you down or I kick you or throw something or a head butt you and jump on your face all are violent acts. You might get longer harsher punishments or bigger fines but NO violence is to be tolerated!

SFP is Serious foul play, an overtly aggressive challenge that seriously endangers the player while on the FOP, while the ball is in play, only performed to & by players.

You are correct, a certain amount of bluster, push and shove CAN fly under the radar to SOME extent if tensions are released by the delay and acceptance of the referees' decisions made to deal with it. Here though, the referee obviously felt the nature of the incident had raised the temperature level of the match to where it could boil over and thus took the action they did!

Non Players or team officials running onto the field & you said fighting was occurring constantly ? Perhaps other ugly incidents had occurred earlier?
Perhaps the referee saw more than just pushing or shoving?
A violent shove just snap a neck or cause an injury quite easily.
Maybe a kick or a punch was witnessed?
Maybe the language exchanges were vile and body language was such that the referee felt the match was undone?
Maybe he or thought his ARs were threatened? Just maybe he felt that for the few bucks or as a volunteer the hassle was simply not worth it?

Whether there is fairness in the decision to hold both teams equal in the situation is not something I can determine since I was not there. The referee would submit a match report and the league would deal with the matter. It is obvious they were unimpressed with the conditions and attitudes exhibited. Your team has every right to protest and state a case but whether it makes a difference I could not say.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Patrick
It all depends on what is written in the referees report and my colleagues have outlined what is violent conduct.
Now what was written in the referees report is what any Disciplinary Body takes into consideration.
The player from Team A was certainly guilty of violent conduct. As to what happened afterwards my experience of these type of incidents on an abandonment is that there is always more violent conduct between players. Rarely if ever when it gets to an abandonment is there just pushing and shoving. Pushing and shoving and pulling usually always gets sorted as you mentioned yet when the game has to be abandoned there is always much more probably multiple violent conduct red cards incidents. Human nature tells me that rarely does it happen that one team under provocation and blows from the opponents take that without some form of retaliation even if it is for protection. You mention that *as players from Team A continued to fight them the whole way* reads to me that this was a nasty situation with little choice for the referee but to abandon
In all my years as a referee I had one abandonment and that was due to one incident between two players escalating into a free for all between many players from both teams and a few supporters joining in. If it was simply pushing and shoving the game would have been restarted as done on many occasion yet there were multiple incidents of punches, kicks etc being thrown by both sides which caused me to abandon. Both teams asked me to restart after they sorted it out themselves and I declined fearing that it would flare up again.
I simply reported what I saw and the League made a decision.
Now there is a principle in the game that the initiator/s of an abandonment should not benefit as a result as otherwise it could encourage teams who are losing to create situations where games have to be abandoned. That would be untenable. I suspect that the referee saw violent conduct by both teams and if I was guessing caused by Team A yet with Team B getting drawn into it.
As always any decision can be appealed to a higher authority usually within so many days of the decision.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Patrick,
Without seeing the referee's report, it's not possible to know whether the referee used the phrase 'violent conduct' to describe the actions of both teams. However according to Law 12 (not Law 5):

''Violent conduct is when a player uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball, or against a team-mate, team official, match official, spectator or any other person, regardless of whether contact is made.''

So under that definition, pushing and shoving could quite possibly be seen as violent conduct, depending on just how forceful the actions were. For instance it's not at all unusual to see a player sent off for violent conduct when they forcefully push another player during an 'off-the-ball' incident. A less forceful form of pushing might of course, be seen as not rising to the level of violent conduct. It's a referee's judgement call.

However violent conduct is also a mandatory sending-off offence so if the referee did judge that players on either side had committed violent conduct, those players (or their clubs) would be receiving notice of disciplinary action for these offences.

The fact that the referee abandoned the game indicates that they judged the amount of pushing and shoving going on was at an unacceptable level and that it was not safe to continue the game. Whenever there is a mass confrontation with pushing and shoving involving both teams, and when the mass confrontation causes an abandonment, unless it's absolutely clear that one team took no part whatsoever, I would say it's quite common that both teams will end up being apportioned part of the blame.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Patrick,
Some leagues take a very strict approach to mass confrontations and have an automatic view that if a match is abandoned due to one, then both teams are held responsible. After all, mass confrontations do require actions and decisions from both teams.
The statement from the league doesn't necessarily mean the referee accused Team B of violent conduct. Perhaps he did, or perhaps he simply reported the facts of the confrontation and the league decided to classify the incident along those lines.
If the match is considered a draw, I'd suggest that rather than 'take points away' the league simply decided that the result of the match was invalid. The league or competition rules should state how much of a match has to be played before termination for a result to be valid, but usually those are still subject to a decision by the league. When abandonment is due to joint actions of both teams I'm not surprised that the league nullified the result - otherwise Team B is directly benefiting from their contribution towards the abandonment (After all, even with the other team losing a player, they could well have come back from 2-0 down).
Given the despicable and potentially criminal assault on a player followed by aggression from both teams, I can understand the referee feeling that the safety of players on both teams was no longer guaranteed - the referee is permitted to stop, suspend or terminate a match for any reason. Perhaps the referee simply didn't feel that the players would be able to get on with the game and feared for more assaults on the players.

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