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Cal South E-News | May 2012 REFEREE EDUCATION

May 22, 2012


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Question: Two players aggressively go at the ball. They play the ball shoulder to shoulder at first. This quickly turned into one player pushing the other from behind and the other tripping the first one at the same time. This would make both parties guilty of what I accessed as not only dangerous play but unsporting behavior. Both parties ended up on the ground, and a yellow card should have been issued to someone.

Normally, you only have one player guilty of this with no question as to who receives the yellow card. With both players equally at fault, is it appropriate to card both or the player that pushed the other from behind? The ball went out of bounds, so would the restart be a throw-in if you did card both?

Staci Mitchell

Answer: Let's focus on a few words from your question: aggressively, shoulder to shoulder, pushing, tripping, dangerous play, and unsporting behavior. Law 12 explains that "if a player commits any of the following seven offenses in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force" a foul has been committed. The referee should award a direct free kick or a penalty kick if the foul was committed by player inside his own penalty area.

Let's assume "shoulder to shoulder" is charging. Since charging, pushing and tripping are three of the seven offenses, the referee has to decide if the action is a foul or not by using "careless, reckless or using excessive force" as a guide.

Players "A" and "B" go for the ball while aggressively charging each other shoulder to shoulder. The referee has to ask: Who is closer to the ball? Who has the best chance to get the ball first?


1. Assuming player "A" is not closer to the ball and has no chance to get it, then player "A" is the one that would charge "aggressively" first.

• If the referee considers this a careless foul, they should stop the game for the foul.
• If the referee considers this to be a reckless foul, then stop play and show the yellow card.
• If the referee considers the player is using excessive force, then stop play and show the red card.

2. Referee does not stop play and the players continue going at each other. Both players should be shown the yellow card and again the foul has to be called against the player with no chance of playing the ball. The restart for Scenarios 1 and 2 is a free kick since this is a charging foul or a penalty kick if committed by the player in their own penalty area.

3. Referee stops play when both players charge each other aggressively and "does not know" who committed the foul first. Stop the game, show yellow card to each player and restart with a drop ball.

Since player "B" is also aggressively charging "shoulder to shoulder," this implies player "B" is no longer "interested" in getting the ball but is either protecting against the charge or reciprocating the action by player "A."

In your description, call the foul against the player farthest from the ball. "Aggressively" should be a warning that the incident can escalate; therefore, the referee must stop the game. My advice is to anticipate what's coming, prevent it from happening, influence the players by your actions and set limits. Keep it simple and act fast to prevent escalation.

Arturo Angeles
Cal South State Director of Instruction