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Cal South E-News | July 2010 REFEREE EDUCATION

July 16, 2010

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Rules 101 content provided by U.S. Soccer

Laws of the Game:
Ask the Referee

In response to various questions, the following are responses from the National Referee Program Office:


I have a NON-controversial World Cup Referee question! My mom asks me this every World Cup. You have a team from Asia playing a team from Africa with a ref from South America. When the ref calls players over to talk / scold, how do they communicate?

Answer (June 28, 2010):
Thank goodness for non-controversial questions!

English is generally recognized as the most-used language in the world for transactions between non-native English speakers who do not speak the other person's language. All FIFA referees are required to be proficient in English. Of course, that does not apply to players, so the conversations are likely conducted with sign language (as we have seen) or in "Globish," some variation of English that is generally understandable by both sides.


A hypothetical question arose at our US Youth Soccer State Cup this weekend. Suppose two teams from the same club have advanced through their brackets to the state championship game, and are scheduled to play each other in the final.

One team (the 'A' team from the club) has already qualified for Regionals via a regional league play-in, but the other team (the 'B' team) has not. If the club's coaches want the 'B' team to advance to Regionals as well, is instructing the 'A' team to allow the other team to score on them for an easy win something the referee has the authority to act upon (presumably, by warning and/or dismissing the coach(es) of the 'A' team for bringing the game into disrepute)?

Your answer of September 7, 2006 indicates that deliberately kicking the ball into one's own goal is an example of bringing the game into disrepute (for which a player should be cautioned), yet your answer of October 2, 2008 makes reference to the rules of competition (as far as tournament standings and advancement) not being the referee's problem.

Obviously, the club could just "forfeit" their better team by not showing up, thereby advancing the lesser team. But if the coaching staff decides to play the match as a farce, is it the referee's issue to deal with? Or the competition authority?

Answer (June 21, 2010):
You would seem to have missed an answer from 2002 that states exactly what was in the International Football Association Board (IFAB) Q&A of 1996 and 2000, as well as 2004, 2005, and 2006. Although it is no longer included in the Laws of the Game, the following answer from the IFAB Q&A 2006 remains valid:

Law 5:
13. How should a referee react if, during the course of a match, he realizes that one of the teams is deliberately trying to lose? Should he draw the attention of the team in question to the fact that if they continue to play in that way, he will terminate the game in accordance with the provisions of Law 5?

The referee has no right to stop the match in this case.

That, of course, does not prevent the referee from including in the game report any information he (or she) hears or learns of before, during, or after the game that substantiates collusion to "fix" a game.


The Laws define the terms "careless, reckless and with excessive force" for penal offenses:

1. Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent.
2. Trips or attempts to trip an opponent.
3. Jumps at an opponent.
4. Charges an opponent.
5. Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent.
6. Pushes an opponent
7. Tackles an opponent.

This makes it much easier for referees to gauge the respective punishment when the force reaches a certain level. However, is it possible to do any of the above without a foul actually being called since it was neither careless, reckless, nor with excessive force?

A defender and attacker are running full speed, side-by-side shoulder-to-shoulder and stride-for-stride. The defender makes a cut and to make the cut he extends his leg outside his normal gait. The attacker's leg clips the defender's leg and the attacker goes down like a sack of potatoes. There is nothing to be considered careless, reckless or with excessive force. The referee considers the tripping to be unintentional and accidental and allows play to continue. But who on the field is going to accept that when the defender wins the ball? The attacking team is going to be irate and the defending team is going to think that they got away with one. The offense is "Trips or attempts to trip an opponent". A trip is a trip, intentional or not. Should the referee call a tripping foul? Or does the brave referee make the non-call with the comfort in knowing that he's the only one on the field that knows he's right?

Answer (June 10, 2010):
You might wish to search through the archives to find this answer (only an excerpt given here) of April 15, 2010. It should answer all your questions on this matter:

"Careless" indicates that the player has not exercised due caution in making a play.

"Reckless" means that the player has made unnatural movements designed to intimidate an opponent or to gain an unfair advantage.

"Involving excessive force" means that the player has far exceeded the use of force necessary to make a fair play for the ball and has placed the opponent in considerable danger of bodily harm.

If the foul was careless, simply a miscalculation of strength or a stretch of judgment by the player who committed it, then it is a normal foul, requiring only a direct free kick (and possibly a stern talking-to). If the foul was reckless, clearly outside the norm for fair play, then the referee must award the direct free kick and also caution the player for unsporting behavior, showing the yellow card. If the foul involved the use of excessive force, totally beyond the bounds of normal play, then the referee must send off the player for serious foul play or violent conduct, show the red card, and award the direct free kick to the opposing team.

And it is worth repeating -- yet again -- that the occurrence of contact between players does not necessarily mean that a foul was committed. Contact occurs and it is accepted and welcomed, as long as it is accomplished legally -- and that includes most accidental contact.

And the referee can very effectively reinforce his or her conviction that no foul has occurred by shouting out "No foul!" Never leave doubt in the minds of the players as to your comfort with your decision.

For more, please visit USSoccer.com