Respecting the laws of the game! (especially Laws 5 & 12)

Did any of you read about the ASFA on the front page of the NZ Herald last Wednesday? Did any of you hear our Competitions Manager being interviewed on the Mike Hosking breakfast show and, later the same day, on Radio Sport? Did you read the article published online by Newshub?

If you did, then you’ll know that they were not interested in hearing about the latest round of games, the current league tables or the race for the golden boot.  All they wanted to report on was our reaction to the loss of yet another AFF referee, and for us to outline exactly what we were going to do to protect our referees from the threat of verbal and physical abuse and punish those who had caused this amateur/part-time referee to quit the game he loved as much as the amateur/part-time players he encountered on a sunday afternoon. They were very interested by some of the negative comments being made on our facebook page.  If you want my opinion on referees, and how they should be treated, please revisit the comments that I made a couple of weeks ago in one of my weekly round ups.

Rather than go over old ground, I thought that I would take a different approach.  None of what follows will come as any surprise to all the “experts” who play or officiate our sport.  I suspect, however, that there will be some of our ASFA community that have never actually read the official ‘rules of the game’ and are basing everything they know on what they’ve seen on TV.  I think the same could probably be said of some of the professional players currently being paid a lot of money to represent their country in Russia. Perhaps if the referees were told to fully enforce laws 12, then they would be treated with more respect (on and off the field).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to cut and paste all 212 pages of the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) 2017/2018 guide into this post. I’m only going to share the laws of the game that continue to cause the most issues on a Sunday.  These relate to the role of the referee and rules around what is and what isn’t worthy of a free-kick (direct and in-direct), a yellow card and a red card.  I’ve attached a link to the whole document at the end (for those wanting to familiarise themselves with all the laws of the game).  I’ve highlighted the bits that I think really need to be remembered by those playing the game for fun (both at the weekends in winter and in the evenings over the summer).

Law 5.1. The authority of the referee
Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match.
Law 5.2. Decisions of the referee
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. The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final. The decisions of the referee, and all other match officials, must always be respected. The referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.
Law 5.3.  Powers and duties
The referee has the authority to take disciplinary action from entering the field of play for the pre-match inspection until leaving the field of play after the match ends (including kicks from the penalty mark). If, before entering the field of play at the start of the match, a player commits a sending-off offence, the referee has the authority to prevent the player taking part in the match
Law 12.1. – Direct free kick
If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick or penalty kick. A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences against an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force: charges, jumps at, kicks or attempts to kick, pushes, strikes or attempts to strike (including head-butt), tackles or challenges, trips or attempts to trip. A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences: handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area), holds an opponent, impedes an opponent with contact, spits at an opponent.

  • Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution. No disciplinary sanction is needed.
  • Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned.
  • Using excessive force is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and/or endangers the safety of an opponent and must be sent off.
Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. The following must be considered: the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand), the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball).
Law 12. 2. Indirect free kick
An indirect free kick is awarded if a player: plays in a dangerous manner, impedes the progress of an opponent without any contact being made, is guilty of dissent, using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures or other verbal offences, prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it, commits any other offence, not mentioned in the Laws, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player. An indirect free kick is awarded if a goalkeeper, inside their penalty area, commits any of the following offences: controls the ball with the hands for more than six seconds before releasing it, touches the ball with the hands after: releasing it and before it has touched another player, if it has been deliberately kicked to the goalkeeper by a team-mate, receiving it directly from a throw-in taken by a team-mate.
  • Playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself ) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.
  • Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the opponent’s path to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction when the ball is not within playing distance of either player. All players have a right to their position on the field of play; being in the way of an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent.  A player may shield the ball by taking a position between an opponent and the ball if the ball is within playing distance and the opponent is not held off with the arms or body.
Law 12.3 Disciplinary action
Advantage – If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution / send off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution / send off must be issued when the ball is next out of play, except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour. Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal.  The referee must send off the player when the ball is next out of play but if the player plays the ball or challenges/interferes with an opponent, the referee will stop play, send off the player and restart with an indirect free kick, unless the player committed a more serious offence. If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.
Cautionable offences – A player is cautioned if guilty of: delaying the restart of play, dissent by word or action, entering, re-entering or deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission, failing to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner-kick, free kick or throw-in, persistent offences (no specific number or pattern of offences constitutes “persistent”), unsporting behaviour. A substitute or substituted player is cautioned if guilty of: delaying the restart of play, dissent by word or action, entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission, unsporting behaviour.
Sending-off offences – A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following offences is sent off; denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area), denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent whose overall movement is towards the offender’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless as outlined below). serious foul play, spitting at an opponent or any other person, violent conduct, using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures, receiving a second caution in the same match. A player, substitute or substituted player who has been sent off must leave the vicinity of the field of play and the technical area.
There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour including:
  1. if a player attempts to deceive the referee e.g. by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled (simulation),
  2. changes places with the goalkeeper during play or without the referee’s permission,
  3. commits in a reckless manner a direct free kick offence,
  4. handles the ball to interfere with or stop a promising attack,
  5. commits a foul which interferes with or stops a promising attack, except where the referee awards a penalty kick for an offence which was an attempt to play the ball,
  6. denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by an offence which was an attempt to play the ball and the referee awards a penalty kick,
  7. handles the ball in an attempt to score a goal (whether or not the attempt is successful) or in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a goal,
  8. makes unauthorised marks on the field of play,
  9. plays the ball when leaving the field of play after being given permission to leave,
  10. shows a lack of respect for the game,
  11. uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball (including from a free kick) to the goalkeeper with the head, chest, knee etc. to circumvent the Law, whether or not the goalkeeper touches the ball with the hands,
  12. verbally distracts an opponent during play or at a restart.
Celebration of a goal – Players can celebrate when a goal is scored, but the celebration must not be excessive; choreographed celebrations are not encouraged and must not cause excessive time-wasting. Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence but players should return as soon as possible. A player must be cautioned for:
  1. climbing onto a perimeter fence and/or approaching the spectators in a manner which causes safety and/or security issues,
  2. gesturing or acting in a provocative, derisory or inflammatory way,
  3. covering the head or face with a mask or other similar item,
  4. removing the shirt or covering the head with the shirt.
Delaying the restart of play – Referees must caution players who
  1. delay the restart of play by appearing to take a throw-in but suddenly leaving it to a team,
  2. delaying leaving the field of play when being substituted,
  3. excessively delaying a restart, kicking or carrying the ball away, or provoking a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play,
  4. taking a free kick from the wrong position to force a retake.
  • Serious foul play – A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.
  • Violent conduct – 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. In addition, a player who, when not challenging for the ball, deliberately strikes an opponent or any other person on the head or face with the hand or arm, is guilty of violent conduct unless the force used was negligible.
Just imagine how many yellow and red cards could/should have been given out so far in the World Cup.  The professional referees have clearly been instructed by their superiors to use their descretion when making a decision (Law 5.2).  The same instructions are just as likely to have been given to the part-time referees that we encounter when representing the ASFA.
Just remember, the match is controlled by the referee and his/her decision is final, regardless of whether it is correct or not.  If you or your teammates make any physical contact with an opponent, whether deliberate or accidental, you are likely to be penalised. If it was reckless and whilst going for the ball, the referee is fully entitled to give you a yellow card.  If it was dangerous/using excessive force, then you should see red and be sent for an earlier shower.  Finally, a hand ball is only a foul if the player has deliberately moved his hand/arm towards the ball, not if the ball hits the hand/arm.  Just because you’ve seen them given on TV when the ball has hit a players arm, or had them given for/against you in the past, doesn’t make it a hand ball everytime.
I hope you’ve found this of use.  Please do not use it to question the decisions of the referees at the weekend (their decision is final, they are in control etc…).  If you want to read more, you can get the document that all of the above has been taken from by Googling ‘FIFA, laws of the game’ or by clicking on the below link.  Better still, you could sign up for one of the referee courses and become a qualified referee (there is a reall shortage you know!)

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