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'The right call', by Ref. Vangelis April 2006

April 5

Ref. Vangelis,

Keepers are the most exposed players on the field, so in general, referees tend to protect them. But very often, when they arrive at the border of the box, even if their feet are in, their hands are out of the box in grabbing the ball. Aside from according a direct free kick, is there some yellow or even a red card?

Coach Gianni

Answer:Law 12 states that “A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area). So the punishment for a hand ball is a direct free kick. In the scenario given above, the goalkeeper is not exempt because the incident occurred outside the penalty area and therefore the goalkeeper is treated as any other player.

Law 12 also states that “A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he is guilty of unsporting behavior or if he persistently infringes on the Laws of the Game.

Therefore, the referee may issue a caution to the goalkeeper if in his opinion the goalkeeper is guilty of the above mentioned offenses. (In the following weeks I will provide some examples of what is unsporting behavior and what is persistent infringement).

Finally, Law 12 states that “A player is sent off and shown the red card if he denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (This does not apply to the goalkeeper within his own penalty area). Here again the goalkeeper in not exempt because the incident occurred outside the penalty area and therefore the goalkeeper is treated as any other player. Law 12 also states that “A player is sent off and shown the red card if he denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick”.

Therefore, the referee may issue a red card and send off the goalkeeper if in his opinion he has denied a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to the opposing team. (In a future article we will define what denying obvious scoring opportunity means).

Ref. Vangelis
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April 12

Ref. Vangelis,

One of the Cautionable Offences listed in Law 12 is Unsporting Behavior. Can you please give us some examples of what constitutes such a behavior?

Coach Gianni

Answer:Law 12 states that only a player or substitute or substituted player may be shown a yellow card and that the referee has the authority to take disciplinary sanctions, as from the moment he enters the field of play until he leaves the field of play after the final whistle.

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he is guilty of unsporting behavior.

Soccer is an international sport and certainly “Unsporting Behavior” as defined in law 12 has a broad meaning often depending on the culture and background of the players.

Below is a list of some examples with a more universal acceptance:

-A penal foul resulting in a free kick or a penalty kick in a reckless manner.
-A penal foul resulting in a free kick or a penalty kick while tackling for the ball from behind outside the peripheral vision of the opponent.
-Any technical foul resulting in an indirect free kick designed to interfere with or impede an opposing team’s attacking play.
-Any action that is deemed by the referee as bringing the game into disrepute such as taunting overly aggressive attitude etc.
-Pushing or holding an opponent or his uniform to interfere with his attacking play.
-Handling the ball deliberately to interfere with an opponent’s attacking play.
-Handling the ball deliberately to score a goal.
-Faking an injury or exaggerating the seriousness of an injury.
-Faking a foul (by diving) or exaggerating the severity of a foul.
-Interfering with the goalkeeper as he tries to release the ball from his hands.
-Verbally distracting an opponent during play or at a restart.
-Any unfair deception attempt while taking a penalty kick.
-Unfairly distracting or impeding an opponent performing a throw-in.
-A player engaging in trickery to circumvent the goalkeeper’s limitation on handling a ball played from a teammate’s foot.
-Changing jerseys with the goalkeeper during play or without the referee’s permission.

Any other offense that is not directly addressed in the law of the game and in the opinion of the referee a player must be cautioned for this reason.

Ref. Vangelis
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April 19

Ref. Vangelis,

One of the Cautionable Offences listed in Law 12 is Persistent Infringement. Can you please explain what constitutes such a behavior?

Coach Gianni

Answer: Law 12 states that “Only a player or substitute or substituted player may be shown a yellow card and that the referee has the authority to take disciplinary sanctions, as from the moment he enters the field of play until he leaves the field of play after the final whistle.
A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he persistently infringes the Laws of the Game”.

Persistent infringement occurs when a player repeatedly commits fouls resulting in stoppages of the game. It is not necessary for the multiple fouls to be of the same type or all to be penal fouls resulting in a direct free kick but it can be any fouls covered in Law 12.

It can also be participation in a pattern of fouls directed against the same opponent.

In cases where the referee sees the pattern of fouls directed against a single opponent, it is proper to warn the team that the pattern has been seen and then to caution the next player who continues the pattern, even if the specific player may not have previously committed a foul against the single opponent.

There can also be other infringements designed to waste time by delaying the start or restart of the game or the taking of a throw in or a combination of fouls and other infringements.
This can be by a single player or it can be a pattern of delays committed by a multitude of players on the same team.

The referee in any case must first verbally warn the player that the pattern has been observed and upon a subsequent violation, must then show the yellow card and caution the player.

Ref. Vangelis
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April 26

Ref. Vangelis,

Can you please explain what is, “an obvious goal scoring opportunity”?

Coach Gianni

Answer: Law 12 states that “A player is sent off and shown the red card if he denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball or by committing an offense punishable by a free kick”.

There are ten different diagrams in the back of the Laws of the Game book that address “an obvious scoring opportunity” starting with page 51.
These diagrams cover a number of different scenarios including goalkeepers and player’s committing various fouls.

Observing them you will notice that the referee must consider five criteria when deciding whether or not the condition during an infringement of Law 12 constitutes an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Here they are:

-The direction of play. The player must be running toward the opponent’s goal, not toward the goal line or the corner of the field or away from the goal area or the penalty area.


-The proximity of the ball. The question the referee must ask is: Could the player have reached the ball to play it?


-The location and number of opponents able to participate immediately. One or more players between the attacker and the goal, in addition to the player who committed the foul.


-The location of the foul. The farther away from the goal area the less likely it is that an obvious goal-scoring opportunity existed.


-There was a reasonable chance for a shot. Not necessarily a definite goal, but at least a chance to shoot.

Finally, please keep in mind that even if all these criteria are met, it is still the judgment and opinion of the referee that determines if the event was an obvious goal scoring opportunity or not.

Ref. Vangelis






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Posted on 03 May 2006 by coachgianni
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