Play of the Week 5: Persistent infringement in SEA v HOU 

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer

Following on from last week’s discussion on our main initiative of this season, this week I would like to focus on our other initiative, which is persistent infringement.

What do we mean by persistent infringement? Well, this was another topic we discussed with the MLS teams at their preseason camps and we told them that we would be instructing referees to be aware of:

– Persistent offenders
– Victims of persistent offending
– Individual team offenders

This week’s Play of the Week demonstrates that a particular play does not necessarily have to be a big, controversial situation in a game or a key match incident to be featured, but simply a moment that we can learn from. This week we are showing an example of how referees can manage persistent infringement without the need for a sanction.

Referees have to be aware of persistent offenders and, bearing in mind that some foul challenges warrant an immediate yellow or even a red card, persistent infringement is when the offender’s fouls are not quite enough in their own right to deserve a sanction.

In the 69th minute of the Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo game, Dynamo’s Giles Barnes commits a foul on Sounders’ Chad Marshall.

Referee Ted Unkel is aware that this is Barnes’ third foul challenge in fairly quick succession. Rather than issue a yellow card, Unkel lets Barnes know in no uncertain terms that he is aware that this is his third offense and everyone can see from his emotional body language, that he will not tolerate another foul from him.


Barnes doesn’t argue; he simply walks away in the knowledge that he now has to be careful, but at least he has been given an opportunity – a warning that if he commits another foul he can have no justifiable complaint if he receives a card, and everyone watching the game will expect a sanction.

And, you know what? There was not another foul committed by Barnes, which proves that top referees have to be good managers and, if they can avoid the use of a sanction, they will.

This is an excellent example of proactive and preventative refereeing.