Play of the Week 3: Dissent/offensive, insulting or abusive language

Ismail Elfath
Image: Referee Ismail Elfath showing Brek Shea a red card

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer

Dissent is once again one of the main points of emphasis for 2017. During our preseason preparations, officials were instructed not to allow dissent.

A Major League Soccer and a Professional Referee Organization representative, along with a referee, visited every MLS team at their preseason camps in February to explain the points of emphasis and to reinforce that dissent would not be tolerated.

Therefore, it should not come as any surprise that if a player is guilty of dissent, the individual will receive a yellow card, and instances of using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures will result in a red card.

Play of the Week 3 of the 2017 series features one instance of dissent and one of using offensive, insulting or abusive language, which resulted in dire consequences for the players concerned as the end result was that they were both sent off.

In the first example, from Vancouver Whitecaps versus Toronto FC, we see Whitecaps’ Brek Shea correctly cautioned for a reckless foul tackle on Toronto’s Nick Hagglund. When referee Ismail Elfath shows Shea the yellow card, the player responds with words that, if you look at the reaction of Elfath, clearly shock him. When he repeats those words the referee immediately shows Shea a red card.

In the second example, from Real Salt Lake versus LA Galaxy, when referee Sorin Stoica awards a free-kick for a foul committed by Galaxy’s Jermaine Jones, RSL’s Luke Mulholland reacts by pushing Jones, for which Stoica correctly administers a yellow card.

You can see Mulholland’s team-mate, Kyle Beckerman, say something to the referee which again, from the body language of Stoica, is dissent, for which he first warns him. When he continues, Beckerman receives a yellow card.

Then, 10 minutes later, Beckerman clips Galaxy’s Joao Pedro from behind and stops a promising attack, for which he deservedly receives a second yellow card and is consequently sent off.

In both cases, the referees were subject to language that was unacceptable and in neither case did they overreact. Referees can and will allow a certain amount of frustration from players, but you can see it is only when the players continued or repeated the dissent/offensive, insulting or abusive language, they were shown a card.

Players and referees have a responsibility to show respect to each other. Sanctions for mistimed tackles are understandable and part of the game. However, there can be no justifiable complaint when players put their team in jeopardy when they are sent off as a result of dissent/offensive, insulting or abusive language.

Referees should not be subject to it or allow it and Elfath and Stoica have sent out a strong message by dealing with it as per the points of emphasis and the messages clearly given at preseason camps.