By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer
In Play of the Week 13 we are discussing the subject of serious foul play. The Laws of the Game describe serious foul play as follows:
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 for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or two legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.”
At last week’s PRO referees camp, we discussed a number of tackles and challenges; some were serious foul play and others were not. Some were dealt with correctly and others were not. Here, we will examine two tackles from MLS week 13 that fell into the category of serious foul play. One was dealt with correctly, the other was not.
The first play is from the game between Minnesota United and Orlando City.
Orlando’s Victor Giro goes on a run with the ball, taking it past two opponents. United’s Sam Cronin then lunges in with a straight leg, making contact with the ball and following through into PC’s shin. You see his straight leg buckle under the weight of the contact.
There is no question that this was a lunge with one leg, with excessive force, which endangered the safety of the opponent. Cronin should have been sent off.
You immediately see Minnesota players surround the referee Nima Saghafi, trying to talk him out of producing a red card as they recognize the seriousness of the challenge.
Saghafi calms them down by informing them he is giving a yellow card. This is good management – they are happy with this and walk away. This approach by the players wouldn’t have had any influence as Saghafi would have made his mind up when first seeing the challenge.
As always, these tackles are difficult to judge in normal time and speed.
Positioning is often a problem which can lead to incorrect calls being made. On this occasion the referee has a close and unobstructed view, but perhaps he is too close. Sometimes you have a better view from further away as you can see the whole picture, where the players are coming from, and can often better gauge intensity and point of contact of the tackle.
Other considerations include contact with the ball, which can influence the referee’s decision and cause him to switch off when seeing that the ball has been played. However, a red card can still be issued for serious foul play even if the ball is clearly played.
In the second play, from Toronto FC versus Columbus Crew, we see another lunge.
Toronto’s Marcos Delgado goes just over the knee of Crew’s Wil Trapp with a high foot. Again, there is no doubt that this was a one-legged lunge with excessive force that endangered the safety of the opponent.
In comparing this incident with the previous one, referee Drew Fischer is looking from the ideal distance and has an appreciation of all aspects of the players involved. He can see the whole picture, where the players are coming from, and can gauge intensity and place of contact.
As in the previous play, Delgado’s team-mates try and talk the referee out of issuing a red card but Fischer has none of it. He saw the incident from a perfect viewing angle and distance and knows there can be only one outcome. He affords Delgado his dignity by waiting for him to return to his feet before brandishing the red card.
In summary, it is important that referees penalize all instances of serious foul play with a red card.
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 and endangering the safety of an opponent, is guilty of serious foul play.
Four practical elements of decision making:
The first element – see – is crucial, as we compare the two plays with similar offenses but different outcomes. The key was positioning – Saghafi was rather unfortunate, as he was too close to see the whole picture.