What makes a charge a foul?

Discussion in 'Referee' started by CDM76, Oct 26, 2007.

  1. CDM76

    CDM76 Member+

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    While refereeing a girls' U14 match last weekend, I called a penalty under the following circumstances.

    An attacking player takes a pass just outside the penalty area. As she enters the penalty area, a defender intercepts her. The attacking player shields that ball with her body and turns her back to the goal. The defender applies a charge (shoulder to back of shoulder area) that causes the attacker to temporarily lose control of the ball. Attacker recovers the ball, still in the penalty area and defender commits the same charge. Again, the attacker loses the ball temporarily but the defender makes no effort to win the ball. The defender now commits the same charge for the third time and I blow the whistle and point to the spot.

    I was originally trained that the standard for an fair charge was "equal strength on the ball". If a player "knocked an opponent off the ball" without directly taking control of the ball they had not succeeded in making the charge "within playing distance." A charge that put an opponent on the ground was a foul charge.

    I was certain of what I saw and felt confident that I had made the right call but really didn't want to blow for the penalty. One of my ARs was a fellow referee who I respect very much. I asked his opinion and he said he considered it a soft penalty.

    I spoke with a friend who played lower level professional ball in Ireland about it. He said he was always told shoulder to shoulder contact was legal regardless of an attempt to play the ball so long as the ball was in playing distance and even if the contact resulted in the opponent going to ground there was no foul committed.

    I was now feeling much less confident about my understanding of what constitutes a legal and an illegal charge. The wording of Law 12 regarding an illegal charge is rather vague to I went to USSF Advice to Referees (my bold).

    12.5 Charging
    The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as "shoulder to shoulder," this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Futhermore, under many circumstances, a charge may result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (as consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent's back (the spinal area): in such a case, the refereee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent (See also Advice 12.14.)

    It is not a violation of Law 12 for two players to charge the same opponent simultaneously, provided that each charge considered individually is conducted fairly and legally.


    After reading the prior portion of the ATR, I'm questioning my line of thinking.

    How do the referees on this board determine a charge is illegal? Only if it is directed to an area outside the shoulder area? Is there such a thing as careless, reckless or violent shoulder to shoulder area contact if it is legal to knock a player to the ground with a charge?


  2. AspireNatlRef

    AspireNatlRef Member

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    This is a great question and I am sure will spawn much debate. It is almost always a you have to be there moment, in foul recognition...

    There will be instances when a charge isn't shoulder to shoulder, yet legal. For example the height differential, ect.

    I use as a rule of thumb: If it is to the spine area, foul. If it is careless, reckless or with excessive force, a foul. Falling to the ground not always a foul. Ball not within playing distance, a foul, but an IDK. If someone has a memo from USSF that better defines the "shoulder" I am sure it would be helpful to all of us, but looking at my outlook, there are about 40 memos and I don't see one subject heading dealing specifically with this subject, but I could easily be missing one, someone else may find...

    Not being there, I cannot give more insight than that, and rereading my post, there wasn't much insight there to begin with...

    Finally, I don't believe there is such a thing as a "soft penalty." It either is or it isn't, ITOOTR. Nothing soft about it. I hate hearing my colleagues and commentators reporting soft penalties...

    ANR

    and what is my deal with all these ellipses...
  3. njref

    njref Member

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    3 rules of thumb that I use.

    1. older and more experienced players and boys/men tend to have a higher threshold for contact.

    2. A legal charge is from the side, not to the back.

    3. moving to the ball across the opposing player is legal, a bodyblock (crashing into the other player) is not legal.

    You described a charge "to the back of the shoulder." The more this is from the direction of the back, and not on the edge of the shoulder, the less likely this is to be legal. A player driven/pushed off the ball from the back probably has been fouled.

    Your friend states that all contact shoulder to shoulder is legal. I would disagree. Taken to the extreme, a player coming in like a missle and ramming another player from the side with a body block has not made a fair charge.

    Similarly, I found your guides rather unhelpful (no offense I hope), particularly "equal strength on the ball" which is meaningless to me. The failure to actually obtain the ball also does not mean a charge is illegal.
  4. Ref Flunkie

    Ref Flunkie Member

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    This was discussed a while back and there was a comment made (which made sense to me at least) that the closer the player being charged is to the ball, the more likely it is that the charge is a foul. I think what this comment is trying to say is that if there is a 50/50 ball, and two players are trying to run to the same point, it is likely they will run into each other. Each of them must realize that if they hope to win the ball, they need to either (A) reach the ball first, or (B) reach it at the same time as the other player and keep their space when they hit shoulder to shoulder. This does not allow someone to lower a shoulder (foul) or basically turn themselves into a missile and use excessive force in shouldering a player off the ball. It should all be part of the natural movement, which of course changes depending on the age and skill level. To say all shoulder contact is legal is just wrong. If a player is controlling the ball and the defender wants it, he has to just go in and get it. They aren't allowed to keep banging the player (shoulder to shoulder, or otherwise) until they are pushed off the ball. It is a major case of ITOOTR in most cases.


  5. campton

    campton New Member

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    Tell that to every parent who has a child sub u-13 :)
  6. midmogooner

    midmogooner Member

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    Or a coach who plays his U-11 girls team in U12 age bracket in a tournament: "I am sorry Sir, but being twice the size of your player is not a foul"...
  7. CDM76

    CDM76 Member+

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    I'm very much in agreement with you but I'm having a bit of trouble with the ATR section that I bolded about a charge that puts a player down. A very powerful charge can be delivered that is neither careless nor reckless nor violent (intended to injure).

    Does a strong player with good balance have the right within Law 12 to consistently knock over other players so long as he/she is within "playing distance" of the ball?

    The more I replay the penalty call I made in my mind, the more confident I am that the call was good for precisely this reason. The attacker was between the defender and the ball and the charge was delivered all three times to an area that would be more likely referred to as the back than the shoulder.

    So your standard (not being argumentative, just seeking clarification) allows a well-timed and controlled charge that puts the opponent down (attacker or defender)?

    In trying to picture this, I'm imagining the degree to which the player delivering the charge appears to be out of control (running at the opponent instead of running with the opponent, arm on the side of the charge away from the body, sudden redirection just prior to impact to avoid contact to an area other than the shoulder). Does that sound right to you?

    Believe me, I spent about an hour with the referee instructor trying to make sense of "equal strength on the ball". The instructor was a very British old-timer. I put the phrase in here because I assumed it was some form of ref speak that might mean something to another ref.

    He was very adament about the need to be able to win the ball and to be pursuing the ball. I'm guessing that was his (or his mentor's) definition of "playing distance".

    My standard has been shoulder to shoulder contact that facilitates winning the ball (defender) or protecting the ball (attacker) is a fair charge.

    Non-shoulder to shoulder contact is a foul charge.

    Shoulder to shoulder contact that solely disrupts, delays or prevents an opponent from moving to their desired location on the field is a foul charge (or impeding if one of the two players involved is not in possession of the ball).
  8. NHRef

    NHRef Member+

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    I did a talk with young players and parents and coaches who where moving to 8v8 and seeing offside for the first time.

    At the end I asked for questions, one was "when is it legal to 'shoulder check' players?"

    After I fought back the laugh, I explained about charges. Basically to demonstrate, I grabbed a ball and two kids. Intentionally grabbed two very different size kids.

    I put the kids 10 yards from the ball about 5 feet apart and told them both to walk DIRECTLY to the ball so that they stood right infront of the ball. As they got close to the ball and made contact I stopped them and said that "this was legal, they BOTH have the right to go to the free ball. Problem is that there is only room for one of them there"

    They got the idea, I then stressed that as long as they are solely trying to get ot the ball, its fair, its when they change direction to knock the other guy down, or drop their shoulder, or throw out a hip that's when we start having a problem.

    I also asked who they thought would "win" this ball given the size of the players. They all picked the big guy, correctly. I asked what was probably going to happen to the little guy, they all said he'd get squished. So I pointed out this was NOT a foul. As long as the big guy went right to the ball and didn't do any of the things we just talked about, even if the little guy gets squished or goes flying, there's no foul.

    They seemed to understand, but I bet if it's there kid who gets "squished" they will yell.

    It's a simplistic demonstration, but it gets the basics across.
  9. macheath

    macheath New Member

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    Its a great technique; I'll steal it immediately. You could clarify the size issue by then asking, if the little guy is faster, will he get to the ball first? Probably yes--that's not illegal either. Can't punish for size as long as its fair play, nor for other physical advantages that other players may hold (like speed).
  10. GKbenji

    GKbenji Member

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    Yes, there are "soft" penalties. They are penalties nonetheless.

    I called something similar in a college game a week ago. Player had the ball several yards in side the penalty area, but facing away from goal. Defender, in good position, has both hand on attacker's back... and give a two-handed shove that doesn't knock the attacker down, but forces him forward about a yard and a half over the ball, losing control.

    It was a "Did he really just do that?" moment. It was so unecessary and stupid I couldn't really believe myself he'd given away the PK. But I whistled it. Of course there were complaints from the players and coach. But my ARs agreed with me 100%.

    In your case, you even tried to let it be trifling by letting it go once, even twice. But after three shots in the back, you simply couldn't ignore it.

    Well, that may have been the way they played in Ireland. That doesn't mean that's the way the Laws read, especially in a U14 girls' match.
  11. bluedevils

    bluedevils Member

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    There is a limit to how much contact should be considered fair and legal. A very powerful charge that the referee judges to involve 'too much' contact, even if shoulder to shoulder, is careless. If you are going to call it as a foul, by definition it is careless -- or, if it warrants a yellow or red card then it is reckless or excessive force, respectively.

    If you deem the contact to be fair, yes.
  12. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    I am surprised that my (coach and player's) view of a legal shoulder charge is different. I have always played and taught that a shoulder charge to the opponents back was legal (ball within playing distance of course) as when the opponent had turned away in essense refusing the shoulder to shoulder contact. But in any case the shoulder pushes rather than strikes an opponent which seems to be in agreement with everyone's view (except for the Irishman). Spearing someone anywhere on the body, not just the spinal column, should not be allowed so I don't understand how that could be a consideration for never allowing a shoulder charge to the back. Before posting I even checked my favorite website explaining (unofficially of course) the LOTG for youth coaches, and it still is consistent with my long held view. Its interesting that in practice I cannot recall any ref making a call inconsistent with my understanding. Somehow I must be missing something here. Afterall a shoulder charge is simply permitted contact incidental to attempts to gain the ball. If incidental shoulder-to-back contact is not legal, then no incidental contact to the back is legal since pushing with the arms and hands is unallowed (at least in my understanding). That doesn't comport with my understanding of the game or the role of the LOTG.
  13. GKbenji

    GKbenji Member

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    Assuming the ball is within playing distance, and the player is between the ball and their opponent, the challenger still needs to exercise due care... and IMHO and that of many referees (and coaches and players), charging somebody in the back requires a higher standard of care than charging them in the shoulder, due to safety concerns.

    Who said anything about incidental contact being illegal? Incidental is just that. It is only a foul if the ref feels it rises to the level of being careless.

    Same thing goes with hands & arms. Simply placing hands/arms on an opponents back is not a foul. A player must be pushing or holding carelessly, in a way that affects the opponent (i.e., a way that rises above simply being trifling), to be called a foul.

    I think the whole shoulder/back/body part thing is a bit of a red herring and is not the correct focus for a referee. The questions should be: Is it a charge/push/hold? Is it more than trifling? Is it careless play? If so, then it is a foul. The only place the "body part" comes into play is that the back is a more vulnerable spot, so the threshold for "careless" is a little lower.
  14. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    Thanks. I can buy into that explanation. Its like the threshold for careless is lower for big guys versus small guys. I guess I never thought much about the difference in back and shoulder locations, because I have always been much bigger and could easily knock most players over with little effort. I could never get away with anything other than the fairest charge, even shoulder to shoulder. That history also reflects in how I teach shoulder charge.
  15. Gary V

    Gary V Member

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    This is addressed by the last sentence in Advice to Referees 12.5:
  16. bluedevils

    bluedevils Member

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    would you mind providing the web address for this website?
  17. rca2

    rca2 Member

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  18. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    Yes I see. A charge on the back is legal, just not in the center of the back on the spine. This clarification really helps. Thanks.
  19. Gary V

    Gary V Member

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    Please note that document was created in 1998 based on the 1997 Laws of the Game, and it notes it was updated in 2001. Much water has passed under the bridge since then.
  20. rca2

    rca2 Member

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    True but for youth coaches (which is the target audiance) not much significant has changed since the last big rewrite in 1997. Most of the changes have involved safety issues, administrative issues, interpretations in the decisions or incorporating common practices. Lots of stuff for the ref to remember, but fortunately for the players they don't need to know the details. The only significant recent change for players imo is allowing keeper lateral movement before a penalty kick. This website along with official materials available at FIFA and USSF are quite an improvement in available information compared to the pre-web days when I was a youth coach.
  21. njref

    njref Member

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    This is not really a correct statement. A charge from the side that makes some contact with the back may be OK, but a charge from the back that makes contact with the back (spine or not) is likely to be a foul. The further you get from a side charge to the shoulder/side, the less likely a charge will be fair.
  22. ranova

    ranova Member

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    I can find nothing to support your view that a charge must approach from the side and make contact with the outside of the shoulder (i.e., the upper arm) and not the back of the shoulder. It (approach from the side) is not in the LOTG or para 12.5 of the USSF Advice to Referees. I think it is pertinent that 12.5 considers contact with the center of the back to be reckless rather than an illegal charge. To me its similar to regulation of a studs up tackle. Tackling generally is legal but with studs up its reckless. Where slide tackling from behind is expressly prohibited now, no similar language exists for charging.
  23. Gary V

    Gary V Member

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    Please give a cite for that.
  24. ranova

    ranova Member

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    As you apparently knew, I cannot. I appreciate the correction. What I recall is that the change was made in 1998, but has apparently been watered down in the rewrite of Law 12 over the past few years. I am not sure that I want to tell my players that slide tackles from the rear are legal, but this explains the "no calls" we have been getting on safe slide tackles from behind. Your forcing me to research did turn up in the FIFA advice to referees a definition of charging that does not mention "shoulder" or "side" at all, which is consistent with my understanding of a legal charge:

    "The act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows. It is an offense to charge an opponent in a careless manner, in a reckless manner, [or] using excessive force." (Law 12, page 110).
  25. intechpc

    intechpc Member

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    What you can tell your players is that their challenge is more likely to be deemed reckless or excessive if it occurs from behind. Many if not most referees will look at a foul tackle from behind as more dangerous than a tackle of equal force from the front or side. Challenges from the rear seem to be more likely to cause injury and therefore even greater care should be taken if one is going to attempt a tackle from behind.

    Another part to this you could mention is that it is much harder to successfully execute a tackle from behind. The likelihood that you'll foul the player is much greater and therefore it is not usually a good strategy. Keep this in mind from a tactical perspective.

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