Referees’ application of the Laws of the Game
How referees apply the Laws of the Game has been and probably always will be, from time to time, a cause of disagreement between referees, players, coaches and spectators. In some cases this may lead to dissent on the field of play that requires the referee to issue a caution (yellow card) and this, although the correct procedure, may widen any gulf between the referee’s action and the players’ opinion of an incident. The Laws of the Game are written in such a way that the opinion of the referee is the only thing that counts.
Undoubtedly, the application of Law 12, dealing as it does with fouls and misconduct, is of primary importance in controlling a game, and the referee’s instantaneous judgement of whether a tackle is fair or not is probably the most frequently-applied part of Law 12.
There are three important aspects for players to bear in mind if they disagree with the referee, the first is whether they fully understand both the Laws of the Game and the advice to referees on their application, the second is whether they shared the same angle of vision as the referee. As we know, observers of incidents (eg, physical contact) will see different aspects depending on their angle of vision. And the third is that your disagreement should be kept to yourself and not voiced to the referee, nor to teammates within earshot of the referee.
Reproduced below is the guidance on tackling that has been issued to referees. All of us involved in the management and organisation of the Southern Amateur Football League hope that, by understanding this, players will appreciate why the referee awards a direct free kick to the opposing team if a player tackles an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force.
Fair tackling (eg, making direct contact with the ball) is permitted as it is a skill similar to passing the ball, shooting for goal, etc. If a player makes contact with an opponent before touching the ball then he must be punished by the award of a direct free kick. Depending on the degree and intensity of the challenge, a player may receive an additional punishment in the form of a caution or a sending off.
Careless, reckless, using excessive force
• “Careless” means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution
• No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless
• “Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent
• A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned
• “Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent
• A player who uses excessive force must be sent off