US SoccerUS Soccer
A yellow card

2010 Referee Week In Review Week 9


The Referee Week in Review is designed to address the issues facing referees at all levels by using video highlights from professional games as well as the U.S. National Teams. Written by U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development Paul Tamberino and U.S. Soccer Manager of Assessment and Training Brian Hall, the Referee Week in Review will highlight specific areas of focus and current U.S. Soccer initiatives designed to improve performance and aid in the development of officials across the country.

Week In Review 2010
Week 9 – Ending May 23, 2010

The focus of this “Week In Review” will be missed red card tackles. These are tackles that must be sanctioned with red cards at all levels of play. Although it is often easier to distinguish the severity of challenges after-the-fact, one of the purposes of the Week In Review is to provide regular teaching points to improve recognition skills of officials at all levels. Match officials need to be able to draw mental pictures/images of situations and develop the skills to immediately relate teachings to real time game images. The result, over time, will be increased consistency in application and interpretation.

Week In Review Podcast: For each “Week In Review,” U.S. Soccer produces a related podcast that covers the topics of the week.


Red Card Tackles: What is Excessive Force? – Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct)

U.S. Soccer has provided various criteria in the “Week In Review,” in Directives and in Position Papers to assist referees with making decisions. The criteria are provided as guidelines but match officials must implement them and interpret them when situations dictate. The ability to consistently interpret and implement, based upon the “feel” for the game and the player(s), is a key differentiator of top referees at all levels.

In Week In Review 6, as well as in subsequent and prior publications, the acronym (SIAPOA) for red card tackles was discussed in detail. Each of the six associated components have been extensively examined. In addition, the concepts of excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent have also been explored in an attempt to assist referees with interpreting the mental image/picture they take with each tackle.

This week, the focus will be on further defining the terms excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent.

SIAPOA contains the multiple components that go into determining whether a red card should be issued for a tackle/challenge. Each tackle requires the referee to evaluate the mix and weight of the six SIAPOA components. For example, the speed of play and the tackle may not be great but the intent and the aggressive nature of the tackle may be weighed more heavily based upon the overall affect they have at the moment.

Excessive force does not always equate to or translate to speed or power. Force relates to area of contact as well as mode of contact.

  1. Area of contact
    The area of the opponent that has been contacted. Different areas of the body are more susceptible to injury. Hence, less force is needed to cause damage to the opponent. Areas susceptible to injury include but are not limited to:

    1. Facial area (soft tissue)
    2. Neck area and throat
    3. Ankles and Achilles tendon area
    4. Knee area

    In these areas, it takes less force than in other areas to injury the opponent or endanger their safety. As a result, there is often less aggressiveness or speed associated with the contact.
  2. Mode of contact
    The player’s or tackler’s mode of contact with the opponent is an important factor. Hard surface areas require the use of less force to cause damage to an opponent. Hard surface areas include but are not limited to:

    1. The hard cleat area (plastic, rubber, and safe metal) on the bottom of the player’s boots
    2. Elbows
    3. Forearms
    4. Fists

    The referee must evaluate the body part initiating the contact as well as the location of the contact.

In summary, certain body parts are more susceptible to injury and, when contacted, are more dangerous to the player (increased likelihood for injury and endangerment to safety). At the same time, the item used to initiate the contact by the tackler or player, can increase the susceptibility to injury. These factors increase the aggressiveness of a challenge without relying solely on the speed factor. Hard surface (exposed cleats) contact with a vulnerable surface (ankle and Achilles) increases the likelihood for excessive force regardless of the overall speed.

Note: Aggressiveness and force do not only relate to speed. Referees must consider the area of contact as well as the mode of contact when evaluating challenges. Referees must make these considerations when applying the SIAPOA criteria.

Video Clip 1: D.C. United at Houston (56:43)
This clip involves a red card tackle in which the area of contact and the mode of contact play important roles in the decision to send the player off for serious foul play. Review Image 1 for a clear mental picture of these two important factors.

The area of contact is the inside ankle of the opponent. This attacker is very vulnerable to injury solely based upon the area in which the tackler makes contact.

The mode of contact is the hard surface of the tackler’s cleats. This hard surface is accentuated by the fact that he has a locked leg/knee which translates to no give at the time of contact.

Given the area of contact combined with the mode of contact, the referee should recognize that excessive force is being used and the player is at high risk for injury. The referee must issue a red card for serious foul play (challenge for the ball).

There are three warning signs of a potential unfair tackle that the referee team should recognize. First, watch as the tackler tracks the opponent for approximately 25 yards. This may be a sign of his intent and his hunger to dispossess the opponent of the ball. Second, the offense occurs in front of the team benches. This is a highly volatile area. Thirdly, the location of the ball is on the outside of the attacker and the only way for the tackler to win it is to go through the opponent. These three factors should raise the referee’s awareness and increase his physical presence (closeness to play) as play develops.

Image 1

Both the fourth official and nearby assistant referee (AR) may provide input to the referee regarding the severity of the tackle. Since the challenge occurs in front of the AR, the referee should consider having eye contact with the fourth official and AR prior to issuing the card. Information can be provided to the referee that the offense is worthy of a red card by using a prearranged signal (like the “silent signal” of patting the back pocket to indicate a red card).

Video Clip 2: D.C. United at Houston (16:42)
Earlier in the same match as clip 1, a red card tackle is committed against the player who commits the tackle in clip 1. In this clip 2, the tackler does not lunge for the ball with great speed but, as Image 2 shows, his challenge leaves the attacker vulnerable to injury. The area of contact is behind the opponent’s knee. In this case, the direct nature of the contact leaves the attacker very susceptible to injury. Although there is not a lot of speed or a direct lunge for the ball (starting from distance), the mode of contact is the entire body of the tackler that is driven through the attacker’s trailing leg.

Given the contact made with the attacker’s back leg and the vulnerable location of the leg, it does not take much force to put the player at high risk for injury. The referee must send the tackler off (red card) for serious foul play (challenge for the ball).

Image 2

Video Clip 3: Columbus at Kansas City (89:15)
Late in the game, played in heat and humidity, the referee is faced with several quick moments of body contact. By this time, the referee’s mind is fighting fatigue resulting from the climate. Referee’s must resist the temptation to relax and must stay mentally alert for the duration of the match. The referee makes a decision that the body contact leading to the tackle is acceptable and normal for that level. However, the fact that there is two quick moments of contact should be a flash point for the referee to move closer to the situation to lend his presence.

A tackle is committed that involves excessive force (maybe a result of the prior contact that was not called). The tackler should be sent off for violent conduct as the ball was not in playing distance and there was no challenge for it.

Once again, the concepts of area of contact and mode of contact are important in judging that a red card offense has been committed. Image 3 provides a clear pictorial of the contact.

  1. Image 3Area of contact
    Directly behind the knee in a soft area highly susceptible to injury given it is behind the knee where tendons and joints are involved. Contact is off the ground by several feet.
  2. Mode of contact
    The hard surface of the top of the boot is swung, with force, at the opponent while the ball is shielded from the tackler on the other side of the player in possession of the ball.

With no attempt to play the ball, the excessive force used (due to area and mode of contact) and the fact that the player is facing injury, the referee should red card the tackler for violent conduct.

Looking Forward – Week 10
Consistency in interpretation of red card tackles in which excessive force is used and the player/foulee faces potential injury. Apply SIAPOA and the concepts of area of contact and mode of contact in determining the severity of the offense and the appropriate misconduct.