Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 21193

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 4/26/2009

RE: Competive Under 15

Todd of Rockford, IL USA asks...

I have two questions:
1) Players putting their hands on the back of an opposing player - no push, just placing their hands on the opposing players back. Foul or no foul if there is no push? This happens when the ball is in the air and coming down and also when the player in possession of the ball is sheilding with their body and the defender places their hands on the sheilding players back (again, no visible push).
2) Attacking player moving the ball downfield towards goal - defending player coming from behind and attempts a slide tackle but misses the attacking player totally (does not touch the attacking player at all). Foul or no foul?; caution?; verbal warning? (Note: in my opinion in watching the play unfold, the sliding player did not extend his legs in an all out effort to take the attacking player down, however, there was an attempt to slide tackle from behind. Also, in my opinion, had the sliding player made contact and had taken the attacker down, definately a caution, if not a sending off)

Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

1. If you are describing 'hand checking', that is legal in basketball but not in soccer. It's a form of holding. For those of you not familiar with the term, it involves enough force so as to distract the opponent. Oftentimes it involves grabbing the jersey. If you are referring to a player merely placing his hand on an opponent's back with no force and no shove, then, of course, there's no infraction. In any case, a quick "Hands to yourself" is probably sufficient. 2. There's no foul known as 'slide tackling from behind'. There is a form of serious foul play known as endangering the safety of an opponent. And there is a foul known as attempting to kick an opponent. What you describe could be nothing at all, a foul for attempting to kick an opponent in a careless manner, a caution for attempting to kick an opponent in a reckless manner, or a send off for serious foul play or violent conduct for endangering the safety of an opponent. I suppose one could make a case for playing in a dangerous manner if the attacker was put off in some way by the action of the defender. Definitely an opinion of the referee call. All that said, if the tackle was as you describe, feet down, no cleats up, no apparent attempt to injure the opponent, I fail to see how there is any foul here.

Read other questions answered by Referee Keith Contarino

View Referee Keith Contarino profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

I have no real issue in your first scenario, so I will deviate slightly from my colleague here, using your hands to gauge distance as in a touching or warding motion is not a stiff arm or hold in my opinion. A player backing in is every bit to blame as one putting the arms out to stop that motion! I think a closed fist over a jersey is more of a hold than a finger touch. IF the hand goes from a distance gesture to a grab or push or pull those actions could be judged as foul depending on the referee's perspective.

On your second issue much les clear depending on a number of circumstances. There might be reason to see it as only a dollar short and a day late and verbally warn. It could be stretched to PIADM thus only an INDFK but if the opponent is bailing out of the way such action could STILL be seen as an attempt to trip thus a DFK.
The myth of, I got the ball first, is complimented by another myth, If I never touched him, my attempt is irrelevant! A swing and a miss, a jump and a miss, a kick and a miss, could all have evil intentions and only luck that the safety of the opponent was not compromised by contact!
The need to act on this is dependant on the overall match .
Was this a deliberate, I am trying to get you SOB?
Was it a reckless choice of desperation?
Was it simply bad timing?
Was it so far away from anything as it could be ignored?
While no contact is certainly LESS LIKELY to create a foul it is not a zero %!

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Gil Weber

A defender touching an opponent by placing a hand (or, more likely, fingers) on an opponent to gauge distance is the most inconsequential of possible offenses. When I played I thought it was actually beneficial to my play to feel that touch on the back. It told me where my opponent was as the ball came down. Further, it told me in no uncertain terms that the challenge would be from close range and with substantially less force than if an unknown opponent at an unknown distance were starting at my back or, of more concern, at the back of my legs. So it made my play a lot easier knowing just where my marker was and not having to worry that I was being set up for some nasty, heavy challenge into the Achilles Tendons.

In my opinion most players (at least not the whiners) do not regard this light touching as distracting. For a referee to classify these innocuous touches as holding (direct free kick for that?) is making an absolute mountain out of a molehill. Players, both attackers and defenders, know and expect a certain amount of touching. They accept it.

If we blow the whistle every time there is the slightest touch we choke the life out of the game. And if we're going to call this out in the middle of the field will we be consistent, and are we going to award a PK for one of these little touches and then try to sell it to the defenders by saying it was 'holding?' I don't think so.

Let's just say, 'Hands down, guys, hands down.'

Now, if the slight touch turns into a push or a grab, especially one where the defender tries to conceal it by making contact in the small of the back, then we nail it. That is no longer innocuous touching. We have to be smart enough to see it and differentiate such a push or grab from merely establishing distance.

As to the second issue -- an apparently proper slide tackle from behind that makes no contact -- I would answer this way. The laws specify that tripping or attempting to trip an opponent is a foul. We also know that striking or attempting to strike, and kicking or attempting to kick an opponent is a foul.

Now, if we see a player take a swing at an opponent but miss, of course we'd nail the perp and send him off. The players would expect it.

And if we observed a player take a wild kick at an opponent but miss, we'd nail that too and send off the perp. The players would expect it.

But imagine an attacker who takes the ball into the penalty area. A defender tries to slide tackle but misses (makes no contact). Are we going to call that a foul -- attempts to trip -- and award a PK? Have you ever seen 'attempts to trip' result in a PK?

I have refereed more than 43 years and have never seen it, and I doubt I ever will. To award a PK for attempting to trip (no contact) on an **otherwise reasonable slide tackle** would be a decision that the referee could not sell.

Now, if the defender came in with a foot raised dangerously but made no contact, especially if that raised foot were swung at the attacker, you could probably sell that as a PK. But in your question you indicate it was a reasonable challenge that made no contact.

So I am **not** saying that you should ignore the part of Law 12 that defines attempts to trip as a foul. Rather, I am saying that this has to be one of the most judiciously made decisions, for the player who is called and all of his or her teammates are not going to accept the decision unless it was clearly a wild challenge that had great potential to injure -- for example the sort of challenge that really should be considered jumping at an opponent rather than attempting to trip.

Jumping at an opponent requires no contact and can easily be sold even if there is no contact.

Hope this helps.

Read other questions answered by Referee Gil Weber

View Referee Gil Weber profile

Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

More often than not, the kind of contact that you are describing is the player's way of letting the other know they are right behind them, and frankly, are looking to protect the orthodontic investment their parents made/are making for them. You can see the difference between that kind of contact and the kind where they are trying to hold the other player down or using that player as a 'step up' to get to the ball over their opponent. However, contact, no matter how small or unobtrusive, while the opponent is in the air is NOT allowable. A simple/small touch while in the air can provide enough force to put them off balance, and ultimately take them out of that challenge for the ball.

Point two: Slide tackling or attempting to slide tackle from behind is not a foul. Tackling an opponent must be done in such a way as to be either careless, reckless or excessively forceful in order to be considered a foul. Your description leaves me to believe that the player making the attempt actually attempted to tackle his opponent WITH care, rather than without care.

Read other questions answered by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

View Referee Debbie Hoelscher profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 21193
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.