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Question Number: 32168

Law 5 - The Referee 1/15/2018

RE: Adult

Daniel of Bacau, Romania asks...

Please, tell me, where it is written, if it is, that when players from both teams commit offences one after other at a short interval of time when the ball is in play, the referee must punish the first offence.

Thank you,

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Daniel
Very simply it is part of Law 5 which states that the referee enforces the Laws of the Game and Law 12 which lists all the offences that can be committed by a player. It is a principle part of the Laws that the referee will punish the first offence in such situations. So if a player kicks an opponent that is a foul punished by a free kick. A second 'foul' after that is misconduct.
It is also expanded and spelt out in individual Laws such as in Law 14 where the recent law changes clarified the outcome when both the goalkeeper and kicker offend at the same time. Law 14 says that is rare as usually one will have clearly been the FIRST to offend which is then the offence that is punished. It can also be found in Law 11 where a player in an offside position is moving towards the ball with the intention of playing the ball and is fouled before playing or attempting to play the ball, or challenging an opponent for the ball, the foul is penalised as it has occurred BEFORE the offside offence.
The principle is also part of the use of advantage where the referee allows play to continue when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from such an advantage and penalises the ORIGINAL offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time which can be a second 'foul'. The original offence is the first offence so advantage could be played. In a situation where the fouled player then himself commits a foul immediately the referee can and should go back to the first foul as there is no advantage.
If you think through this the game could not consider a situation where a foul has been committed for which play should be stopped and the game punishes the second foul committed after that. That is not equitable in any sport. The referee can still take disciplinary action for the second 'foul' yet he still has to go back to punish the first foul.
A typical scenario would be a player is fouled, knocked to the ground and before the referee stops play he kicks out at the fouler. The fouled player is sent off for violent conduct yet the restart is for the first foul not the second 'foul' of kicking an opponent. The player committing the first foul could also be sanctioned with a card.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Daniel ,
Law 5 The referee, it gives us our by the book orders with a provisional spirit of the Law inclusion not to intervene in doubtful or trifling situations as the game is to be played with as little interference as possible!

The first strike/attempt/contact gives us a REASON to stop play, should it be strong enough to create the FOUL . We can choose to ignore a trifling or doubtful nudge but what if the player getting nudged decides to fling back an elbow and boom now we HAVE to stop to address the injury?

WE MIGHT very well go with a foul of a DFK for the elbow as we deemed the first contact as negligible but was it?

What if we decided ADVANTAGE was there and we signalled to continue but the player with the ball cannot just ignore that last niggle tackle and snaps out crunching his opponent?

Now we will stop but for WHAT?

The whistle is a SIGNAL to STOP play .

Advantage is a signal that YES I saw that FOUL but I hold you are better off to continue playing then stop and have a free kick.

Thus RETAILIATION might create a FOUL against you, the previous player who only moments ago suffered a foul but chooses to disregard the referees decision by ALLOWING play, to arbitrarily enforce his own justice.

WE cannot always have a 100% insight into why or what a player chooses to do when REACTING to one of OUR decisions. Suffice to say if there is NO whistle keep playing. If there IS a whistle STOP . BUT remember the CR STOPPED play to DEAL with whatever occurred given him time to deal with it.
There was a foul, you deciding to react is ONLY misconduct, but while it might not change the original restart, it can still get you kicked from the game!

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Daniel,
It depends somewhat on how you look at this and what you mean by ''the referee must punish the first offence.'' If you mean that the referee only punishes the first offence and ignores the second one, then that is not true. Law 5 says that the referee ''enforces the Laws of the Game.'' That means taking action for all offences as and when they occur (unless advantage can be applied and the advantage is subsequently realised or as ref Dawson says, the offence can be overlooked as trifling or dubious). Even then, in the case of advantage, the referee can still come back and apply sanctions for the original offence - a yellow card for instance or in very exceptional circumstances, a red card (although it is recommended not to play advantage on a red card offence).

I think it is more true to say that the referee bases the restart on the first offence to occur, rather than saying that the referee (only) punishes the first offence. One reason for this is (again, assuming advantage is not being played) that as soon as the first offence occurs and the referee decides to enforce the law as required, play is considered to have stopped - even if the whistle has not sounded yet. Since the second offence then occurs after the point where the ball is considered dead, it cannot be punished in the same way as an offence that occurs when the ball is in play. It cannot for instance, be a foul leading to a free kick as that can only happen when the ball is in play. However the second offence can still be dealt with as misconduct leading to a disciplinary sanction.

So while the law does not specifically spell out that the restart is based on the first offence, it is to my way of thinking, the only way it can logically work. Also, the referee cannot just ignore one offence in order to penalise only a subsequent one - that would be against any concept of equity and fair play and as mentioned, once the decision has been made to penalise an offence, play has effectively stopped which necessarily conditions how the subsequent offence is dealt with.

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