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Question Number: 32905

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 12/2/2018

RE: Rec Adult

Russell of Sydney, Australia asks...

Penalty or no penalty?

This is one I look at, then walk away saying 'it is what it is', then ponder again, then walk away, then...

Melbourne Victory were awarded a penalty against West Sydney Wanders in the Australian A-League.

When i watched this in real time in the highlights clip below, I was unsure about the penalty.

My initial thoughts was that the defender - although very clumsy in nature " looked like he fairly headed the ball away before there was contact between the attacher and the defender.

But then I thought, as the A-League has VAR, I figured that it must have not been a consideration, and the penalty to stand.

Fast forward to the 50sec mark of the following highlights clip.

So I moved on. But then hours later, I read this from Ref Dawson in answer to a question from Jason Lewis of Cardiff (32898) around contact in tackles.

'The key aside from the force & direction is to ENSURE the ball is actually contacted FIRST before there might be body contact where the opponent could fall over or into you if unable to jump out of the way. This type incidental contact is not always a foul because if it does not go past the careless stage it was in fact an effective tactic because the ball was exposed to be challenged.'

Reading this, I immediately thought back to the Victory v Wanders A-League penalty and of the Wanders defenders action because the ball was exposed, and that he looked like he made contact with the ball before there was contact between the defender and attacker.

Now we need a microscope and slow motion to clarify if the contact was defender on attacker or vice versa - even then, was it worthy of a foul, or just typical coming together afterwards.

While I guess I lean towards no penalty (with the aid of remote in hand), ITOOTR it was a foul and as VAR is in use in the A-League, the call was right, so we move on.

But, it still nags* me.

*A term used here for describing someone, who keeps on about something time and time again. Or the effect something has on you that you keep thinking about it.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Russell,

Wow, this is a really interesting one! I missed the game and didn't hear much chatter about this one. Though it was probably overshadowed by the other VAR controversies this weekend!! It just goes to show that it's the players who create controversy - no matter what the decision here is, there will be debate on this one. If the scoreline was closer, I imagine there would be a bit more chatter about this one on social media.

Here's a better video:
Go to 1min 30 in.

So, there's 2 elements here. The initial decision, and VAR.
As for VAR - in theory, they only refer it to on-field review if it's a clear and obvious error. I take that to mean that there couldn't really be an argument against given the VAR decision. I tend to interpret 'clear and obvious' as 'near-inarguable'. But, I haven't undergone VAR training myself so perhaps I'm in error there. And of course, whether something is debatable or inarguable is itself a subjective decision.

Now, you're right that getting the ball first usually makes a lot of difference. As referees, one of the challenges is judging between incidental contact on a fair challenge, and contact that's over the top or dangerous after winning the ball, especially given that 'tackles an opponent in a manner that is careless, reckless or using excessive force' is a foul (I've paraphrased slightly).

Now, had he kicked the ball here, the attacker would almost certainly have tripped over the outstretched leg.....but that would probably be incidental contact and fair after winning the ball (Assuming there's no issues with studs showing). But, the defender headed it instead.

And that's a problem. Now, I watched the video a number of times to come to this conclusion - but the issue is that he's done a diving header on a ball that's at an opponent's feet. That's Playing In A Dangerous Manner. He's created a highly dangerous situation. Sure, he's only put himself at risk but it's still PIADM.

From the LOTG: Playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.

Given the defender won the ball by PIADM they've prevented the opponent from playing the ball.

PIADM is typically when there's no contact. For instance, a high foot close to a player's head would be indirect (maybe a card). Actually kicking that player in the face makes it a direct free kick (and a definite card!). The LOTG actually don't stipulate whether contact elevates PIADM to a direct, but if something could simultaneously be considered an indirect and a direct free kick offence, you always take the direct free kick offence. So, I believe it's still implied that contact elevates PIADM to a DFK - and historically that's been FIFA's position.

So, by taking that diving header, he's also caused the contact that's brought the opponent down - in fact, the touch on the ball was only a split second before the head on the foot. The defender is the one who's initiated that contact by getting his head down there. So, that brings it up to a penalty kick for me. This would also be a DOGSO situation - but it's a genuine play on the ball, so YC.

You've identified the other issue though - who fouled first? I actually think the defender's heels were clipped. If so, that would mean the only reason he headed the ball is because he was starting to go down, and he was forced to take that option. I can't clearly see contact on the leg, but the defender's lowered body position looks like he's been clipped and is off balance and trying to maintain his balance while trying to turn. He's got no chance of getting his leg up while he's trying not to fall down, so a diving header was his only option. If this is the case, it should be a free kick the other way. A small clip of the heels that has an effect on play should still be penalised. Also, it's the attacker that's crossed behind the defender - if the defender had crossed in front of the attacker and given the attacker no chance to avoid clipping his heels, it wouldn't be a foul by the attacker. As it is, if there was contact, it's a careless action by the attacker, so it meets the criteria for a foul.

So, brings me back to VAR. If there is an angle that clearly shows the clip of the heels then I would argue that makes the decision a clear and obvious error. If not, then I don't think there's enough evidence to warrant VAR intervention.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

When I looked at this I thought that it was a foul in that the defender knew he was going down so he made a last ditch attempt to play the ball placing himself in a position to make contact with the attacker. A sort of impeding with contact which is a direct free kick offence.
From what I see it does not look like the defender played the ball so in essence it was a careless challenge for the ball bringing the attacker down to ground.
VAR review may have cleared up any possible play on the ball by the defender and I guess in the absence of a clear view of that it is a foul.
So I would have little difficulty with the penalty decision and as the player attempted to play the ball with no clear DOGSO I would say that a penalty was suffice.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Without a rear view that COULD possibly show the leg of the attacker clipped the defender'a heel this is a clear PK in as PIADM the lunge with the head into the feet it created contact that was in essence unavoidable. A Pk with no caution is for me the right call. Replace the head with a foot then we have a a greater degree of good tackle play on!

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