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Question Number: 33038

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 2/4/2019

RE: Under 13

Robert Gunn of Scunthorpe, United Kingdom asks...

Whats the rules on shoulder barging?

We played a match the other week and the opposition centre half was a monster of a child, body of a 20 something. Great kid and fantastic with his feet but with him being a lot bigger than the others his shoulder to shoulder action concerned me.

Going in 50-50 to the ball, ball infront of two players and both going for the ball i would say is a fair contest no matter the size difference.

Our left winger started out strengthening him on the 50-50s so the centre half now started cutting across and not looking at the ball but now the player and shoulder barging him nearly off the pitch. In my eyes hes not looking at the ball so a free kick????

The young ref aged around 18 years old didnt agree with this, any thoughts???

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Robert
The Laws allow for fair charging. To charge fairly the ball must be within playing distance and it must be side to side that is shoulder to shoulder and the charge must not be careless / reckless.
One of the big difficulties at Underage for referees is mismatches in size and stature. A big player can use his strength provided he uses it legally in fair shouldering. Sometimes that can look excessive when it is big v small and that is a judgement call as the difference between careless/reckless and a strength mismatch. Also looking at the ball is not always a requirement as long as it is within playing distance and it is not done in way that is reckless. The player nay have to look at the player to ensure he is side to side or not into the player back or chest which is not a fair charge.
Have a look at this video
The referee believed it was a fair charge so play continued. Was it legal? Probably on balance yes . There was little complaint and the attacker got up and got on with play.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Robert,
The Laws say that: ''If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent.'' Then there is a definition in the glossary, saying that a charge is a ''Physical challenge against an opponent, usually using the shoulder and upper arm (which is kept close to the body).'' I think that definition is actually supposed to describe a fair charge.

Also, up until 2016, the laws contained the following:

''The act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows.
It is an offence to charge an opponent - in a careless manner - in a reckless manner - using excessive force''

For some reason that additional (and I think helpful) advice was removed in the 2016 rewrite but I think most referees are still aware of it and would use its provisions. Taking that old guidance, together with the current definition, I think gives a fairly good framework for judging what is or is not a fair charge. There is one bit of 'tacit knowledge' that I think all referees apply, which is that if the charge is done with any appreciable measure of force, the opponents must be side by side. It is not considered permissible to charge the opponent, even if using the shoulder, by shoving them in the back or chest.

When it comes to youth games where opponents can be of much more widely varying sizes and weights than in the typical adult game, there is that added wrinkle for the referee to consider but I think it still comes down to the fundamental judgement of whether the charge is careless, reckless or using excessive force (CRUEF). Even though the opponent is bigger, so long as they are not violating the CRUEF criteria, the challenge may still be OK but I do think the referee has to be a little more mindful of those criteria when there is a significant size/weight difference.

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