September 19, 2016

Three Laws of the Game Changes (Not) Brought to UEFA Praxis

When the IFAB defined almost 100 changes to the Laws of the Game, some of them appeared to be quite theoretical, not to say irrelevant. Even the referee instructors in my own association told us, their referees, that most of the changes would be probably never needed in praxis. Last week's Champions League and Europa League Matchday 1 disabuse those voices.



Situations 1 and 2: Denying an Obvious Goal-Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO)

The change that caught the media's attention more than any other very likely was the abolishment of the so-called triple punishment, or, in other words, changes to how denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity should be treated (see these posts). A yellow card should be awarded if the offence is made inside the penalty area - as long as the offence is not holding, pushing, pulling, a deliberate handball or an offence which demands a red card everywhere on the field and/or as long as the foul was no attempt to play (or get) the ball.

Sometimes, goalkeepers are facing 1v1-situations with attacking players denying them their obvious scoring opportunity. Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos faced such a situation in Brugge last week.



Although the goalkeeper's action looks quite tough at first glance, the replay shows that he extended his leg to clear and play the ball. In other words: It is no clear case of not attempting to play the ball. As the offence was kind of tripping, the goalkeeper was correctly cautioned by the referee.

For the purpose of having a contrast, have a look on the following incident that occurred some weeks ago in a UEL play-off (Nikola Popov of Bulgaria involved):



Apart from the circumstance that the referee should have applied the wait-and-see-technique and allowed the team benefit (another attacker was close, the goal was empty - painful for both Aberdeen and the referee team), this is an example where a red card could and probably should have been given to the goalkeeper in line with the new Law 12:

The offence clearly denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity inside the penalty area and should be sanctioned with a red card everywhere on the field: The stretched studs made strong, unfair contact with the attacking player's backheel and clearly endangered his safety. In the midfield, such a tackle should rather be sanctioned with a red card for serious foul play (SFP) - same goes for the goalkeeper in his own penalty area.

Ideally, referees should wait and see whether a goal-scoring opportunity develop or is probable, wait for it, and then allow the goal and caution (if the offence was worth of a yellow card based on the Laws of the Game) or dismiss (if the offence was worth of a red card due to the new DOGSO passage or because it is was a RC offence everywhere on the field of play) the goalkeeper afterwards.


Situation 3: Impeding the opponent with contact

A medially more silent, but equally significant change was made to impeding the opponent. Have a look on the following clip:



The Danish match officials unfortunately missed the clear offence(s) by at least one, but actually two attacking players who impeded the movement of two defending players and thus prevented them from defending the pass that resulted in the 0:1 goal.

In former times, impeding an opponent was sanctioned with an indirect free-kick. From July on, the re-start of play depends on whether contact was or was not given during the offence (cf. pp. 82f.).

In this case, both attackers physically blocked and impeded their opponents so that the correct solution would have been a direct free-kick awarded from the position of the stronger offence (as both were of the same type and of a comparable intensity as well as very close to each other, nobody would have cared where the direct free-kick would have been executed from).


Situation 4: Sending-Off Offence, Advantage and Indirect Free-Kick

The most interesting situation from a refereeing point of view surely was Ivan Kruzliak's procedure in the Europa League game between Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Zenit (3:4). In minute 81, with Zenit being 1:3 down, a Maccabi defender tackled his opponent and turned mere IFAB theory into football praxis:



What happened? Kruzliak deemed the tackle as reckless, demanding a yellow card. The offender was already cautioned so that this yellow card was his second yellow card resulting in a sending-off. However, Kruzliak gave an advantage as he thought there had been a team benefit situation. When the offender got involved in play by interfering with and challenging an opponent for the next time, Kruzliak stopped play, sent the offender off and awarded an indirect free-kick.

The Laws of the Game state:

"If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution / send off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution / send off must be issued when the ball is next out of play, except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player when the ball is next out of play but if the player plays the ball or challenges/interferes with an opponent, the referee will stop play, send off the player and restart with an indirect free kick."

It is considered as unfair and as against the sense of fairplay to allow a player, who is guilty of a sending-off offence, to interfere with play or an opponent after his offence if an advantage has been applied in the context of a clear scoring opportunity.

So, some questions must be asked:

1) Was the tackle reckless? 

One can deem it as such, at any rate. Deeming it as careless could be maybe shared by some people, as the impact of the tackle looked worse than its real intensity and contact type.

2) Was it correct to play the advantage?

No. The referee was actually not "allowed" to play it: As the tackle was a second cautionable offence, he should have stopped play immediately (see above). It was NO obvious goal-scoring opportunity, but only a promising attack (if at all).

3) Was it clever to play the advantage?

As the answer on question 1) was "no", this question actually does not need to be answered. For educational purposes, though, it is valuable to pay attention to it.

So, was it clever? So-so. On the one hand, keeping control of the match sometimes outweighs a team benefit situation. Stopping play for (very) reckless offences is recommended, for this reason, unless there is an extremely significant or clear game advantage. Furthermore, 2-3 attackers were facing 5-6 defenders 50 metres away from the opposite goal. On the other hand, Zenit was down by 1:3, so they did not have much time to score goals anymore. It was therefore understandable that Kruzliak wanted to allow play to flow and give the Russian players the benefit of continuing their attack - which obviously turned out to be quite dangerous.

4) Was the indirect free-kick correctly given?

Actually yes, the procedure was correct. The main problem is point 2): The advantage was actually a violation of the Laws of the Game. However, one can question whether one can expect from a referee officiating at that level to immediately know that the offender has already been cautioned earlier in the game (maybe he was told so by an assistant referee 2 or 3 seconds after the offence). At any rate, he seemed to know it when he stopped play for the indirect free-kick. So he definitely learnt or got to know it between the moment of the offence and awarding the indirect free-kick. Technically, he should have come back to the original offence to send the player off. That was impossible to sell in the reality of the game, though.

Perhaps it would have been much easier to let play flow, refrain from sending the player off and later, in the debriefing, justify that decision by having deemed it as careless. But all that is speculation and based on the benefit of hindsight.

Another interesting question is: If the referee applies the advantage rule after a second cautionable offence in the context of a promising attack (and NOT in the context of a scoring opportunity), does the indirect-free-kick-passage apply anymore? What do you think?

Videos are placed for educational purpose. Thanks to our user RayHD for partly cutting and uploading them.

15 Comments:

  1. VERY INTERESTING ..............

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  2. Very interesting post. Many thanks ! What will be happen if this player interfered in play or opponent a little bit early and it has been occured not in the penalty area and in the same time the attacking team will had the other possibility to continue the promising attack ?

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    1. Excellent question... the LotG do not consider that case. It should say (fictively):

      "If the referee plays the advantage for an offence for which a caution / send off would have been issued had play been stopped, this caution / send off must be issued when the ball is next out of play, except when the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity results in a goal the player is cautioned for unsporting behaviour.

      Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play, violent conduct or a second cautionable offence unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player when the ball is next out of play but if the player plays the ball or challenges/interferes with an opponent, the referee will stop play, send off the player and restart with an indirect free kick, unless there is a clear opportunity to score a goal" ;)

      Even though I fully understand and agree with the intention behind this LotG-passage, I think it is highly problematic in praxis.

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    3. "Decisions will be made to the best of the referee`s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’ and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework
      of the Laws of the Game."

      This and the unwritten Law 18 support an advantage in case of a scoring opportunity. What I would criticize, though, is that the passage (idfk/advantage) simply does not provide for all contingencies.

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    4. Totaly agree. Therefore for my opinion its is very important sentence in LOG, that if the RC must be shown the advantage could be applied only in the case of a goal scoring opportunity (not in promising attack).

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    5. Dear Niclas, I would really appreciate your interpretation of the last sentence of the paragraph (under the quote marks) and the LOTG:
      In the midfield, such a tackle should rather be sanctioned with a red card for serious foul play (SFP) - same goes for the goalkeeper in his own penalty area. “Ideally, referees should wait and see whether a significant advantage and/or goal-scoring opportunity develop or are probable, wait for it, and then allow the goal and caution the goalkeeper afterwards.”
      The way I see the game is: if the goalkeeper (or any other player) has committed SFP and the goal was scored from applied advantage, the goal should be awarded while the goalkeeper/player should be sent-off for SFP.
      However, the way I understood the marked sentence of your paragraph is that regardless of the committed SFP the goalkeeper should be cautioned due to scored goal i.e. the scored goal reduced disciplinary measure for SFP from RC to YC?
      Regards,

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    6. Dear Shearer, the passage is indeed wrongly / poorly written and has been corrected. SFP/VC is of course not reduced by an advantage.

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    7. Thank you for the good work, patience, good inttentions... To me, this blog is one of few windows to proper understanding and application of LOTG.
      Regards

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  3. I agree with all what you mentioned BUT - if you really understand football, the decision is very easy, even for somebody with small violention of the Laws.
    The main point is to protect the game and the team who wants to play, to score. In this particular situation was BIG decision to allow to play even it was not immediately goal obvious scoring opportunity,but just a promissing attack. Do you really think that players of Zenit were interested for FK on halfway line followed by 2nd YC/RC? Or the benefit for them was to play on and have a possibility to develope their attack? Easy in terms of Spirit of the game.. And double if the attack finished with a goal scoring opportunity - if the player of Zenit scored, Kruzlaik would be hero of the day!
    Second thing is - LAWS, for me wrong rule in this time, maybe not wrong, but not totally clear because of some particular situations. But I am sure after this situation, IFAB will find some clever solution..
    Nobody can blame Referees in particular situations to allow play advantage - we all want to see goals, attacking play.. (for example - promissing attack: 2 strikers run 40 metres from goal with ball posession towards 1 defender and goalkeeper - is it goal scoring opportunity? NO, just promissing attack.BUT can you imagine that referee will stop the game in 89 min during the score is 1:1??? - I believe that all of you will agree that referee cannot follow rules and the advantage is only one clever decision - this must be solved!!!)

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    1. That's why I believe that advantages should be allowed to be played after a second cautionable offence. I understand that a violent conduct or serious foul play demands immediate attention to keep control. A 2nd YC at the next stoppage and everything is fine.

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  4. Here are the oficial UEFA Expert comment about situation in match Macabi-Zenit :
    The Maccabi No 2, who had already recived a YC earlier in the match, commits a second cautionable offence.
    At that moment the referee's decision to play advantage was not correct as Zenit did not have a clear opportunity to score a goal at the time the advantage had been played.
    The referee should have stopped play immediately and ordered the player from the field for committing a second cautionable offence.
    However, having wrongly decided to play advantage, the referee was correct to stop the play when the same player became involved in active play, when he challenged his opponent in a fair manner within his own penalty area. He also correctly restarted play with a IDFK.
    When referees play advantage and a player has later to be dismissed, they are recommended to make a gesture that can demonstrate to everyone that a second YC or a RC offence had been previously committed and that they decided to play advantage.

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    1. Thanks for sharing :)

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    2. Dear Niclas. Follow this expert comment - what do you think must be the referee observer mark ?

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    3. Good question. If they deem it as a violation of the Laws (with crucial impact by the way), 7.9 is not impossible. Maybe they used 8.2 or so as a compromise.

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