Tactical Fouls

TACTICAL FOULS By:  John Van de Vaarst

A review of an on-line dictionary reveals that tactical is defined as small scale actions serving a larger purpose made or carried out with a limited immediate end in view.  Another definition is that tactical is planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose.  Tactical fouls in a soccer game are planned actions with an immediate end in view.  They are designed to accomplish a purpose.

What are some of the reasons for  a player(s) to commit tactical fouls?  One of the most obvious is to stop an attack.  A team is advancing the ball forward and the player is tripped, charged, held or even obstructed so that the play is disrupted and the attack is stopped or slowed to a point where the defense can adjust and set up to prevent the attack.  Another example is the best player on the attacking team is fouled on multiple occasions.  While none of the fouls are vicious or meant to hurt the player they are significant enough to disrupt the flow of the game and frustrate the attacker so that his/her game becomes off balanced.  Although these fouls in themselves might almost seem to be trifling offences to the referee they must be viewed in the context of what is the intent and the tactics behind the foul.  A third reason for tactical fouls is time wasting.  A team is ahead by one goal and there are only a few minutes left in the game.  A tactical foul stops the play, allows time for the defense to set up and takes time of the clock while the ball is being set for the free kick.  This disruption can remove as much as 30-45 seconds of play.  It becomes an even larger problem if the team that committed the tactical foul has one of the players encroach to slow the kick down for a even longer length of time.  Again this must be recognized by the referee and dealt with quickly.  This same situation can occur if a team with lesser skills is playing for a tie game and continues to do whatever they can to disrupt flow and take precious seconds off of the clock.

Now that there has been a review of what are tactical fouls, the next step is to determine where they are generated from.  The first type of tactical foul is spontaneous.  They defender recognizes a situation and instinctively takes an action to disrupt the flow.  This can happen at any time during the game and usually is an isolated incident.  The second type is when players are coached to commit tactical fouls.  This can be recognized because they happen throughout the game and the players, on multiple occasions are disrupting flow and causing the opponents to become frustrated to the point there can be retaliation.  Another common type of tactical foul is generated to frustrate the front line of the opponents or the best attacker.  These fouls must be dealt with so that the attackers are protected and the game flows without continual disruption and potential for retaliation.

Referees must recognize tactical fouls quickly and deal with them appropriately.  At the first sign of a problem the referee must not only stop play for the foul but they should immediately talk to the players involved and let them know that this type of behavior is not part o f the game and their actions need to cease.  If tactical fouls continue the referee must take a more severe action and caution the offender.  This should correct the problem and send a message to all players that tactical fouls are not permitted.  In the intercollegiate game the referee has the power to stop the clock at any time.  If a referee feels that  a team committed a tactical foul to waste time, the clock should be stopped so that the attacking team is not penalized by losing time during the setting of the free kick.  Once the referee stops the clock the team can now reset  and resume play without rushing and possibly making a bad play on the ball.  Also, this will send a message to the offending team that time wasting will not be permitted.  All players need to be protected to ensure the game is played in a safe manner.  Tactical fouls can cause injury or if a player retaliates a more serious offense or injury can occur.  It is the referee’s duty to protect everyone on the field and eliminate this type of play.   Tactical fouls must be dealt with in a timely manner so that the game flows without undo disruption.