Foul Recognition is Not Trifling

Published on May 22, 2017


Foul Recognition is Not “Trifling

By: Jim Reuther, NISOA National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer referee. However, any soccer referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

Referees have the power to decide if an “interaction” has no effect on the flow of the play and then neither say “Play-On” nor whistle play stopped, allowing the match to continue.

Examples of such trifling situations that could go unpunished typically involve free kicks and throw-ins. Not restarting on the exact blade of grass from where the free kick was supposed to can be overlooked when the sole purpose is to unthreateningly put the ball back into play with no advantage gained. Players on either team may not care about these few misplaced yards. 

Trifling becomes more difficult to discriminate when contact between opponents is involved. What impact does a “slight shove in the back”; “short tug on the jersey”; “soft click on the ankle” have on game control?

One clue contact is trifling is when the offended player and his/her teammates neither stop nor dissent, but continue playing without looking to the referee to intervene with a decision; none was needed. Another is after intervening, the offended player shouts, “Hey, Ref, let us play!

Declaring too many situations as trifling is risky business. Doing so must be balanced against player safety and game control. The possibility of having trifling offenses transitioning into major ones and then misconduct outweighs any benefit of allowing play to continue.

Great refereeing is somewhere between calling nothing and calling everything. Good luck.

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