Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 34263

Mechanics 7/9/2021

RE: Euros Professional

VAR fan of Bergen, Norway asks...

This question is a follow up to question 34260

Thanks for you thoughtful answers!

Re Sweden:
I'm curious, given the disagreement seen afterwards, even between referees, why this was considered a "clear and obvious error". I'm guessing this kind of incident has been mentioned in the pre-tournament briefings.
I feel it is a close call. I think the reason many observers like myself lean towards yellow is that it isn't perceived as a challenge, but as a kick on the ball. It certainly feels very different than a late challenge with the same points of contact. Essentially it was not a "tackle or challenge using excessive force" in part because it was not a tackle or challenge. I see referee Dawson's response touches on some of these issues.

Re Denmark:
I agree that the ref had excellent positioning: one of the replays was from behind the ref, and it definitely looked like a penalty from that angle. They clearly are professionals respected far to little.
I'm far more certain in my view that it oughtn't have been a penalty, than that is wasn't one under the rules. In my view the rules should no longer incentivise falling as easily as players do today. In general it felt like there was a higher threshold for contact being considered a foul this tournament. I understand that that this is more an IFAB decision than individual referees. Nevertheless, I'm curious about your views.

Of course the referee on the day makes their decision fairly and to the best of their ability, like the brilliant decision in France 98!

As indicated I'm a fan, and it has generally been great this tournament.
I believe there are still improvements to be made. (By the way, I included "sell the decision" in my question as it is mentioned in the VAR protocol.) One of the reasons I would like a lowered bar in extra time is that I see some benefits with on-field review being available without the presumption of a "clear and obvious error". I don't see a perfect way to solve this issue, as I view it as important that the referee makes an initial call, but the psychology of being told "you're wrong" can hardly lead to an optimal mindset before the review.

Two other suggestions I've thought about:
Diving with absolutely no contact should be reviewable anywhere. It would hopefully not take to long before this would be exceedingly rare, like handling a pass to the keeper. The rule is there to prevent it happening, not to be enforced in most games.
On a different axis, I'd wish they communicate more clearly what they are checking. Are they looking for an offside or a foul from the attacking team?

Thoughts on these? What would you like to see from VAR in the future?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

I believe that it happened so fast in real time that the referee did not have a clear view of the contact on the Ukrainian player and that VAR would have seen the manner of the contact as SFP. It is a possible leg breaker and too often these type of contacts have posed serious risk to the safety of players.

Even in grassroots I have seen players make these sort of challenges that play the ball yet have no regard for an opponent on the follow through. Martin Keown who was a no nonsense big strong defender that played for Arsenal and a player well capable of putting in some strong challenges himself is reported as saying it was a "horror challenge" while Gary Lineker is reported as defending it as an accident on a follow through.
Irrespective of what pundits or anyone else thinks about the challenge and its like I take it that at the highest level with VAR and a senior referee viewing it that the refereeing authorities see this as a red card tackle. Even if it was not a "challenge" players cannot lunge horizontally with the studs showing and catch a player high up on the shin in this case knee high. As I said previously I expect this to be a red card and I would be advising / instructing referees to sanction this as SFP

The game is trying to make it safer and these type of challenges pose a real risk to safety. In the Euros referees have also been clamping down on the use of the arm in aerial challenges. Some feel that it is harsh to card for what is the use of the arm for leverage yet by doing so it also poses a real threat to player safety through serious head contact. In many instances there is no intent yet it is not about intent only.

As a result of these determinations by referees at least in Europe we can take it that such contact will be treated as serious foul play and on arm use that makes head contact accidentally as reckless. Accordingly players need to adjust their playing manner to take account of this at the UEFA level otherwise they will be sanctioned accordingly.

On the VAR protocol the authorities are keen that the referee take control of the game and it is a tool to only deal with clear and obvious errors. As already mentioned we recall one PL referee who reviewed every decision which became tedious. That was never the intention behind VAR. I would also suspect that with real time communication between all the match officials that anything untoward that needs attention is attended to and players know this.
In the Sterling incident the referee took onboard the pleas of the Danish players for a review which was done by the VAR referee Pol Van Boekel. Indeed the same official is on the VAR team in the final which suggests that UEFA supported his performances so far.
In a recent Euro game I recall a goalkeeper getting cautioned for dissenting a goal which he claimed was offside? Why he needed to berate the AR for no offside call when we all know that every goal is checked assiduously for offside so if there was offside it was going to get called!

On the diving question it only becomes an issue when it impacts significantly on a game such as in a penalty call or a free kick in tne scoring position. I would say that all these type of incidents get what is called a silent review and if there is a blatant dive it will be dealt with. So far I can only recall one caution for a dive which was in the Denmark v Belgium games which was spotted by Referee Bjorn Kuipers. I believe with VAR players are wary of diving as if ot is blatant it will be picked up.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

When you freeze-frame it looks devastating but when you look at it in real-time the ball is headed into space where the Swedish player kicks it away and the Ukraine player gets there only after, it was played away. It was not a challenge to take the ball off the player who was dribbling, It was a race to get to a loose ball. Look at the eyes, fixed in the ball, an attempted clearance that unfortunately in retrospect, looks ugly. I was a player & I wonder how I could have kicked that ball differently? Should he have run to it in the same manner as the Ukraine player or did he think he would not get there in time? I can agree the position of the leg is in a damaging position but that occurs because the ball was bouncing and he reached to knock it away. He did not lunge into or through the oncoming player but he did have a stiff locked leg, cleats forward upon contact as he lunged into play the ball & flicked the foot to knock the ball up and away. No one can say he did not lunge, I think in part he was leaning back slightly and realized he had no forward momentum to make it there which is a lack of control by way of a desperate measure to jump forward. The incoming Ukrainian player was trying to run into the ball to move it ahead, there was no foot control just a backboard to rebound. This terrible set of circumstances had more to do with bad luck than bad timing and was in no way deliberate but it was an outstretched locked leg, studs showing into oncoming players and he paid the price of the red card which may seem harsh but the opponent paid dearly as well for his rashness no matter whom you blame! Perhaps we should simply say to all players stiff-legged studs up is red card material no matter your intentions when going into a tackle or playing the ball if opposing players are around. It would be interesting to speculate? What if the Ukrainian player had been his teammate also trying to get to the loose ball? No foul, BUT, was it an unsafe potentially dangerous act?

You are right that was a brilliant decision in 98 so too his use of advantage in the first goal. Just a master class of good officiating. lol

look at the ball off the header dropping into space, eyes fixed on the ball, but look at body balance and reason to lunge. creating the dangerous circumstances of a knee lock studs forward kick. I have some sympathy in his intentions but let's be aware the Ukrainian fellow could be in a career-ending mode because of such a decision made.

VAR is still in the throes of infancy. It takes a while to integrate change into a centuries-old game. It is true the decisions on the FOP by the CR are SUPPOSED TO be sacrosanct. This VAR tool is supposed to assist in eliminating missed critical incidents that have a dramatic effect on the game. Scoring goals, sending off players, and losing ball possession due to officiating errors hurt the game despite the players' own plethora of mistakes. We have offside decisions now down to the thousands of an inch. Ball in or out, over the goal line or not, these are definitive decisions that are not opinion-based but yes or no simplicity. CONTACT in a contact sport is NOT subject to that same meter of scrutiny. A little nudge can create the same as a vicious chop in it affects the ability of a player to attack or score. It why the misnomer of a soft penalty even IF true a player sells a decision versus cheats to win a decision is ALWAYS subject to the opinion of the referee in charge of the match. Now a wise CR will be open to his neutral avenues of information to correct or change, but as in any leadership role, the buck stops here at the top, all decisions receive the final stamp of approval by the CR! I feel certain that safety protocols today are far more stringent than in the past and referees are well aware of the expectations by those who assign them these matches what their duties are.

It was pretty obvious the defenders were not going to let the English attacker through unscathed. I believe the referee got the Sterling decision correct as leg-to-thigh contact or a knee to knee can trip or knock a player off balance just as easily as catching a break leaning on the outside leg. Given players will flop, feeling the contact, it is understandable to assume why we want broken bones and blood to be evident so there is no doubt. Yet I put it to you there will ALWAYS be doubt, you can not get rid of it because nothing in life is certain. It can appear as if it was, you perceive it as you think it was, or you are certain beyond a reasonable doubt except on the pitch none of that matters because the guy or gal holding the whistle needs to step up and blow or let it go! Cameras do lie and they do CREATE false narratives because emotion affects our thinking processes no matter how neutral or open we try to be but since we do not mind readers, we can only judge what we see a player does and then do our level best to get that decision right!

AS to diving when you call a player a cheat because he goes down is not the same as a blatant dive to steal something from nothing!
Integrity is more than sticking to principles of moral certainty, it is YOUR gift to yourself of self-respect and should comprise the essence of your character be you alone answerable only to yourself or in front of the world. If you cheat yourself or you cheat others it undermines not only your core values, it destroys the confidence others place in you, it lowers their esteem when your actions unravel the tapestry of respect by cowardly or unsporting acts that undermine the concepts of fair play. It is a sad day when a player cheats to win a PK, to be taking shortcuts, or looking for the easy way out. If it is true the act is one of subterfuge, an unwinding of basic principles or ideals that we speak of as important but not as important as winning something coveted for its glory? Then the result has no honor! To dive and be cautioned is a stain on the player, no one should want it known and we should be always thinking that since we can not mind read to give a guy who does go down even if we are suspicious to think less of him then we might. Sometimes fatigue, a slight clip of the feet, a nick on the ankle, a flexed knee into the thigh can cause a dramatic fall where the selling of it might be all that there is separated from the guilt of trying to win a foul out of essentially nothing.

Truthfully at the grassroots level the VAR really has no meaning. The guy or gal in the middle guides the match essentially in accordance with the lotg and the help afforded to him or her by those colleagues peers and associations who provide training and assistance.

While the elite level has the technological wonders of VAR at their disposal! The immediate communication via the headphones, the myriad of camera angles, and the ability for the review to be done quickly have steadily improved! I have seen decent decisions awarded but notice despite all the gizmo, gadgets, bells, and whistles we still argue over the same thing we have always discussed, handlings, offside and fouls but with greater certainty that our view is enhanced by the ability to slow and reshape an event to fit out narrative of exclusion or inclusion. It is a beautiful game, occasionally flawed by a decision that irks us yet on it goes!

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 34263
Read other Q & A regarding Mechanics

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.