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Question Number: 34819

Character, Attitude and Control 12/28/2022

RE: Adult

Nil of Syd, Nsw Australia asks...


Would you consider an aggressive attitude in a melle no punch or aggressive face to face approach in the Referees face violent conduct or using offensive abusive language or actions?

I'm leaning to it as an offensive abusive action

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Nil,
well it certainly could turn out that way but then each situation is a composite of actions that could end up as a nothing release of tension, verbal warning, caution or a send off!

In close quarters I truly dislike a face in my face no matter what set the player off, so the gestures of an extended arm, palm out with perhaps a side wave palm out of the other hand in a “NO that is far enough!” to be used as a WARNING line in the sand, even if you need to move aside or back a wee bit to halt the momentum.

Once my arm is extended and IF I can get the guy or gal to stop I have already saved that person a guaranteed caution for FAILING to heed my warning. Should they ignore the warning I already am likely on yellow now debating red if they stride through and invade that territory.

Only a few referees have the temperament and ability to impose their presence where such a face to face encounter might be of their own doing, like getting in between two opposing players but few of us are in that same sphere as was a legend like Pierluigi Collina .

I have once literally pulled a player off the pitch in an adult game where he was being sent off for a stupid senseless tackle. I could sense hell, was about to happen, so rather than wait and see to take notes, I acted in a way that no referee can be told is a good idea . I hit the whistle hard, red card on its way up and literally muscled him off the pitch giving him my steeliest wildest eyed scary look, GO now before it is too late! I also yelled out, I GOT this back off! He is done! Perhaps I was fortunate, it was fairly close to the touchline and the shock of my actions of actually jostling a player. Perhaps my own rage at what I witnessed appeased the players' response? I put it directly to the Captains! Are we going to war or are we playing a game?

While it is true we should try to keep players on the field of play, and not to look for clauses in the Law that can be used to expel players. Aggressive attitude is a hard ball catch phrase, it implies blows or harsh words yet you say none were thrown so what was said, how close was it? Players playing at high intensity will demonstrate irritable antics when thwarted
93% of interpersonal communication is not what is being said. Scientific analysis has determined that in person-to-person communication:
- Words convey 7% of the message
- Intonation, pitch and pace of speech convey 38%
- Vibes, body movements, gestures, facial expressions convey 55% .

One of the greatest difficulties for a Referee to learn - is how to interpret the following two points of Law:
Law 12: Sending Off Offence: - A player is shown the red card if he. The wording of the sending -off offence was changed from 'uses foul or abusive language', to 'uses offensive, insulting or abusive language'.
Law 12: A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he shows dissent by word or action.

It is not so much the words themselves or even certain actions that count, it is the ambience that they carry when delivered. For example, were the words directed at the Referee or one of his Assistants, and did they question the Referees’ decision? Or were they said in frustration?
(a) Were they loud?
(b) Were they directed at the Referee?
(c) Were they uttered in frustration? Did the player miss an opportunity, could you have missed the foul?
(d) Were they said in an angry way?
(e) Are there young children nearby?
(f) Are they threatening?
(g) Are they racial?
(h) Does an angry facial expression accompany them?
(i) Where they meant as humor?

FIFA gave the following as the reason for this change: A player may now be sent off if, in the opinion of the referee, he is guilty of using language or gestures, which are offensive or insulting or abusive. The referee must consider the severity of the offence. He continues to have the authority to decide whether, in his opinion, a player's unacceptable language or gestures are to be deemed a sending off offence.

This allows the Referee the option of cautioning a player for unsporting behavior or dissent, as appropriate, if, in the Referee's opinion, the offence committed is not serious enough for the Referee to award a sending off.

Given each country, and each region, and each competition also has its own different in -built tolerance level that has developed, and established itself over the years. It is no wonder that new Referees have difficulty in knowing when to send a player off, when to award a yellow card, or when to give a public warning.

Each Referee must learn by experience, the nuances of what is deemed to be unacceptable language or action, decide what is 'offensive' or 'insulting'. Because of human nature, every individual Referee has his own tolerance level as far as inappropriate language or action is to be reviewed. Still the rule of the 3 Ps public persistent & personal as judgement criteria and actionable warnings like or the Ask (Please stop) Tell ( You will Stop/caution yellow ) or Remove (Goodbye on the red sleigh!)

An ambitious referee, will likely adjust his tolerance level, to suit the league he is officiating in. To progress to the elite stages a referee likely has to do what is expected of him, at the level at which he officiates. If he chooses to Referee in a manner completely alien to what is expected at his local level, it is a risky endeavor.

“to thine own self be true and false to no others.”
I tolerate much less disrespect at the youth level than peer level.
I use a proactive pregame to indicate I am not to be trifled with and stick to some very firm stances on what I will or will not tolerate. I certainly try to figure out the differences between trifling doubtful as to what tolerance levels the players are willing to endure& I can overlook as inconsequential and understand that frustration and evil are not the same. In trying to be proactive to communicate players can at least understand if we show consistency even if we are not their cup of tea! As I have aged I no longer worry about advancement so while I apply the LOTG and relish the Spirit of fair play I do what I believe is best for the game and all involved.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Nil,
I would definitely consider it as potentially "offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or action(s)" but I don't think violent conduct would fit, as I'm not sure even an aggressive attitude such as you describe, quite reaches the level of "uses or attempts to use excessive force or brutality."

Now, it would depend entirely on the individual incident, but based on the limited information given here, I think what you describe could possibly also be seen as dissent.

Like you I would probably be leaning towards OFFINABUS but dissent would also be a possibility.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Nil
Thanks for the question

This is not a position a referee should be getting themselves into and it runs a very high risk of violent conduct. Referees should do all that they can to maintain their personal space at all times by not allowing any player to come closer than at minimum arms length. There is also nothing wrong with taking steps back to ensure that no player can come close. In a melee referees should NOT be getting close to irate players yet standing back and observing what is happening.
Some referees through their training such as in the police etc do get involved with players maybe by placing themselves between players. Each situation is different and the top priority is personal safety in these matters.

I recall English Premier League referee Phil Dowd going head to head with Lee Cattermole of Sunderland in a game. Referee Dowd recounted that he was not backing down when Lee Cattermole came towards him and both ended up face to face. That caused a furore at the time although nothing happened. Mike Riley the PGMOL manager at the time spoke to Dowd and asked him the question of what would have happened had Cattermole gone down holding his head or the other way around. Either would be out of the game for a long time through discipline. Needless to say Referee Dowd learnt his lesson as to what is expected of a referee in these situations.

In Benin a FIFA referee was suspended for not dealing with a goalkeeper who apparently head butted him after a penalty kick goal.

In the English Football League Referee Darren Drysdale was suspended for four games in 2021 for going head to head with a player who used offensive, insulting and abusive language towards him after the non award of a penalty and a caution for simulation. The player was cautioned for simulation instead of a red card for offensive, insulting and abusive language and no further action was taken against the player for the incident. The referee apologised for the incident yet had he managed it professionally the player would have been sent off and that would have been the end of it. Instead the referee got suspended for Improper Conduct by the FA.

As to adopting an aggressive attitude I believe by your description you have answered the question. AAA is one of the listed cautions on the report form and as there has been no violent conduct or attempted VC nor has there been any offensive, insulting and / or abusive language / gesture then the appropriate action can be a caution for Unsporting Behaviour. If a player has questioned the referee's decision then a dissent caution can also be considered.

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