Question:
There was an incident where 2 high school players were red carded for taking their jersey’s off after the game had ended walking off the field for I’d say in disgust since they lost the game. I find that too harsh to be red cards. Now… they were not taunting anyone and they were not doing anything other than walking off the field. So do you give red cards for that or anything for something like that AFTER the game is over? I find it pretty lame that they have to sit out 1 game for something that did not involve another team or any taunting or fighting or throwing of shirts… now if they were taunting or wanting to fight… fine card them… and throwing of shirts… let the coach deal with that. Is it just a judgement call or was that too outrageous??? Many times have i seen other sports where jersey’s were taken off right after the game was over but no actions were taken. Also could you elaborate on the rules where it says “unsporting behavior”? I think its too vague of a phrase.

USSF answer (February 6, 2009):
Coach, we don’t do high school rules here, so we can speak only to the Laws of the Game (the rules the rest of the world plays by).

First to “unsporting behavior”: The lawmakers (the International Football Association Board) left the words vague for a purpose. That purpose is to enable the referee to apply common sense and intelligence in enforcing the Laws of the Game. Unsporting behavior is any act that could bring the game into disrepute, i. e., any act that runs counter to the spirit of fair play. Some examples: mocking the opponents, as in the removal of shirts during the game; some forms of gamesmanship, such as calling “mine” to fool an opponent; using a cellphone on the field; performing fouls recklessly (without thought for what might happen to the opponent); handling the ball to score a goal; and faking an injury or pretending to have been fouled. There are hundreds of possibilities for unsporting behavior and the referee needs to have this weapon in his or her arsenal.

Second, beyond unsporting behavior, the lawmakers left other portions of the Laws vague as well, for the very reasons explained above.

Third, regarding the removal of shirts AFTER the game, there is absolutely no rule against it. In fact, we see it every day on television at the highest levels of the game.

Finally, as to your question about giving a red card after a game has ended, the Laws of the Game allow a card (regardless of color) to be shown if a player commits misconduct while the referee is still in the area of the field even though the match may have ended.