I was reffing a recreational league the other day when something incredible happened that took me by surprise. The Blue attacker and Red defender were running after the ball and into the pk box, they were both legally shoulder charging each other, I was about 5 feet from the play (very close to miss) and saw the Red defender stumble (never fouled) and tumbled ahead of Blue attacker, when the Blue attacker jumped over the tumbling Red defender to get to the ball,The defender stretched his legs up deliberately and fouled the Blue attacker. I called the pk (no doubt) and proceeded to yellow card Red defender and red card him (second yellow). Blue attacker refused to take the pk stating he had committed the foul against Red defender instead of the other way around and his teammates retrieved along side him. I had never encountered this situation and proceeded to call back the ejected Red defender back and explained the strange situation and allowed him back in the game and let the Red team take an indirect kick from the place the Red defender had stumbled and fallen. Red and Blue are also friends, which has nothing to do with the game, but I suspect friendship had something to do with Blue’s decision to avoid getting his friend (Red) ejected. How should I have handled this situation better.
USSF answer (October 24, 2011):
The referee is certainly allowed to change a decision, even the awarding of a send-off (red card) if he does so before the next restart, but he needs to have an extremely good reason to do so. The referee also needs to stand by a decision to award a penalty kick if the foul occurred in the perpetrator’s penalty area and was clearly a direct-free kick foul, no matter that the player who was fouled objects.
If the player who was fouled does not wish to take the penalty kick, life is hard. In that case, another member of his team must take the penalty kick. If no one cares to take the penalty kick, then the game is abandoned and the referee submits full details of the reason in his report to the competition authority.