I was watching a taped World Cup match (2006, Ghana vs. Italy). An Italian player broke at the halfline for goal, but was called for offsides. Apparently, neither the attacking nor the defending player heard the whistle, as they continued toward goal. About 22 yards from goal, the defender committed a cleats-exposed tackle from behind on the Italian player. This cannot be a foul, denial of a goal scoring opportunity, nor serious foul play, since the ball was not in play due to the offsides. The referee for that match did not card the defender for that particular incident. At the level of play I normally work (local travel matches with teenagers) and had it been during the run of play, I would have considered the defender’s action to be both serious foul play and denial of a goal scoring opportunity. And yes, in that sort of a breakaway situation, I hope I would be blowing my whistle very loudly to stop play to prevent the problem in the first place. My first question is that if I judge the actions of the defender to have been with excessive force and endangering the safety of the opponent, even though it occurred after play was stopped, would it be reasonable to send the offending player off for violent conduct? My second question is what is your opinion about the match control aspects, in general, of sending off for violent conduct in such a situation?
USSF answer (February 12, 2008):
When the referee decides to call the offside, play has stopped. Anything that occurs after the game is stopped can be punished only as misconduct. The decision to punish for any misconduct must be in the opinion of the referee who is on that game, not an observer.
In lieu of a direct answer, let’s turn your question around: What would be the consequences for match control if the referee did NOT send off a player who clearly committed violent conduct?