I have seen this similar situation at least 4 times in the last year – with the same results. An attacking player is dribbling from a wing area (left or right of the goal) in the defenders penalty area. A defender takes a hard and late hip charge into the offensive player. Enough to move them 2 – 4 feet off the ball. The offensive player maintains balance and control. But either immediately or within 1 or 2 seconds loses the ball to the second or third defender (in each situation the defense outnumbers the offense in the immediate vicinity of the play). No whistle and actually no play on is verbalized or signalled. In all cases after the game the referee informs the offensive team/player that if the player had been knocked to the ground a penalty would have ensued. I love a good physical game and in some cases I could easily argue that advantage was the call. But the seemingly late nature of the hit bothers me. Myself, as a ref I’m loath to call a PK but worry about benefiting the defensive team with questionable play and penalizing the offensive team for not flopping. These hip charges are hard, from the side or slightly behind the offensive player. If the offensive player went down I don’t think anyone would have been suprised. But with them not falling I can’t see a foul being called. So, there are a couple parts to my question. 1.) using the four P’s the call seems rather legitimate but it seems to me that the defense gained advantage using a questionable tackle. Could this be whistled as a foul? 2.) even if it is not a foul could this warrant a caution?

USSF answer (September 24, 2008):
We cannot make any definitive comment on a game played under high school rules, as it would not have been played under the Laws of the Game. However, if the game had been played under the Laws of the Game, we can make some definite statements:

1. What you describe has nothing to do with advantage, but is strictly a matter of a referee afraid to make a call. There is no room for cowards in the refereeing corps.

2. In general we can say, without fear of being incorrect, that hip charges at any level of play (male/female, young/old, skilled/unskilled, etc.) are unfair and thus not allowed. Charges must be shoulder to shoulder, with both players having at least one foot on the ground. However, we must consider some allowance for differences in height and weight and bodily proportions. In other words, we must not forget that both the laws of physics and Mother Nature can overrule the Laws of the Game, in that women are usually wider at the hips than men and men are usually wider at the shoulders than women. What we judge is how those bodily characteristics are used. If they are used unfairly — and only the referee on the spot can do that — then a foul should be called.

3. Referees who do not call unfair charges should consider two courses of action: Either call fouls correctly or stop refereeing, as they are doing the rest of us no favors. Simply because a player was fouled but not knocked to the ground is not a valid reason not to call a foul. A foul is a foul is a foul.

4. Referees MUST make the same call in the penalty area that they would make on the rest of the field. If they cannot do that, they must consider those same two courses of action, because their failure to call the game correctly makes problems for all referees.

5. If the referee chooses to make a decision — which each of us must do thousands of times in a game — then it had better be for the good of the game. The decision to award the advantage must be based on the four Ps, but in that case the referee must follow through and speak to the miscreant afterwards. There may be no need for a caution on the first offense, that is up to the referee, but if the player or the team contnues to do that, the referee must punish the misconduct.

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