Language Misconduct

David, an adult amateur coach, asks:

A referee reported an incident of abusive language occurring after the final whistle. The player, however, was not shown any card for this alleged offence. Can such incidents be included in the referee’s match report?


Yes.  As of the Law changes in 2016/2017, behavior after the match is over which would have been carded if the same behavior had occurred before the final whistle should be included in the match report.  Remember, Law 5 specifically provides that one of the duties of the Referee is to include in the match report “any other incidents that occurred before, during, or after the match.”  While broadly stated, the intent here is specifically to ensure that the competition authority has full details on “incidents” that pertain to the conduct of the match even if, due to timing, the incident could not be carded.

This certainly includes any event which should have been carded but wasn’t for one reason or another as well as punishment for misconduct that should not have been imposed or was imposed based on mistaken identity.  Accordingly, the Referee’s match report should carefully state and categorize the behavior occurring after the match in the same terms as would be used for something happening during the match.

There is, unfortunately, a gray area as to what constitutes “after the match.”  Law 5 indirectly defines it as that period of time after the final whistle but while the Referee hasn’t yet left the field of play.  As experienced Referees know, this leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to guidance.  There was an apocryphal story about a Referee who, upon shopping at a grocery store on Sunday and meeting a player that had participated in a Saturday game, was berated by that player for a decision he had made in that game and who then whipped out his yellow card and cautioned the player-customer for dissent.  That would be carrying things too far.

The problem more often faced is that the “three-man rotation assignment” is common on weekends — three officials are assigned to three back-to-back games with each one taking a turn at being the Referee while the other two served as ARs.  Not surprisingly, this results in all three officials remaining in what would arguably be called “the area of the field” for a good part of the day.  Does any or all of that time count as “after the match”?  Here is what we would suggest is an excellent place to apply common sense.  Remember that the Laws of the Game were written particularly to accommodate a specific kind of game … and that game is not the one that most of us ever get to officiate at any time in our careers.

Our recommendation (and it is only that, a recommendation) is that you as the Referee decide when you have “left the area of the field” even if, as anyone could plainly see, you hadn’t.  If you believe that enough time has passed (e.g., most players from both teams have left the field, new teams are warming up, etc.), then treat whatever happens as though it had happened after you left the field (i.e., you left it mentally).  Otherwise, without actually showing any card, make it clear that you will be including the unacceptable conduct in your match report.