1. During a recent U19 boys’ match, team A scores a goal with 10 minutes left, but are still behind 3-2. Team B’s defender picks the ball up out of the goal. Immediately after leaving the inside of the goal, one of team A’s players tries to grab the ball out of team B’s hands. Knowing the game situation, I had recognized this as soon as the goal was scored and was sprinting, blowing the whistle and telling team A’s player to get in position for kick off. I got there quickly enough and there was no other issue other than the initial grab for the ball. I decided to caution team A’s player for provoking the confrontation that could have easily escalated. I believe that the official reason be “Unsporting Behavior”. Is that correct?

2. During a tournament this past weekend, I refereed a U16 boys’ game. I did some research on the teams before the game and determined that one of the teams was a top level youth (premier- team A) and the other was an entry /silver level select team (team B). It became apparent very early in the game, that team A was much more physical and stronger than team B. Team B was getting frustrated because team A was legally charging them off the ball. In the middle of the 1st half, I sent off a player for team B for grabbing a player from behind who had the ball with both arms wrapped around his chest area and then wrapping his leg around his leg and throwing him to the ground much like a player would in the other kind of football. This was after he had the ball taken away through legal charging. After he left the pitch, my AR on that side observed him receiving “high fives” from several substitutes on the bench which he mentioned at half time. I tried to explain to team B’s captain that team A was charging legally, but there were several other issues especially in the first half. Based on this, I have a few questions.

A. Other than communication with the captains and players, what else can a referee do to manage these differences in physical play? How can a referee prevent a misconduct rather than just punish and still be fair to both teams in this scenario?
B. Would the “high fives” be cautionable offenses for the substitutes as unsporting behavior? If so, would cautioning one of the substitutes be sufficient for this action? I also explained to my AR that he should have mentioned this at the time it happened. I also noted the high fives in the match report.

Thanks for your advice.

USSF answer (May 27, 2009):
1. After the referee has stopped play for the goal, the ball, although “dead” until play is restarted with a kick-off, does belong to the team against which the goal was scored. Traditionally the ball is carried back to the center spot by the team against which the goal was scored (Team B). A player who is “provoking a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play” may be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. (Interpretations and Guidelines for Referees in the back of the Laws of the Game 2008/2009.) This would be the case of the player from the scoring team (A) who was interfering with the Team B player carrying the ball to the center of the field. (And don’t forget to add the appropriate amount of time for the delay.)

2. A. It is not fair to team A to punish them for the lack of skill of team B by calling the game in a way that would benefit B, nor is it fair to B, whose players will clearly learn nothing beneficial from being given an advantage of this sort. Call the game in accordance with both the Letter of the Laws and the Spirit of the Game — insofar as the players allow you to do that. It would seem that team B was not interested in a challenging game.

2. B. Your AR should have alerted you immediately about the “high fives,” so that you could have addressed the matter at the time. A strong dressing down and possibly at least one caution (you pick the substitute) would have been good. Then supply full details in the match report (as you did).

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