How Do You Solve A Serious Mistake?

Mamukoya, a senior amateur referee, asks:

In a match, No. 6 was shown a yellow card for a reckless foul and, in the second half, the same No. 6 again is shown a yellow card. Unfortunately the referee failed to show the red card and No. 6 continued in the match. The other officials also failed to bring this to the notice of the referee. In the progression of the match, No. 6 scored. When the referee was about to record the scorer, he realized his mistake, no red card for No. 6 for his second yellow card. How should the match be resumed? What are the actions of the referee?

Answer

The easy answer is “Don’t let that happen!” but that’s not very helpful.  The trouble is that, when something wrong does happen, the Law doesn’t specify a solution because (a) it shouldn’t have happened in the first place or (b) it happens so rarely that the lords of the Laws of the Game see no reason to mess up the Laws with wordage that deals with once-in-a-hundred-years events.  If you read the opening section of, say, the current edition of the Laws of the Game (2019-2020 – the 2020-2021 edition won’t be out until June but we are reasonably certain it will say the same thing), it specifically says that the Laws don’t and can’t cover everything and so referees are expected to do the best they can and shape those actions in accordance of what the referee feels is best for the spirit of the game.

That said, this event has occurred from time to time, even at the highest level of the sport (it happened, for example, involving referee Graham Poll in a 2006 World Cup game between Croatia and Australia!).  This is still not frequent enough to see a written answer incorporated in the Laws but we believe there has been a general consensus as to the actions of the referee in the few publicly-reported examples of such an occurrence.  They basically confirmed that the referee had made a mistake (duh!) and the other members of the officiating team (ARs, 4th official, etc.) were also at fault (also duh!), and the longer it took them to realize their mistake, the worse the error would be (another duh!).  The officiating team individually and collectively should advise the referee as soon as possible of the error and the referee should stop play in order to handle the correction – in short, don’t wait for a stoppage to take care of it, just whistle a stoppage immediately.

Then what?  Show the 2nd-caution player a red card, remove that player from the game, and restart with a dropped ball.  Whatever that player had done between when he should have been removed from the field and when he actually was removed from the field stands.  Any goal scored before the player is finally sent off stands so long as there has been a restart.  The competition authority could do something about it after the game is over, they get the match report, and have finished skinning everyone on the officiating team).

In your scenario, play was already stopped (for a goal) when the error was discovered but, as far as solving the problem goes, the cause of the stoppage doesn’t matter (foul, substitution, midgame break, weather, etc.): the restart for the stoppage remains what it would have been but only after the player is shown the red card and sent from the field (this includes a stoppage because the opposing team scored a goal).  If, however, that stoppage was caused by a goal scored by the team whose player had not been sent off and, during that stoppage the lack of a send-off is realized and confirmed, the goal does not count (regardless of who scored it).  In this case only, the restart changes to a direct free kick taken from the position of the player who should have been but wasn’t removed from the field (Note: this restart has not yet been tested because the Law (3.9) changed in 2017-2018 and we are not aware of any error of the sort we are discussing here occurring at a high enough level since then to have caught the attention of high level soccer authorities).

The best solution remains “Don’t let it happen in the first place!”…

Handling versus Spectator Interference

Kannan, an adult pro referee, asks:

A player handles the throw-in from his teammate and at the same time a spectator also blows the whistle from the stadium. How will play be restarted?

Answer

It really depends on your judgment and the critical question is whether the spectator whistled measurably prior to or after the ball handling.  By the way, we should add that, under the Laws of the Game,  you should always “know” which event happened first – “simultaneous”  is not in your vocabulary when it comes to such matters.

If the whistle occurred clearly prior to the handling, then the restart is a dropped ball (outside agent interference) where the ball was when the interference occurred (i.e., the whistle) and the handling is ignored.  If that location is in either penalty area, the drop is defended by the goalkeeper in that penalty area.  If not in either penalty area, the drop is for a player of whichever team last touched the ball prior to the interference.

If the handling occurred clearly prior to the spectator whistle, then the handling is an offense resulting in a direct free kick where the handling occurred.

If it is not immediately clear which event occurred first, then you must make a quick judgment as to which event caused or played a part in the other (e.g., did the spectator whistle to call attention to the foul on the field or was the handling a player misjudgment that the whistle came from the referee and the player was simply getting the ball?).  All data, no matter how secondary to the event itself, must be considered.  For example, what was the player’s demeanor immediately afterward?  How did the player act? If the sequence of events is still not clear, then you must nevertheless make some judgment, announce it clearly, and manage the correct restart accordingly.

All other things equal, it seems to us that a player catching and holding the ball directly from a teammate’s throw-in would not make much sense unless the player was convinced that the whistle was a spectator interference because, if not, what benefit is achieved for the player’s team?  None, and indeed the team will be punished for it.  Further, the overwhelming number of players who would seek to handle the ball during play (goalkeeper excepted, of course) are more likely to attempt to hide the action rather than display it publicly.

Nevertheless, based on the events in the game so far, which of the above decisions best supports the game?  The one thing you absolutely cannot do is order the players to just keep playing!  And you should have a quiet word with the player during the stoppage to make the point that, while you understand the player grabbed the ball for apparently good reasons, try not to do it ever again – the next referee might not understand.

Regardless of the above issues, you should advise both coaches that the offending spectator be removed from the field by whichever coach has responsibility for the spectator (or by both of them if the spectator is not apparently associated with either team) and that the game is suspended until this is done to the referee’s satisfaction.…

Handball Following a Restart

Daniel, an adult amateur referee, asks:

Direct free kick for the attackers 18 meters in front of the goal. After the ball has been released by the referee, an attacker shoots the ball towards the goal. A defender runs 3 meters ahead of the wall forward and fends off the shot with a deliberate handball. Referee’s decision? Please motivate the disciplinary sanction.

Answer

Your description of the scenario is incomplete in several potentially important areas.

First, what do you mean by “after the ball has been released by the referee”?  Referees don’t “release balls” on any kind of free kick.  Indeed, there is only one restart that involves the referee releasing the ball and that is the dropped ball.

Second, if it is a direct free kick (DFK) restart (and thus there is no “referee releases the ball” component), there nevertheless is the major issue of whether this DFK restart is ceremonial or not.  If it is ceremonial, then the DFK cannot occur unless and until the referee signals with the whistle that the kick can be taken.  If the DFK is not ceremonial, then it means that the kick can be taken immediately by the attacker.

The third incomplete information issue is when did the defender run “3 meters ahead of the wall”?  If the defender was in the wall at the time of the kick and then ran forward before the attacker kicked the ball, that is an offense by the defender – carries a caution and a retake of the DFK.  If the defender began to move closer than the wall after the ball was kicked (assuming it was no closer to the DFK location than the minimum required distance), then no encroachment offense was committed even if that defender made contact with the ball well within the minimum distance requirement.  What is interesting about this scenario element is that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter because, if the defender actually ran forward before the ball was kicked, this retake is overtaken by what is discussed below under the fourth element and the misconduct is overtaken by what is discussed below in the fifth element.

Fourth, several different issues arise when you state that the defender then handled the ball.  Based on your scenario, the DFK restart was 18 meters from the goal which puts the restart just 1.5 meters from the top of penalty area.  The minimum distance for the defenders was 9.15 meters from the ball.  Assuming all lines are straight, 90 degrees from the goal line, and not beyond the sidelines of the penalty area (if any of these three requirements is not met, the issue of where the defender made contact with the ball is impossible to determine in relation to the penalty area.  All that can be said unequivocally is that, if all three are true, then the defender handled the ball inside the penalty area.  Accordingly, if that is the case, the restart becomes a penalty kick.  To understand this element, you will probably need to draw a field diagram and mark up the pertinent distances (that’s what we did to make sure we understood the scenario!).

The fifth and last incomplete information issue relates to whether any misconduct occurred and, if so, what color card.  If, in the opinion of the referee, the ball was going into or it was an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (high likelihood inside the penalty area), then the card color is red (denied goal by handling).  If, in the opinion of the referee, the defender handled to ball merely to interfere with or stop a promising attack (a less likely possibility inside the penalty area), the card color is yellow.

As far as motivating the disciplinary sanction, that’s easy.  It’s what the Law calls for.  The really critical motivator is that, based on your stated distances and making a necessary assumption about lines being straight and perpendicular to the goal line, the offense was committed in the penalty area.…

To All Regular Readers and Occasional Dabblers

In case you were thinking about this, given the times we are going through, the askasoccerreferee website remains live and well, free of COVID-19, and observing all rules of social separation and self-isolation.  We are happy to report that we ourselves are well and safe, if a bit stir-crazy, and remain as ready as ever to respond to your questions.

So, should you find yourself getting bothered by some situation or scenario you saw while watching a replay of a match between Iceland and Latvia in the 1969 World Cup, first check your schedule because there was no WC in 1969 and, even if there had been, we can just about guarantee neither country played a game in it.  If you paid for the replay, you just got scammed!  Can’t help with that.  If, however, you were watching an actual game with actual players under the Laws of the Game and still want an answer to your puzzlement, drop us a Q&A and we’ll be happy to answer, privately or (if it’s really a dilly) with a published answer suitable for framing.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay away.  Social separation is the best contribution you can make to the players, coaches, referees, and spectators that we will need again soon enough.

Decisions About Ball Possession

Lisbette, a high school and college fan, asks:

What happens if the referee is uncertain of which player last touched the soccer ball that traveled out of play?

Answer

Your question seems simple but carries a lot of significance for the referee.

Don’t take this the wrong way but “the referee always knows who last touched the ball” and proclaims his/her knowledge clearly, strongly, and with no debate.

The only exception to this is that a good referee will always accept information from an AR (if there is one) who might have had a better view (or is frantically waving the flag to catch the referee’s attention) and, if this seems needed, consults with the AR before making a public announcement (if possible).  However, any unnecessary delay in announcing a decision carries the potential for trouble.

It is important to remember in all this is that, except for the ball going out of play across the goal line (where the difference between a corner kick and a goal kick can be important), it is rarely significant in the case of a throw-in restart – statistics indicate that, on a throw-in, the ball is often taken by the opposing team within 2-3 “plays” following the throw (of course, it can be more significant either way the closer the restart is toward either goal).

It does the referee no good to dither about ball possession: the response must be firm and clear because, if players become aware of indecision, a large chunk of the referee’s reputation is gone and increasingly constant arguments from the players will be the result.  Indeed, this is true for virtually every decision the referee makes.  Players “smell” indecision (much as predators “smell” fear in potential victims) and will use that to their advantage whenever possible.  This is not a matter of Law but of officiating techniques developed over many years.  Obviously, it is better to make the right decision: the problem is that making no decision, hesitating too long and/or too often, or becoming embroiled in debate is deadly.…

An Answer with No Question

We don’t normally do this but, based on some recent conversations, we think advising you of the following official clarification of the 2019-2020  Laws of the Game that was issued by the International Board (IFAB) last August deserves some space here.  Interestingly, it is not actually a “clarification” but a new interpretation or practical guideline.  Either way, it clearly directs referees to make a change in how they handle one specific violation.

There is a very useful table at the end of Law 14 which summarizes penalties for various violations connected with performing a penalty kick (not all, but the most common ones).  The third one down from the top involves what to do if the goalkeeper violates Law 14 by not having at least one foot on the goal line between the goal posts (technically termed “an encroachment”).  If a goal is scored, the violation is ignored and the goal counted but, otherwise, the goalkeeper is cautioned and the penalty kick is retaken.

The IFAB issued a Circular (#17) on August 21 last year which introduced (as a “clarification”) a change under certain circumstances in the referee’s response if a goalkeeper lunges or steps entirely off the goal line before the kick is taken.  Instead of retaking the penalty kick and cautioning the goalkeeper, the referee should ignore the foot placement violation if the ball leaves the field or rebounds from the goal frame unless the goalkeeper’s violation “clearly impacted on the kicker.”

While the IFAB provided only one clear example of impacting the kicker (the goalkeeper prevents a goal), the interpretation seems clear that the goalkeeper making any contact with the ball should result in a retake (and caution) but the goalkeeper’s “encroachment” where no contact with the ball occurs should usually result only in a continuation of play (a goal kick if the ball leaves the field, a resumption of regular play if the ball stays on the field as, for example, if the kick rebounded from the goal frame).

To the best of our knowledge, neither the NFHS nor the NCAA picked up this IFAB change and applied it to their 2019-2020 season, though either organization may do so for 2020-2021.…

Who Owns the Ball?

Shawn, a U13 – U19 coach, asks:

After a goal is scored, may the scorer or a teammate of the scorer’s team retrieve the ball from the goal?  It is my understanding that the scored ball belongs to the conceding team. If the scorer retrieves the call and carries it to midfield, it shall be a caution for that player.  Please reference the law regarding this judgment.

Answer

Only at their peril ….

Under the Law, after a goal is scored against Team A, the ball “belongs” to Team A (because that is the team which has the restart) and any action by Team B seen by Team A (and concurred in by the referee) as an attempt to “take charge” of the ball can result in a yellow card to any Team B player who, regardless of a claimed motive, makes such an attempt.

Among the elements that the referee would consider in deciding if a caution is needed would be a “tug of war” between a Team B player (often the goal scorer) and a Team A player (often the defending goalkeeper or a fullback) or whether there was any proximate effort by a defender to prevent a Team B player from getting the ball.  The Team B player may claim that all he is doing is “helping” (particularly if it would be in Team A’s advantage to delay or slow down the kick-off restart).

The referee must read the game at that moment and decide if Team B’s action is an unsporting attempt to interfere with Team A’s ball possession.  Often, this sort of scenario quickly but obviously builds and can reach a flash point within seconds – the referee can loudly (with or without a hard-blown whistle) order the Team B player to leave the ball alone or it may be necessary to jump immediately to a caution if Team B’s action is sparking possible retaliation from Team A (as would be the case if there were an actual physical struggle for the ball).

The bottom line for this is to prevent the scoring team from taking an unfair advantage, either in fact or in the minds of the opposing team’s players, by wresting possession of the ball from the team that owns it.  If Team B unduly delays the restart, that is a separate problem but the scoring team has no right to step in to “help” in ways that will result in bad feelings.  If Team B has no problem with Team A (as evidenced by complaining to the referee or attempting to take matters into their own hands), then the referee should stay out of things.

By the way, this scenario is not limited to player behavior after a goal has been scored.  Indeed, you asked for a Law citation (see below) and that citation is not limited to the scenario we have been discussing.  In fact, the principle applies to any restart performed by a player (thus excluding a dropped ball).  We suspect that it happens more often on free kick restarts, followed by throw-ins, and then by goals — it’s rare on goal kicks and completely impossible on kick-offs and penalty kicks.  The citation is in Law 12 (page 110 in the 2019-2020 edition of the Laws of the Game): “Referees must caution players who delay the restart of play by … kicking or carrying the ball away, or by provoking a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play“.…

Goalkeeper Possession and Other Issues

Thomas, an adult amateur player, asks:

With regard to Goalkeeping:

Q1. How long does a Goalkeeper have to retain possession of the ball in their hands before they are required to put the ball “back into play” either by throwing, punting or kicking the ball? I believe it is officially 6 seconds, but I don’t believe this time element is seldom actually called by referees.

Q2. If a Goalkeeper takes legitimate control of the ball with their hands inside the penalty area, then runs to within say 4 yards of the forward edge of the box, stops, and absent any opposing player within a 5 yard radius, is it legal for a goalkeeper to then toss the ball in front of them with a backspin on the ball such that the ball bounces back into their hands, then REGAINS possession of the ball with their HANDS, REPEATS THIS PROCESS 1 or 2 more times, and then eventually returns the ball “back into play” either by throwing, punting or kicking the ball?

Some have said this activity by the goalkeeper is similar to when a basketball player standing at the free-throw line is passed the ball by an official and before the player takes their actual shot, they dribble the ball multiple times off the floor, and then they take their free-throw. Basketball players have a set time to take their free-throw starting when they take hand possession of the ball from the official and ending when they release the ball in the motion of shooting the free-throw. Some soccer coaches/players say that this similar “dribbling” by a goalkeeper prior to putting the ball “back into play” is allowed. I believe it is a violation of the possession rules for goalkeepers and once they intentionally forfeit their hand possession of the ball they are not permitted to REGAIN HAND Possession of the ball and if they do it is an illegal use of their hands and the opposing team should be awarded a penalty kick.

Answer

It doesn’t make any difference whether something occurring in a soccer match is “like” something occurring in some other sport.  Soccer has its own rules.

Now, having said this, you are raising two complex issues as a matter of the Laws of the Game are concerned.

Q1:  Law 12 is very clear. The goalkeeper has six seconds, not 7 or 8 or whatever, to release the ball from the goalkeeper’s control.  By the way, just to keep the record straight, this is often stated – incorrectly – as releasing the ball into play.  The issue is that the ball IS in play during the entire time it is in the hand possession of the goalkeeper BUT what is different is that, during this time the goalkeeper cannot be challenged for the ball by an opponent.  This is the correct terminology – the ball is being withheld from challenge, not withheld from play.

Back to the point.  It has long been the standard interpretation of this requirement that the goalkeeper HAS gained hand control whenever the goalkeeper has the ball in one or both hands, including when the ball is being stabilized against any hard surface – e.g., the body of the goalkeeper, the ground, any part of the goal frame, etc.  The goalkeeper has not yet released the ball from his control if he is bouncing the ball or tossing the ball up into the air but loses control if the toss into the air is followed immediately by the ball hitting the ground and then taken back into the goalkeeper’s hand.  Although not often seen, it can happen easily enough if the goalkeeper tosses the ball up into the air but misses the catch, followed by the goalkeeper scrambling to regain the ball from the ground.   This is considered a second touch violation by the goalkeeper and results in an indirect free kick for the opposing team from where the second touch occurred.

If in all this the 6 seconds are exceeded (but see below regarding referee discretion), the referee can signal for a stoppage and turn control of the ball to the opposing team where the violation occurred, followed by an indirect free kick restart.

All this is fairly cut and dried.  What is NOT cut and dried is when the referee becomes aware that the goalkeeper is exceeding, or has exceeded, or is about to exceed the six second limit.  Sometimes observers think that the time has been exceeded because they have not paid attention to the starting point of the six second limit.  Sometimes, the referee may warn a goalkeeper that the time limit has been or shortly will be exceeded.  And sometimes, the six second limit is indeed exceeded with no whistle by the referee.  But “it’s the Law” you might say and the answer is, yes, it is the Law but it is also “lawful” not to whistle at 6+ seconds because the violation is doubtful or trifling.  Referees have the authority to handle this matter in any of these ways depending on the circumstances.  Remember, constantly whistling for something that might not have been an offense in the first place (doubtful) or didn’t really matter (trifling), is not soccer, it’s some other sport.  Soccer lives on the judgments of referees and the Law explicitly supports this … thank goodness.

Q2:  Here is where things get a bit hairy.  Certain facts can be clear.  For example, it doesn’t matter how much backspin a goalkeeper gives the ball when bouncing it on the ground so that it comes back to his/her hands, if the whole of the ball completely leaves the penalty area, the referee can conclude that the ball is out of the goalkeeper’s control because it would be illegal for the goalkeeper to handle the ball outside the penalty area.  Were we a goalkeeper who allowed the ball, even temporarily, to be outside our penalty area, we better be following it and be prepared to kick that ball somewhere rather than try to regain hand control.  But, if in the process of bouncing the ball, it does not leave the penalty area, the goalkeeper has the right to regain contact with the ball and to NOT be considered to having actually released the ball from “control” as long as the total time this is taking does not exceed six seconds.  Remember, as noted above, the Law does not consider bouncing the ball on the ground as having lost control of the ball so, for that reason, having the bounce come back to the hands of the goalkeeper does not constitute regaining control.

In general, what the Law is aimed at is not taking allegedly “extra” time to get the ball back into challenge when it is clear that this is what the goalkeeper is doing.  Punishment is reserved for those goalkeepers who exceed the time limit because they are deliberately wasting time to achieve an unsporting benefit.…

The Slide Tackle

Jack, a U12 and Under player, asks:

So in soccer my friends always side tackle and need help determining if it’s a foul or not.

Answer

We assume you mean “slide tackle” and, if so, the answer is a qualified yes, it can often be a foul and, only slightly less often, a serious foul.  Any tackle is legal, depending on how it is done.  The problem is that slide tackles, by their very nature, are more likely to involve misconduct than most other kinds of tackles.  Remember, “tackle” is simply the name for a soccer player’s effort to take possession of the ball away from an opponent using his foot or feet.  Accordingly, tackling for the ball is in one sense what soccer is all about.

So, you might ask (go ahead, ask) why, if tackles are such an important part of the game, does the Law say they are illegal?  Simple, because that’s not what the Law actually says.  I challenge you to find anywhere in the Law it says that.  What it DOES say is that, if you tackle an opponent carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force, THEN and only THEN have you done something against the Law.  It’s not the tackle, it’s how you did it that made the difference.  If you tackle an opponent carelessly, you have committed a foul; if you tackle an opponent recklessly, you have committed a foul AND also committed a misconduct that will earn you a yellow card; and, if you tackle an opponent with excessive force, then, in addition to the foul, you will be charged with misconduct and shown a red card.  All of these are fouls, but reckless fouls are also a caution and a tackle using excessive force gets you thrown out of the game (plus the next one as well).

Of course, if you tackle an opponent for the ball and it is not done carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force, then the tackle is entirely legal, which is the case with the overwhelming number of tackles occurring every day across the thousands of soccer fields across the country.  In short, if it is not done perfectly, it becomes one of the most seriously dangerous events on the pitch.

Now, is there anything special about sliding tackles?  Yes, because they are more likely to be performed carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force.  Why is this so?  Because a sliding tackle involves, well, sliding and a player who is sliding on the ground with a foot forward aiming at an opponent is almost certainly going far beyond being careless – more likely it will be reckless (caution), or involve excessive force (red card).  Again, why?  Because a sliding player is out of control – once you are on the ground and sliding toward an opponent you are creating a dangerous situation.  Can that be avoided?  Yes, but it takes skill, experience, knowledge, and excellent physical abilities.  The “sliding player” is sometimes referred to as an “unguided missile”!  Add the foot outstretched with cleats showing and you have an armed unguided missile!  The very worst slide tackle is two feet forward, studs up, foot above ball height, and coming in fast.

“But I played the ball, ref!!” is a common attempt by a player to defend themselves, but it is a defense that doesn’t work if, before, during, or after “playing the ball,” one or more of the feet also connect with the opponent’s body.  Having played the ball, although a common excuse, means nothing under the Law.  If that is ALL the player did, then the player will not likely even be warned.  Add sliding or high speed or cleats exposed or both feet, or direct contact with the opponent’s body and you have a foul and most likely misconduct.  And the more of these five elements you have the more certain is the foul and the more serious the misconduct.

While we would not want to rest our reputation entirely on the following generalization, we are not averse to suggesting that only a rare few if any under 14 age players of either gender could execute a legal slide tackle … and adding more of each of the five elements we outlined above would make the generalization become almost a certainty.…

When Do Cards Get Given?

Taz, an adult pro parent, asks:

Is there ever a situation where a cautionable offense doesn’t require a stoppage of play, other than advantage?

Example:  Player on Team A commits an unsporting behavior while their team has the ball, but they do not commit a foul.  Is it required for the ref to stop play to issue the caution, or can the ref hold till the next stoppage of play?

Answer

Regarding your initial question, yes.

The 2019-2020 Laws of the Game, Law 12, provides that the usual procedure in a card situation is that the card is given at the very next stoppage – whether that is coincident with the commission of the misconduct or, if advantage is used, at the first stoppage following the misconduct either upon deciding that the advantage was not maintained for at least several seconds or, if play proceeds because the giving of advantage was successful, at the next stoppage whistled for any reason.  The International Board long ago, though, advised referees that this should be a very rare occasion if the offense was a red car, the misconduct was violent, and there was little or no likelihood of an immediate goal being scored by the non-offending team.

There is a new “however” however – if (a) the non-offending team is ready, willing, and able to restart quickly; and (b) allowing the restart involves a clear goal-scoring opportunity; and (c) the referee has not taken any overt action (by word or deed) indicating that the restart may not be taken, the restart can be allowed to occur, the card remains as a punishment,  but giving the card can be delayed until the next stoppage.  (a) and (b) are entirely based on the judgment of the referee while (c) includes such things as the referee pulling out or otherwise displaying a card as concrete evidence that the card is about to be given or the referee saying anything in a sufficiently public way as to be heard by members of either or both teams in the immediate vicinity of the restart location.

Another way of explaining (c) is that, if the referee shows any public indication that a card will be given and this is understood to require that the restart will be delayed, thus inducing either one or both teams to back away from taking or defending against the restart, then the card must be given immediately even if the team in possession of the restart would objectively had wanted to restart quickly in order to take advantage of a goal-scoring opportunity.  In short, the referee was not reading play correctly or had done something to lead players to believe that the referee was going to show the card and thus cause players to “back off.”

Now, your “example” actually raises two different questions.  First, can a referee ignore an offense (foul or misconduct) and not give a card at all?  Yes.  It’s not generally advisable but is entirely within the referee’s scope of authority and may be entirely warranted (e.g., the offense was trifling or “iffy”).  Second, can a referee decide that a card is to be given but waits quietly and without notice the next stoppage?  Not in accordance with standard protocol unless advantage is being applied.  Standard protocol calls for fouls and/or misconduct be called and punished accordingly upon their occurrence unless the referee invokes advantage.  It is considered incorrect mechanics to “secretly” decide a misconduct has been committed and then do nothing about it until play stops, either by the referee’s whistle or by the ball leaving the field.…