Can a referee give a caution for persistent infringement (PI) in the following scenario: A team has decided to employ a tactic to commit small fouls against their opponents after a player has released the ball from his possession. For example, a clip at a heal, a late push, or something where the team is clearly trying to throw off their opponents and upset them by committing these “late” fouls. These fouls are spread out across the team (so not enough for a specific player to earn a caution for PI), and each foul by itself does not really warrant a caution for unsporting behavior (USB). However, if the group of fouls is looked at as a whole, it is clear this team is tactically employing these late, small fouls to frustrate and annoy their opponents and seems to be against the spirit of the game. When the referee has recognized this pattern, is he justified in giving a caution for PI to a player on that team (even if he was not involved in the earlier fouls)? Is this similar to the situation where a player can earn a caution for PI if the team is clearly targeting a single opposing player? Or would a caution given in this case fall under USB?USSF answer (May 2, 2007):
This is not a situation in which the case for persistent infringement has been made. It seems to be more of a situation in which the team has been coached to frustrate, annoy, and intimidate its opponents by these fouls. There is no consistency in the pattern of fouls, but there is a plan to disrupt the opposing team’s flow of play through fouls, rather than through fair play. That is a matter for referee management of the game, but not immediately one of misconduct. The referee should call and and punish the fouls and warn players about these individual fouls. If the players who have fouled before and been warned for it then continue to foul their opponents willy-nilly, this becomes persistent infringement and must be punished as such.