This came out of a recent tournament. U12B game; young referee in center; myself and a very experienced referee as AR’s.

The players had been getting a little out of hand, with several instances of late charges„ shoulder of the defender to the back of shoulder of the attacker, after the defender was beaten, rather than shoulder to shoulder. At the half-time break I suggested to the CR that he should watch for these, calling them to help calm down the game.

The other AR agreed, but also asked the question (teaching mode), When is shoulder to back contact allowed? The CR and I thought that this was never allowed, although the foul might be trifling and therefore not called.

The other AR gave as his answer that when the ball is on the goal line, and a defender is legally shielding the ball, an attacker can initiate shoulder to back contact to move the defender off the ball.

I asked for a reference and later (after the game), he told me it was either in the ATR or a memorandum. I have been unable to find this interpretation.

This is important to me because, as I progress up to calling older players, I am seeing this situation. I don’t want to award a DFK (or a PK!) for a legal charge.

Also, where does the “shoulder” stop? I know that sounds funny, but the ATR in Section 12.5 refers to “the area of the shoulder” as opposed to “toward the center of the opponent’s back (the spinal area) .” Is a charge with the shoulder of one player making contact with the shoulder blade of the opponent legal? I had always thought not.

USSF answer (November 18, 2008):
We are always pleased to give anatomy lessons. In the “shoulder-to-shoulder” charge, the shoulder is indeed composed of “the area of the shoulder.” In other words, the shoulder blade or the front part of the body where the arm and the upper chest meet. All of this is spelled out quite carefully in the Advice to Referees, as you note:

The act of charging an opponent can be performed without it being called as a foul. Although the fair charge is commonly defined as “shoulder to shoulder,” this is not a requirement and, at certain age levels where heights may vary greatly, may not even be possible. Furthermore, under many circumstances, a charge may often result in the player against whom it is placed falling to the ground (a consequence, as before, of players differing in weight or strength). The Law does require that the charge be directed toward the area of the shoulder and not toward the center of the opponent’s back (the spinal area): in such a case, the referee should recognize that such a charge is at minimum reckless and potentially even violent. (See also Advice 12.14.)

That is the traditional area of “the shoulder” in soccer, as defined since time immemorial.

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