A while back I was the AR on a girls U16 premier match and a situation came up that neither I nor the CR knew exactly how to handle. An attacker from team A gained possession well inside her own half of the field and began to make a run down the field. She passed it on to a teammate who continued the run down the field and caught the defense off-guard.
About ten yards past the half-line a defender from team B got directly behind the attacker and apparently decided that the best option to stop the attack was to dive toward the attacking player from behind, grab a handful of shorts on either side of the attacker and pull them down around the girls ankles. The attacker obviously tripped and fell, then pulled the shorts up quickly and ran off the field.
The CR came to me as I was up near the half-line and about 20 yards from the incident. We had a short discussion and he decided to caution the defending player for unsporting behavior and awarded a DFK.
I was of the opinion that a red card could easily have been issued for Serious Foul Play or an Abusive Gesture. Was the CR’s decision the correct one?
USSF answer (September 18, 2008):
This act would seem to have involved a reckless foul (holding), for which the correct referee action would be a caution of the team B defender for unsporting behavior — the defender was not competing for the ball, but was instead playing the player — and the award of a direct free kick to team A.