It is a common sight in football that when a referee calls a foul and shows a card to an offending player, that player as well as other players from the offender's team surround and argue with the referee. What is the motive behind the exchange with the referee?

The three questions I have are

  • Can the players make a case with the referee and force him to reverse his decision?
  • Is a referee allowed to change his decision of a card after he has already shown it?
  • If it cannot be reversed, what do players hope to achieve when they surround and argue with the referee after a card decision?

2 Answers 2

  • No. Crowding the referee to effect a decision or retraction of a decision, is pointless (see below). Moreover, they could be cautioned for any of delaying the restart of play, dissent by word or action, or unsporting behaviour.

  • Law 5 of the IFAB Laws states

The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official, provided play has not restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.

The referee may retract a caution or sending-off if they or their assistants or other officials realise this is not correct, and the referee chooses to do so, provided neither play has restarted nor the period of play declared to be over.

  • Players do this to instil doubts in the referee about whether decisions against that team are correct, or to encourage decisions in their favour, or even on rare occasion, because the decision is incorrect and they would like the referee to seek advice from the other officials.
  • 3
    It looks like the law you've cited says that a referee can change a decision if he realizes that it is incorrect. So, isn't the answer: Yes, a card can be reversed, and yes, a player could theoretically talk a ref into realizing the card was a mistake?
    – Ben Miller
    Jan 12, 2017 at 13:15
  • The question says "can the players make a case and force the decision to be changed", and the answer is clearly "no, they do not have any right to appeal, and they do not have any ability to force a change in decision".
    – Nij
    Jan 13, 2017 at 0:36
  • I can understand the caution for delaying the restart of play, or dissent by word - or even failure to respect the required distance if they're standing in front an opponents' free kick to argue. However, why would the referee caution for unsporting behaviour when the behaviour they're engaging in is covered more specifically by any one of the other offences? Jan 18, 2017 at 3:24
  • @BenMiller This is a semantic argument, but it's one worth having. Imagine a referee gives a penalty kick for a careless trip in the penalty area. If one team crowd the referee and state "but he didn't touch him", the referee is not going to change their mind, and is not permitted in law to change their mind. The referee cannot change a decision based on the advice of a player. Jan 18, 2017 at 3:27
  • However, if the referee gives an indirect free kick for a deliberate handling in the penalty area and the player says "ref, isn't that a direct free kick offence - shouldn't it be a penalty?", the referee, upon realising their moment of forgetfulness, would be permitted to and absolutely should correct the restart to a penalty kick. This is because they haven't changed their decision, but simply corrected an error in procedure. The decision still remains that a player deliberately handled the ball, but the incorrect application of the law has been corrected. Jan 18, 2017 at 3:31

Yes it can happen, sometimes happens when the wrong player got the card and the one who should have got it goes to the ref.

edit:what I said, I have seen it happen in regular amateur games, similar to the shetfield incident, but on the same team. Have not found any video or case in pro-football, maybe because they are also more aware that an error giving a second yellow card can cause an expulsion.

can the player affect a decision: Ben Davis says he told him to check with his linesmenn. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5zSfJszOg8

  • Welcome to SE.Sport. Can you add any references please?
    – Ale
    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:51

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