6

As a referee, I have trouble making good judgement of the following situation.

While followed closely by a defender, an attacker initiates a shot before which the defender manages to get his foot between the ball and the attacker, resulting in the attacker kicking the defender in the shank or ankle.

If it all happens in a split second, you can hardly blame the attacker (even though the defender could get hurt). Neither am I sure that you can blame the defender. If he places his foot close enough to the ball, then I would be inclined to regard it as legitimate shielding, despite not playing the ball in the usual defensive sense.

Note that if the defender does succeed in moving the ball away from the attacker (i.e. he does play the ball), he will still get hurt, in which case I really can't see who to blame, but it seems I need someone to blame in order for there to exist no legal situation in which players can get hurt.

So what do you do? It can be a rather rough looking situation and letting the game continue could result in more agressive behaviour from the players.

  • 1
    The exact same scenario occurred in this evenings Eng v Ita match. Vardy was through on goal and as he was about to shoot the defender got his foot in between the ball and Vardy. Vardy ended up kicking the defenders leg instead of the ball. No foul or free kick was given. The ref played on. Rightly so. – Mazhar Mar 27 '18 at 20:18
5

Here are the relevant sections of the Laws of The Game:

Law 5 - The Referee, Section 3 - Powers and Duties:

The referee:

...

  • punishes the more serious offence, in terms of sanction, restart, physical severity and tactical impact, when more than one offence occurs at the same time

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct, Section 1 - Direct Free Kick:

A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences against an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

...

  • kicks or attempts to kick

...

  • tackles or challenges
  • trips or attempts to trip

...

Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution.

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct, Section 2 - Indirect Free Kick*:

A player may shield the ball by taking a position between an opponent and the ball if the ball is within playing distance and the opponent is not held off with the arms or body.

* - This explanation is included under Indirect Free Kick as it is most commonly considered when judging whether the indirect free kick offence of impeding the progress of an opponent without any contact being made has occurred, but is applicable to all offences under Law 12.

To summarise the situation you described, the defender has placed their foot between the ball and an attacker while the attacker is winding up a shot, resulting in the attacker kicking the defender moments later.

  • If the defender is genuinely attempting to play or shield the ball, the attacker has (at least) carelessly kicked an opponent, and this should result in a direct free kick to the defending team.

  • If the defender places their foot in a position to simply trip up the attacker or present a hard surface (e.g. the studs) for the attacker to kick, the defender has (at least) carelessly tripped, tackled or challenged an opponent, and this should result in a direct free kick to the attacking team.

  • Alternatively, if both players make contact with each other's feet from a similar position, while moving their feet towards the ball, this generally would not be considered careless and play would just continue. However, this doesn't seem to align with the scenario you've provided.

Only you as the referee can decide which category this falls into. If you somehow come to the conclusion that both players have fouled, the free kick should be awarded to the team of the player who was culpable for the most physical severity, as quoted above.

To address some of the specific points in your question:

If it all happens in a split second, you can hardly blame the attacker (even though the defender could get hurt)

You certainly can blame the attacker. As quoted, players must show attention or consideration when there is a possibility of a challenge occurring. This clip1 shows a player being sent off for what would have been an innocuous attempt to play the ball had an opponent not been around. However, due to not taking into account that an opponent could beat them to the ball, Nani committed a foul (and was sent-off due to its severity).

Neither am I sure that you can blame the defender. If he places his foot close enough to the ball, then I would be inclined to regard it as legitimate shielding

This is probably correct, provided the defender has done so without carelessly tripping or careless challenging (e.g. with studs raised towards) the attacker.

I need someone to blame in order for there to exist no legal situation in which players can get hurt

This is a misconception. Players are injured all the time from perfectly legal challenges. Players should be punished based on the amount of risk (i.e. careless, reckless or excessive force) to an opponent when making a challenge, not whether an opponent is injured as a result of the challenge.

Finally, as for whether the offence requires a caution, sending-off, or just a free kick - that is covered in this question.

1 - While this decision divided fans, most referees were of the opinion that the challenged endangered the safety of an opponent and the send-off for serious foul play was justified.

-1

It is hard to give an objective answer to this question since it is not explicitly written what to do in this situation, but I will try my best to answer the question objectively using sources.

According to Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct of the Laws of the Game:

  1. Direct Free Kick

If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick or penalty kick:

Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or acts without precaution. No disciplinary sanction is needed

  1. Indirect Free Kick

Playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the ball, threatens injury to someone (including the player themself) and includes preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.

The way I interpret these rules lead to 2 scenarios:

  • If the defender manages to place his foot between the ball and the attacker moments before the attacker shoots (an amount of time too short for the attacker to realise that the defender placed his foot) causing contact between the two of them and therefore leading the game to a stop, then I feel like you should accord a free kick to the attacker as there was absolutely nothing he could to prevent shooting in the defender's shank. (1st quote from the Laws of the Game)

  • However, if the defender manages to place his foot between the ball and the attacker but that the attacker realises (or you judge that he has had enough time) to realise that the defender placed his foot there (with the ball moving away from the attacker as a result of the defender's successful move), but still decides to shoot with full power into the defender's shank, then I feel like you should award a free kick to the defender. Additionally, if you judge that the attacker really had plenty of time to realise the ball wasn't there anymore but still decided to take the shot regardless, then he should be cautioned. (2nd quote from the Laws of the Game)

Again, as the referee on the pitch only you can judge what to do based on the situation, but my advice to you is to try to see whether the attacker deliberately took the shot knowing the defender had his foot between his own foot and the ball or whether he genuinely didn't see the defender's foot.

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    If it's "explicitly written" then objectively saying what to do is trivial. Did you perhaps mean ".. not explicitly written"? – Nij Mar 27 '18 at 18:48
  • @Nij I did indeed, thank you for pointing that out – Adam Jaamour Mar 27 '18 at 20:53
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    -1: Playing in a dangerous manner (an IDFK offence) cannot be considered here as contact occurred, so I don't know why the quote has been included. Also, you've provided no justification from the Laws of the Game for the recommended caution. – Reinstate Monica 2331977 Mar 28 '18 at 4:32
  • @studro It was the closest I could find to his scenario. Also in the quotes that I found recommended caution is mentioned: No disciplinary sanction is needed for the direct free kick. – Adam Jaamour Mar 28 '18 at 7:43
  • @AdamJaamour - please review the second line of your quote: "If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick". This is why mentioning an indirect free kick offence is irrelevant and misleading - it's simply not possible given the scenario presented in the original question. As for the caution, if you have a quote that justifies it, please edit it into the body of your question. – Reinstate Monica 2331977 Mar 29 '18 at 0:32
-2

1) Not every tackle is a foul.

2) Not every foul is a yellow card

This scenario falls in the category 1. It's an accident. Both players played the ball in the split second. One player got in the way of the other. No harm no foul, as they saying goes.

EDIT

The exact same scenario occurred in this evenings Eng v Ita match. Vardy was through on goal and as he was about to shoot the defender got his foot in between the ball and Vardy. Vardy ended up kicking the defenders leg instead of the ball. No foul or free kick was given. The ref played on. Rightly so.

  • But the attacker clearly didn't play the ball, because they kicked the defender's leg instead. This is textbook PIADM and you cannot let it play on. The direction of the kick is the only question. – Nij Mar 27 '18 at 18:43
  • @Nij This can't be PIADM, as contact occurred. – Reinstate Monica 2331977 Mar 28 '18 at 5:52
  • I disagree with this answer. If a defender beats an attacker to the ball and is then kicked by the attacker, most of the time this has occurred due to the attacker showing a lack of attention or consideration, which is the definition of a careless challenge in the LOTG. – Reinstate Monica 2331977 Mar 28 '18 at 5:53
  • If the defender gets the ball a split second before the attacker but the attacker at the time was in the motion of shooting then how's that a foul? – Mazhar Mar 28 '18 at 6:00
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    @Cool_Br33ze - please assume good faith. I've played for nearly 25 years and refereed for 12 and I believe Nij has refereed for a number of years (based on their answers). However, that is irrelevant here. We've given reasons as to why we believe the information in your answer is incorrect. It's not a personal attack - we just want your answer to be as correct as possible. – Reinstate Monica 2331977 Mar 29 '18 at 0:37

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