As a follow up to Play of the Week 13 when we discussed Violent Conduct off the ball and out of sight of the referee, this week we focussing on Violent Conduct when players are challenging for the ball, often in full view of the referee. We are looking at three plays where there is contact to the face, all with different degrees of force and intensity.

Law 12 says on this subject:

A player who, when not challenging for the ball, deliberately strikes an opponent or any other person on the head or face with the hand or arm, is guilty of violent conduct unless the force used was negligible.

Play one is from the game between Philadelphia Union and last year’s MLS Cup winners Toronto FC. The ball is punted up-field by Toronto keeper Alexander Bono, to create a quick counter-attack.  This is every referee’s nightmare! Vastly experienced referee Baldomero Toledo has to try and make up as much ground as possible but it’s impossible to beat the speed of the ball.  Even Usain Bolt would struggle!

We then have a race between Union defender Raymon Gaddis and Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco to get the ball. Gaddis gets there slightly ahead of Giovinco who is closely behind. At this moment, as Gaddis shepherds the ball back to his keeper Andre Blake, he brings his arm back and makes contact in the face of Giovinco, who goes down holding his face.

Toledo has no chance of seeing this contact, let alone judging the intensity and malice of the arm to the face.  The nearer AR Eduardo Mariscal has more chance than Toledo but from his distance it would also be difficult to judge the contact.

When we look at the replay it appears that Gaddis tries to hold Giovinco off, and the actual contact is negligible.

Therefore the correct outcome should have been the award of a free-kick only.

The second play is from Portland Timbers v Sporting Kansas City. As Timber’s Fanendo Adi passes the ball to his team-mate Diego Valeri, Sporting’s Wan Kuzain runs up alongside him and appears to raise his elbow slightly into the chin of Adi, who goes down requiring treatment. Referee Chris Penso who is well positioned gives a free-kick and allows the treatment to Adi.

This play is more sinister than play one, but it appears that Kuzain is trying to create space for himself  and  there is still not enough intensity to warrant a red card.

Therefore the correct outcome should have been a Yellow Card.

Play three is from the game between Houston Dynamo and Colorado Rapids. Rapid’s Yannick Boli, who is in possession of the ball, is put under pressure from behind by Dynamo’s Leonardo.  He raises his arm and makes contact with his opponent’s face, who goes down holding his face. Referee Drew Fischer, who is in a good position, immediately goes over to AR Peter Manikowski, just for confirmation that they had seen the same thing, particularly as Manikowki had a clearer view of the actual contact.  He confirms that Boli should be sent off for Violent Conduct. If you recall, Manikowski was also highlighted in Play of the Week 13 for excellent work in his part in a Violent Conduct situation. Once again he deserves a great deal of credit!

In this play you can see more intensity than in the previous two.  He deliberately raises his arm into his opponent’s face with more force.  If it had been contact to the chest and not the face, it would not have risen to the level of violent conduct.

Therefore the correct outcome is a Red Card.

These three plays, show examples of hands and arms making contact with opponents’ faces but with different levels of intensity. The first one free-kick only, the second free-kick and yellow card, the third one a free-kick and red card. Referees have to judge the difference between each one and take the appropriate action.


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