Persistent Infringement

By John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician, New Jersey

Recently completed assessment results indicated that over 50% of referees assessed did not always recognize persistent infringement.  Fouls are being called correctly but players are not always being punished for persistently infringing on the rules.  In order to correct this situation one must first recognize what is persistent.   Webster defines persistent as existing for a long or longer than usual time or continuously: as a: retained beyond the usual period a persistent leaf

b: continuing without change in function or structure.  Another definition is to violate or trespass.   Taking this definition and relating it to intercollegiate soccer, persistent infringement is a type of foul or misconduct that is committed more than once.  Persistent infringement can be committed by one or more players.  One player may commit multiple fouls or several player may foul the same opponent to prevent him/her from exhibiting their skills.

The referee must decide when a situation becomes persistent and take the necessary steps to correct the behavior(s).   There is no specific number of fouls that create persistent infringement.   The referee must use their judgment and make a decision.  For example, there are twenty two players on the field of play.   If each player commits only two fouls in a half, there are forty four fouls committed.   Is this a game a referee would want to officiate or fans observe?   Absolutely not.   The referee should have dealt with persistent infringement before forty four fouls occurred.

When determining if there is persistent infringement, the referee must consider several factors.   For example, what is the level of play?   A highly skilled game should not be brandished with fouls.  A lower level game with players that lack skill may result in more fouls being called.  In either case the referee must decide when to deal with problems.  Another example is how are the players reacting to the  fouls?  Are patterns developing?  Frustration increasing?  It is time for the referee to act.  Failing to deal with persistent infringement could lead to the loss of game control, retaliation, and more.

Referees should make persistent infringement part of their pregame discussion.   Seeking help from the assistant referees in recognizing the problem could prevent problems during the game.  If there is an alternate official, that person should track the fouls so they can easily assist with recognizing persistent infringement may be occurring.  Also, referees should monitor who they signal for fouls.  Remembering the player’s number or what they look like will help the referee realize that the next time they call a foul it may be a situation developing.  Remember persistent infringement does not have to be one person committing fouls.  It could be several individuals fouling the same opponent.  This can easily develop into a bad situation and loss of game control.  Others could easily come to the aid of the individual who is being fouled and retaliation could develop with serious fouls against those that were committing the fouls.  Injuries could result and players could be lost for the season.

Intercollegiate referees must recognize persistent infringement and deal with it.  This will improve the quality of the game at all levels and reduce the more significant problems that may occur.