By: John Van de Vaarst
The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.
All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on dangerous play. The focus will be on what is dangerous play and when a potential dangerous play becomes another type of foul.
The NCAA Rule Book provides a definition for dangerous play in Rule 12.8. “Dangerous play is any action likely to cause injury to oneself or an opponent. Some examples of dangerous play are: raising the foot to the level that may endanger an opponent; lowering the head to a position level with or below the waist in an effort to head the ball in the presence of an oncoming player, which is likely to cause injury to the player heading the ball in such a manner; an a player other than the goalkeeper covering the ball while sitting, kneeling or lying on the ground.”
The NFHS Rule Book defines dangerous play in Rule 12 Section 6. “A player shall not participate in dangerous play, which is an act an official considers likely to cause injury to any player. This includes playing in such a manner which could cause injury to self or another player (opponent or teammate). For interscholastic soccer dangerous play is a foul that can be caused by a teammate.
The NCAA Rule Book provides several good examples of dangerous play that can be applied to the high school game. The high kick, low head, playing the ball on the ground, etc. are clearly potential acts that are considered dangerous play. These acts in themselves do not necessarily mean that the referee must signal for dangerous play. The second part of the rule must apply and that is in intercollegiate soccer there must be an opponent nearby that could be injured by the act or the player committing the low head can be injured by an opponent or in high school an opponent or teammate. A high kick or playing the ball on the ground when no one is in the vicinity does not equate to dangerous play.
Lowering of the head can create a very dangerous situation for the player. He/she could be kicked in the head and a very serious injury can result. The player who kicks the low head should not be penalized for trying to play the ball in a normal manner. The low head caused the situation and that player should be penalized for dangerous play.
If a player commits what appears to be dangerous play by raising the foot to a level that would be dangerous and then makes contact with the opponent with the foot, dangerous play no longer applies. The more serious offence kicking should be the penalty and a direct free kick should be awarded. If a defender commits this type of foul in his/her own penalty area, a penalty kick must be awarded. Once contact is made with the foot, the foul is now kicking not dangerous play.
Playing the ball on the ground when there are opponents in the area creates a dangerous situation for the player. The opponents might kick the player in an attempt to play the ball causing a serious injury. The opponents may hold back from kicking the player on the ground, thus providing an advantage to the player and providing him/her to make a play to a team mate. The referee must realize that playing the ball on the ground should only be penalized if there are opponents in close proximity to the player. Also, a sliding tackle is not playing the ball on the ground. The sliding tackle is legal provided that it does not turn into a tripping or kicking situation.
In summary, dangerous play must be dealt with when it occurs and an indirect free kick must be awarded. However, the referee must ensure the criteria for dangerous play are satisfied before making the decision.