SIAPOA: USSF Guidelines on Serious Foul Play

Red Card!

Red Card! (Photo credit: Stéfan)

With the Nani send-off in the Man U-Real Madrid UEFA Champions League match on March 5, it may be a good time to review the criteria for judging Serious Foul Play. The following was originally published by US Soccer in its “Week in Review” series on May 6, 2010.


Red Card Challenges: Endangering the Safety of the Opponent and Excessive Force

Match officials must be constantly diligent in their effort to ensure player safety and deal with incidents of 100 percent misconduct. For example, referees must be able to successfully identify those situations that clearly meet all criteria for endangering the safety of the opponent and the use of excessive force (both components of red card challenges). To assist officials with deciphering red card tackles, U.S. Soccer has established the SIAPOA criteria:

  • Speed of play and the tackle
    The faster the tackler is moving, the greater the force and likelihood of endangering the safety of the opponent. Additionally, speed also equates to less control of the challenge and the less likely the attacker can cleanly win the ball.
  • Intent
    The intent of the tackler. Was the tackle intended to send a message or to cleanly win the ball?
  • Aggressive nature
    Did the tackler lunge for the ball with one or both feet? Consideration should be given to the distance between the attacker and the tackler at the time the tackler leaves his feet. The further the distance, the less control the tackler has of his actions and the less likely the tackler is to play the ball. Are cleats up and exposed to the opponent?
  • Position of the tackler
    In particular, his legs (height of the tackler’s leading leg and the follow-up action by the tackler’s trailing leg).
  • Opportunity to play the ball
    Was the ball within playing distance? Or, was the ball already past the tackler at the time the tackler’s feet came in contact with the opponent. Tackles from behind and from the side (outside of the peripheral vision of the attacker with the ball) increase the likelihood contact will need to be made with the attacker prior to playing the ball.
  • Atmosphere of the game
    Referees must consider the overall temperature of the match and the player in question. Has an aggressive attitude been displayed to that point? Is frustration amongst or between the players evident?

Match officials need to be very familiar with the SIAPOA criteria as split second recognition is vital to ensuring player safety and the appropriate decision is made. It is NOT required that each of the criteria be present. As part of the decision making process, the referee must evaluate the entire action and weigh each criteria while asking:

Does the mix and weight of the evident criteria endanger the safety of the opponent and lead to a determination that excessive force was used?

Note: The ability to quickly differentiate between a reckless tackle (yellow card) and a tackle involving excessive force (red card) needs to be a vital part of a referee’s repertoire. By observing and analyzing games and the challenges in the games, referees can train their “mind’s eye” to apply the SIAPOA criteria and take the appropriate action.


Note also that besides SFP there are six other reasons for send-offs (red cards):

A player is sent off and shown the red card if he commits any of the following seven offenses:

  • Is guilty of serious foul play (SFP)
  • Is guilty of violent conduct (VC)
  • Spits at an opponent or any other person (S)
  • Denies the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to the goalkeeper within his own penalty area) (DGH)
  • Denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick (DGF)
  • Uses offensive, insulting or abusive language (AL)
  • Receives a second caution in the same match (2CT)

SIAPOA is not used to evaluate Violent Conduct, which should be evaluated on its own (de)merits. In addition, Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity uses the “4 Ds” criteria (in the US)…

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About Dan Paolini

Soccer & Futsal Referee Assignor

Posted on March 9, 2013, in Advice Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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