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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?

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