Soccer offences: Playing in a dangerous manner versus serious foul play
Sometimes football commentators, coaches, players and fans may not understand the laws of the game very well. Even some referees make some errors regarding application of the laws of the game. A common error is that of confusing serious foul play and playing in a dangerous manner.
A referee instructor once pointed out that certain referees, in their match reports, stated that a player was shown the red card and sent off for playing in a dangerous manner. That is erroneous, since playing in a dangerous manner is not one of the seven sending-off offences outlined in Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct.
Serious foul play occurs when a player challenges for the ball or tackles an opponent with excessive force or brutality when the ball is in play. In order for this to occur, the offence must be committed by a player who is challenging for the ball while it is in play.
Excessive force or brutality is somewhat subjective, since it is in the opinion of the referee. However, FIFA guidelines indicate that the phrase “excessive force” refers to using more force than is necessary to execute a tackle or challenge and where the safety of the opponent is compromised.
Playing in a dangerous manner refers to attempting to play the ball (while it is in play) in a manner that threatens injury or harm to an opponent or even the player himself. For a player to be guilty of this offence, he must commit it near to an opponent, and the opponent must be adversely affected.
There are important differences between the two offences; those differences are outlined below.
It is mandatory that there is contact for serious foul play to be committed. If there is no contact at all, the offence should be “playing in a dangerous manner.” In some cases, the difference between the two is a matter of centimetres. Playing in a dangerous manner can easily result in serious foul play if physical contact is made. That’s because the manner of challenging for the ball was dangerous and risky in the first place.
Type of free kick
Both offences result in the award of a free kick against the team committing the offence. With serious foul play, the restart of play is either a direct free kick or a penalty kick. With playing in a dangerous manner, the restart of play is an indirect free kick, regardless of where the offence is committed.
Serious foul play is a sending-off offence; it warrants a “straight red card.” Playing in a dangerous manner is not always punishable by a card. If the challenge is reckless, though without contact, the referee may caution the guilty player. A red card is not issued for playing in a dangerous manner, but if a player denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by committing this offence, he should be sent off and shown the red card.
No genuine football fan should confuse serious foul play and playing in a dangerous manner. While they are both offences that occur while challenging for the ball, serious foul play is the far more serious offence.