Errol Walker, AFA & LONSAR member, Level 4 Referee and FA Licenced Tutor, takes on the challenge of explaining the application of the new Laws of the Game when considering a DOGSO situation; for the benefit of our members (Football Referees London).
Below are the Author’s views expressed and not that of the AFA Lonsar.
As you may all know, significant changes were applied to the Laws of the Game for the 2016/17 season. In my view, the most significant changes apply to the definition of DOGSO. Sending off a player for the ‘professional’ foul is one that has caused debate since its introduction. At times, it has seemed justified and on other occasions, it has been criticised for ‘ruining’ a game.
That all changed this season. The new law says that sending off a player should not be the default outcome from every DOGSO situation. A good way to think about the changes is that outside of the penalty area nothing has changed.
It is inside the penalty area where the changes apply. However, we can at times over complicate things. Actually, all we have to do is judge whether it is a foul or not and then think about the severity of the foul, differentiating whether it is a careless, reckless or serious foul. If the latter, the player needs to be sent off regardless of any DOGSO considerations.
What impact is the law-change having on the game?
The offence (the foul) is: denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity to the attacker: it is not the denial of the goal. The change to the law says that in the penalty area, the referee has the authority to restore the ‘obvious’ goal scoring opportunity by awarding a penalty. This also restores any potential ‘advantage’ back to the attacking team as a penalty has a good chance of being converted into a goal.
Outside the penalty area, on the other hand, it is not clear that the goal scoring opportunity is restored as the defending team has a better chance of defending against the goal being scored. A free-kick provides a lesser chance for the attacking team to score a goal, and as a result, they have now lost their ‘obvious goal scoring opportunity’.
Outside or inside the penalty area
When the offence occurs outside the penalty area the referee must still make the judgement whether the foul committed is DOGSO. The referee must consider distance to the goal; covering defenders; whether the ball is under control; the attacker’s direction of travel; and the nature of the tackle or attempted tackle. If this, when considering all of the above, would have resulted in the defender being sent off for a DOGSO prior to the law changes, nothing has changed the player is still sent off. The defender, in this case, includes the goal-keeper. The free-kick is given and the defending player is sent off.
Significant changes to the law apply when considering a DOGSO inside the penalty area. What is the logic behind the changes? The argument against the previous application of the law was that the team/player was punished twice – one being the penalty and second the sending off (putting the team at a further disadvantage for the rest of the game) and the player facing a further suspension. For the pundit, the cry was often: ‘That has ruined the game’, particularly where in their mind the sending off was not justified.
Restoring the goal scoring opportunity
Where are we now? The application of the law says that in giving the penalty the goal scoring opportunity has been restored. Remember it is the opportunity that was denied not the goal. So, a team missing the penalty is no different than if the attacking player had not scored from his or her initial opportunity.
The requirement of the law now is for the referee to judge whether the attempted tackle was a genuine attempt to get the ball. So, a goalkeeper coming face on, diving to block the ball and tackling the player first would be may be judged to have made a ‘genuine’ attempt to get the ball – no sending off. However, if the player has rounded the keeper and the keeper, unable to play the ball, pulls the player down? In this situation, where there can be no genuine attempt to play the ball, not only is the penalty awarded but the keeper is also sent off.
Football is played with the feet
There are some instances where the foul is deemed an automatic sending off for DOGSO. We don’t play football with our hands. So fouls with the hands that deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity will result in a red card. So, handball, pushing or holding are deemed DOGSO. We need to remember that serious foul play, wherever on the FOP, is a red card.
In summary, the law changes around DOGSO seeks to remove a ‘double-punishment’ for the offending team by awarding the penalty and sending off the defending player. Outside of the penalty area, nothing changes – if prior to law changes it was DOGSO, it still remains DOGSO. Remember, we don’t play football with our hands, so an offence committed using the hands, that is deemed to meet the criteria for DOGSO, results in a sending off.
Remember, serious foul play has always been a sending off offence. Nothing has changed regarding this. What the law change may also do is reduce the heightened feeling of injustice when the awarding of the penalty no longer also results in a sending off. But that may not be the case when the offence occurs just outside the penalty area, or when the offence actually deserves a red card regardless of where it takes place.
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