There is a lot happening in this play requiring the referee and near assistant referee to work together. The location on the field near a team bench adds potential for escalation in emotions and higher risk for the intensity of play to increase significantly.
1 What type of contact occurs here? Is it pushing, tripping, kicking, tackling? The referee must be in a position that allows for an angle of view between the players to be able to see the nature of the contact.
2 The ball is currently on the touchline. The referee and assistant referee must know who last touched the ball if it leaves the field. Additionally, if it does leave the field, they must be able to determine whether any critical player behavior occurred before or after the ball’s exit. Any infringement that occurs after the ball is out of play cannot be a foul, but must be considered misconduct.
3 With one player on the ground and another standing, there is significant risk for contact to continue after the ball is no longer within playing distance of the two players. The referee team must watch for kicking and tripping, along with one player stepping on another. Players can be very sophisticated at making an intentional and targeted stomp appear to be a matter of getting “tangled up.”
4 The referee must be cautious about shifting focus away from these two players too early. It is tempting to watch the ball as it continues up the touchline or out of play and lose focus on the two players continuing their motion. But, misconduct and retaliation can occur very fast, so referees cannot afford to lose focus on an area of high risk or they may find themselves working very hard to regain match control through the rest of the game.
5 If this contact occurs directly in front of team benches, there is a greater chance for coaches and substitutes to become involved with the scenario. If a fourth official is assigned to the game and located on the same side of the field as the contact, he or she should quickly move to the vicinity of the contact to assist in controlling all personnel off the field. But, in many circumstances a fourth official is not provided to the crew, in which case the referee and assistant referee must take extra steps to communicate with and control the coaches and players in the technical/team areas.
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