Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Great tackle ... by the coach

So for those who follow grid iron football, and especially those who follow the AFC East, we were treated to a very interesting incident in the contest between the NY Jets and Miami Dolphins. The incident was reported by several outlets (ESPN here) and details NY Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi intentionally tripping Miami cornerback Nolan Carroll during punt coverage as he ran out of bounds. Carroll required some brief medical attention after the incident.

Now, regarding this incident (and I am not going to hide my feelings here), this coward was suspended for the remainder of the season, and fined $25,000 (source). [Please take note that the fine for this coach for this single incident was more than the fine of both Spain and the Netherlands combined for their entire teams during the World Cup final.] While this is a good start, Alosi should also lose his job for doing something so monumentally stupid that place a player in genuine jeopardy.

He of course was remorseful for his actions, and I believe that was genuine, however for me there is only so much afterthought that can be given credit for an absolute lack of forethought.

With that as a stage, what happens if this occurs at a soccer match? What is the decision here?

Keep in mind the incident occurred OUTSIDE THE FIELD, AND AWAY FROM PLAY, or should that even matter?

For the moment let's assume that a brawl did not break out as a result of the incident (as some Miami players would have liked), and the referee did see the incident (as opposed to what happened in this game), and a player simply ran out of bounds as part of play and was tripped by a coach standing out of bounds.

For this answer I am using the 2010/2011 LOTG found here, and 2009/2010 Advice found here.

First, is there anything wrong with the player leaving the field? After all the player "left the field" without permission of the referee, is that a caution as required by Law 12 (p.26 LOTG)?

In this case, no. See section 3.9 of the Advice which states that this conduct is acceptable, if during the normal course of play and not for a tactical advantage. Note, there are exceptions for other situations as discussed in the LOTG and Advice.

So it would seem the player was playing, even if off the field, and the coach was off the field ... it is a foul?
In other words, should we start with a free kick for a foul?

Here too the answer is a clear no, as the opposing coach (who tripped the player) is not an "opponent" as required to be a foul for law 12. From p. 25 of the LOTG a foul would lie if one "kicks or attempts to trip an opponent." Please note, "an opponent" is interpreted to be "an opponent player", while I can make an argument that this coach is "an opponent", and the laws are NOT clear in making the distinction between an opponent (such as a coach) or an opponent player, just roll with me here and know I mean a player.

Can we even stop the game then? After all we have an incident outside the field by people other than players. Where do we have the authority to do this, and should we?

A clear yes is the case here as from Law 5 p.16 the referee may:
"stops, suspends or abandons the match because of outside interference of any kind."

 So we are allowed to do this, but should we?

My answer here is YOU BETTER. If you see it, and it was intentional act by a coach, substitute, whatever ... deal with it right then. Otherwise, the players will. Now the physics of the situation can change greatly based on venue, level and so on. My though here is to stop the game and deal with it, or have those tasked to deal with it (e.g. local staff) deal with it.

Is there a misconduct for the coach?

You betcha. That coach should be "expelled" (note I did not say, "get sent off"), and not return. The LOTG do not have allowances for "send off" a coach per se. That misconduct is reserved for players. See Law 5 p.16 for the distinction.

What is the coach "expelled" for?

Directly from LOTG, Law 5 p.16:
"takes action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds."

So coaches and staff are "expelled" for failing to conduct themselves in a "responsible manner." If you find yourself in this spot, use these magic words on the match report.

So all of this out of the way, how do we restart the match?
Section 5.19 of the Advice is INVALUABLE for this type of question. So look at the table, and let's review.

The offense was committed against an opponent or any other person, off the field. (Row 2, Column 4)

The restart is a drop ball at the spot where the ball was when play was stopped. (Row 3, Column 4)

And this makes sense too from a "fairness" perspective. As this took place outside the field, by an outside agent (a coach), it stands to reason it would be a drop ball. It is NOT a foul (so no free kick), and there was no foul by a player (such as leaving the field without permission), so there should be no free kick for such. Note however, if the ball was out of play, you begin with the appropriate restart. (Column 5)

Our friends at Ask A Soccer Referee have tackled variations on this theme, and their answer is here.

And before you think this can't happen ... check out below (or here if video does not work)

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