Case Study: A Tactical Foul Is Always A Tactical Foul

The rest of the headline for this case study should read “Even When Committed in the Third Minute, And Therefore Must Be Punished Accordingly”.

I think you can see why it was necessary to shorten the headline a bit.

U.S. Soccer defines a tactical foul this way:

Tactical fouls are primarily fouls that don’t necessarily endanger the safety of an opponent but are committed either to break down a promising attack or to gain an advantage in attack. These fouls are often considered minor because they normally don’t involve hard, physical contact. . . Shirt pulling or using their body to make contact with the opponent and impede their progress are frequent examples. . .Normally, committed to prevent the ball and/or attacking player from getting into space behind a defender or behind the defense. . .Tactical fouls require a yellow card for unsporting behavior.*

Notable is what this passage doesn’t say: there is no mention of exceptions for cautions if a tactical foul is committed early in the match.  If you want to consider not punishing with a caution, you’ll need to convince yourself that the foul was not, in fact, tactical.

In other words, a tactical foul is always a tactical foul.  Howard Webb demonstrates this perfectly in the video below (click in the lower right hand corner to go full screen)

*Kleinaitis, Alfred. 100% Misconduct: Tactical and Red Card Tackles. Chicago: United States Soccer Federation, 2 Feb. 2009. PDF.

5 responses to “Case Study: A Tactical Foul Is Always A Tactical Foul”

  1. I think this a better example of what happens when a foul is missed in the penalty area, and retaliation follows shortly thereafter. Notice the position of Mr. Webb during the contact in the area, as opposed to his position when calling the retalitory


  2. Umm…no…there was no foul in the penalty area. You were viewing a clip from the Barclay’s Premier League, not high school ball. Furthermore, what “retaliation?” Retaliation is determined as a foul committed by a player who may have been fouled earlier but not received a decision. The players fighting for the ball were not the same players involved in the actual foul Howard Webb gave. [Comment edited for tone by itootr]


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