Managing mass confrontation situations can be especially difficult, depending on the nature of incident that triggered it. Of course, we try to manage a game appropriately to avoid mass confrontation whenever we can.
Sometimes, however, players have different ideas.
When mass conformation happens, one of the most effective tools for quelling it quickly can seem quite counterintuitive: protect the guilty.
Identifying the player that started the incident, then moving to insert yourself near him, and then isolating him (or her) from the rest of the players can be a very effective way to put out the fire.
Of course, one must be “street smart” in these situations in order to determine when it is safe to do so. Putting yourself potentially in harm’s way can sometimes lead to, well, harm. This type of judgment comes from experience and some knowledge of the players.
In the video clip below, FIFA and Select Group veteran Martin Atkinson uses the technique perfectly to defuse a situation that popped up in an otherwise well disciplined match.
Again, keep in mind that Premier League players are professionals and, despite plenty of foul language that would seem to indicate otherwise, have a healthy respect for referees (or at least a healthy fear of punishment from the FA). So, Atkinson can insert himself in this situation reasonably assured that he isn’t going to get punched in the nose by a wayward haymaker. This might not be in the case your competitions, so, use this approach with appropriate discretion.
P.S.: A referee friend of mine is not a fan of “offsetting cautions” (this is a reference to American football where simultaneous penalties to each side are referred to as “offsetting” because neither penalty is enforced), but I think it is warranted in this case, as there are two very clear and separate cases of misconduct by each of the players.