In soccer, dissent is defined as any outward or public disagreement with a referee’s decisions, either verbal or physical actions. If a player in a soccer match expresses public disapproval of any decision made by the match’s official, that player may receive a dissent penalty and receive a caution, including a yellow card.
In soccer matches, referees often have to make quick judgment calls based on fast-moving plays, declaring things like goals, infractions, and penalties. Sometimes, if an official’s decision causes anger or dismay in one of the players or coaches, that person will express disapproval of the decision through their words or actions. Based on its severity, this form of disapproval is called dissent and is against the rules of soccer as a cautionable offense.
There are a few different types of actions that can qualify as a dissent foul in soccer. Most dissent involves rude verbal comments or gestures, such as dismissive language, hand waving, or even foul words and obscenities. Insulting or abusive language after a call can also count as dissent. The IFAB rules explicitly highlight three types of cautionable dissent, which are: throwing or kicking drinks or bottles, as well as any other objects on the field, gestures that display blatant disrespect for officials (such as insults, or gestures like sarcastic clapping), and deliberately leaving the field of play to express dissent towards a decision.
There are certain sets of guidelines in various soccer leagues governing what is termed dissent. One of these methods is known as the “3Ps,” which stand for Personal, Public, and Provocative:
- Personal: the dissent is aimed at a specific official, which is considered a personal attack upon that referee.
- Public: a player or coach loudly projects by yelling so that various people can hear (rather than private disagreements that are kept quiet).
- Provocative: the dissenter utilized abusive language, gestures, or threats.
If a dissenter’s action satisfies any combination of these three criteria or satisfies one of them in the extreme, dissent is called.
Dissent in words or actions is a cautionable offense for both regular and substitute players and is punished by a yellow card and an indirect free kick for the opposing team. A yellow card serves as a warning for the offending player, while an indirect free kick takes place from the spot of the foul, allowing the non-offending team to gain possession of the ball and try for a goal. If dissent continues after a penalty is issued or involves certain blatant offenses, a referee may choose to give the dissenter a red card and expel them for the remainder of the match.
In soccer, dissent is often signaled verbally by the officiating referee and is traditionally followed by two signals. The first signal would be the flashing of a yellow card to signal the cautionable offense of the dissenting player. The second signal would be for an indirect free kick awarded to the non-offending team. To signal an indirect free kick, the referee raises their arm into the air, keeping it steady in that position until the kick is completed, and the ball touches another player aside from the kicker.
- After a tripping call, the referee goes to a replay review to see if the play was inside the penalty area. When it is determined that it was not, the coach of the fouled team approaches and yells at the referee.
- After disapproving of a call made by the referee, a player becomes agitated and starts yelling at the referee, using excessive profane language.
- A substitute gets up from the bench area and enters the field of play to approach the referee after a disputed call.