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What is an abusive language offense in soccer? Definition, Result, Referee Signal, Examples

abusive language offense in soccer

It is important to be respectful to others and maintain appropriate conduct at any sporting event or competition. Sports such as soccer have official rules to hold athletes and their teams accountable to these principles. The abusive language foul is issued whenever a player or coach engages in offensive or derogatory language towards other players, coaches, or officials.


Abusive language is a foul that is called when either a player or team official uses abusive, offensive, or derogatory language during a soccer game that is inappropriate and a distraction from the sport. The language can occur either on the field or off the field and does not have to occur while players are actively playing soccer.

If a player says anything that is deemed abusive language by a referee, they face ejection. Using abusive language is considered a sending-off offense. If a player commits a sending-off offense, they will be ejected from the game, and their team must play at a disadvantage.

Similarly, if a team official, such as an athletic trainer or coach, utilizes abusive language, they may be directed to leave the premises. It is up to the referee’s discretion to determine whether or not a person has violated the rules. When the offense is called while actively playing, a referee blows the whistle, and gameplay stops. After assessing the penalty, play is then restarted with an indirect free kick for the offender’s opponents.


In professional leagues, referees will issue a sending-off if an abusive language offense is called. A sending-off (red card) is an ejection from the game. The NCAA dictates that using profane language is a cautionable offense at the collegiate level while using abusive language will incite a sending-off. In both cases, an indirect free kick will be awarded to the opposite team to resume gameplay.

Referee Signal

A referee will issue a red card by holding it up in the air with one hand while looking at or gesturing toward the player it has been called on. If the offense occurs during gameplay, the referee will blow their whistle to halt gameplay.


  • A soccer player yells and utilizes derogatory language when a referee makes a call they do not agree with. The player is persistent in their offensive language and uses language that is not appropriate. The referee issues a sending-off.
  • A soccer player makes comments that use inappropriate language while defending an opposing player on the field. The language is heard by a referee and distracts the opposing player. The referee stops play and issues a red card to the offending player.
  • A soccer player uses derogatory language under his breath to distract an opposing player that is dribbling the ball. The opposing player is visibly affected and complains to an official. The official witnesses this action the next time and charges the offending player with a red card.