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Dissent by action (case study)

Dissent by action. A player applauds after you show him a yellow card. What do you decide?

Will you certainly show the second yellow card? Will you give a stern warning, because he’s already on a yellow? Or will you probably ignore him?

Dissent by action by Boetius

Jean-Paul Boëtius receives a yellow card by referee Pol van Boekel, but he disagrees. He applauds at the referee’s decision. He receives a second yellow card because of this. But what do the Laws of the Game say about this?

LOTG on dissent by action

The Laws of the Game mention that a yellow card is mandatory. “Because a player is cautioned if guilty of dissent by word or action.”

And what is dissent? The vocabulary in the LOTG clearly explains it. “Public disagreement (verbal and/or physical) with a match official’s decision; punishable by a caution (yellow card).”

Restart of the game?

Gestures towards the referee result in an indirect free kick. Applauding or other gestures are not the same as ‘offences against a match official’. This type of fouls are physical offences.

In the situation below, the restart is certainly not an indirect free kick. It’s a direct free kick, because play was already stopped due to the first physical foul.

Video of match situation


  • George Markou

    Flash card without talking to the player. I understand that referees at this level have certain instructions. At my level the cautioning procedure includes talking to the player and explaining that a second caution will result in a dismissal. This time should allow tension to diffuse and the player to calm down.

  • Ryan Owens

    Correct decision. Easiest one he will have to make in the match. I remember Rooney getting sent off by Mark Clattenburg some years ago for the exact same situation.

  • David Lopez

    In my opinion most player dissent can be managed with a talking to and warning instead of being to hasty with a caution since one of our responsibilities as a ref is to the enjoyment of the game which can be lost when there is an ejection.

    Technically Boekel was right in showing a 2nd yellow for dissent however since it was shown for a sarcastic applause and not a verbal insult I think ref’s need to take a moment and consider the unwritten Law 18 of common sense and decide if there is a need for the caution considering the bigger scheme of things.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Players would enjoy it if they’re not getting booked, but what about the enjoyment of the referee? To have enjoyment for everyone, you better take action on dissent. That will also makes it easier for us referees to manage a game.

      If referees don’t act on dissent at that level, it will give the wrong example and makes refereeing at a lower level even worse. So in the bigger scheme of things: my advice is to take proper action.

  • Greg Buzard

    Just as there are players who are role models – for both their levels of skill and behaviors – there are Referees who are our role models.

    We look to you to set the standards of how we should be reffing our games, albeit at a lower level of competition.
    Suggesting because you can tolerate dissent or handle it with ‘just a good talking to’ is a disservice to the young refs out there who are not battle-hardened veterans of a thousand games.
    To them dissent is HIGHLY personal, and it is what is driving them away from the game.
    Those of us who can should be setting the best possible example by dealing with dissent with a caution card – not callous indifference.

  • Bashir

    Application of the laws of the game is very important. We expect our role models and referees all over the world to apply these laws so that the players will know the punishment for such actions. This is important because, here in Africa, players and team officials use decisions made by other referees in other continents as reference to challenge the decision of our referees because they are ignorant of the laws of the game.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      The same happens from pro football to amateur football. If something happens there and the ref allows it, it will happen on amateur pitches as well.

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