Shield vs charge?

Question for the masses. I referee in the states. Done about 300 games at this point. Have played for 40 yrs and coached for about 5-7. Recognizing that coaches, spectators, players are biased and often don't know the LOTG or interpretations my question is this...
This is a difficult opinion/judgement call for me but...

Scenario - attacker dribbling down wing, defender crashing toward ball from 180 degree opposite angle. Defender beats attacker by a hair, but does not touch/play the ball. elects to move at speed just past the ball turning back to on rushing attacker. Defender is within playing distance and could play the ball but does not actually play the ball. Heavy collision and attacker gets leveled. What are collective thoughts on factors to take into account for whether this is a legitimate shield or when this is a charge/hockey check type foul on the defender? Recognizing that attackers sometime may intentionally fail to make any effort to avoid contact or embellish trying to draw a foul/card.



Well-Known Member
I think he's entitled to shield the ball despite not actually playing it. Lots of ball shielding goes on without playing it to see it out of play. The fact that they are running towards each other at speed when he does it is not relevant.


Well-Known Member
For me this is at minimum careless (in most cases. Its a YHTBT). The direct free kick offences say nothing about control of the ball and "who gets to the ball first". Sure there are considerations but only considerations. The telling factor from this is that he turns his back. He know he is initiating a heavy collision and is making sure he is not coming off second best with no consideration for his opponent.

A similar situation for me is when two players jump for an arial ball header. One has eye on the ball and facing it all the way, the other looks at the ball and the opponents first, jumps towards it but drops his head and twists his body around with his back into the opponent and if he is lucky the ball hitting the back of his head. Careless at a minimum.


Well-Known Member
Tough one really. My initial thoughts were impeding the progress of an opponent. But it sounds like the ball was in playing distance of the defender so it doesnt quite meet the requirements.

It's quite possible that actually the attacker has committed a careless foul with an unfair charge.

A player may shield the ball by taking a position between an opponent and the
ball if the ball is within playing distance and the opponent is not held off with
the arms or body.

I think the above statement is the most appliccable so for the OP he needs to decide did the defender "hold off" his opponent or did thr attacker unfairly charge him
Hi Hoosier Ref
The part that I did not like in the description was turning back into the opponent making heavy contact. That reads more like a charge than a shielding action. If it is a charge it has to be shoulder to shoulder not into the opponents chest or back.
Another factor is whether the action is reckless or not. Shielding or charging cannot be reckless. Now that can work both ways in that many times the shielding player can come off worse.
Also I think that when players are evenly matched these type of contacts are less of an issue. Equal players can take and give strong contact.
Had one at the weekend where a lighter player went into a GK who was much heavier and stronger. GK caught the ball, just stood there, braced himself for the shot and the attacker came off worse shipping heavy contact, all of which was the attackers own making really. Attacker took exception to the contact which I saw as a foul against the GK who had possession of the ball.


Well-Known Member
Hi @Goldfish,
I agree with your view with a couple of clarifications.
"Shoulder to shoulder" is the most common form of a fair charge but it doesn't necessarily make it a fair one. Other forms (back to chest) are not necessarily offences either, just more likely to be an offence.
"Another factor is whether the action is reckless or not": I presume you are including careless and excessive force in there as well.

Interestingly, before the big change the LOTG description of charge included:
"It is an offence to charge an opponent:
• in a careless manner
• in a reckless manner
• using excessive force"

The change replaced that with
"If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent."


Well-Known Member
Can you guys (or anyone else) point me towards the section of the laws that allow a "fair charge"? As far as I was aware, charging was a DFK offence and I have repeatedly punished player for using their momentum to win the ball, regardless of which body parts happen to make contact. Is that wrong?


Well-Known Member
Can you guys (or anyone else) point me towards the section of the laws that allow a "fair charge"? As far as I was aware, charging was a DFK offence and I have repeatedly punished player for using their momentum to win the ball, regardless of which body parts happen to make contact. Is that wrong?
Last sentence in Law 12.2

Also Law 12.1 where a charge has to be C/R/EF for it to be an offence
The game allows for the use of strength and physical contact such as a fair charge. Tactic knowledge tells us that shoulder to shoulder in a way that moves a player off the ball is fair. Obviously running at distance to crash a shoulder into the opponents shoulder, back or chest is not legal. It is left to the referee to decide what is careless. Former wording of the FIFA Interpretations stated that, “the act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows.”
In this video the referee deemed that the arm was not used and saw it as legal
In this one Clattenburg decided the first contact by Vardy was shoulder to shoulder and therefore a legal charge ( video showed an arm was used to push). The second one he decided it was a shoulder into the back and therefore a foul.


Well-Known Member
I would have given every single one of those as a foul, no question. I've got no trouble with two players coming together and having a "strength battle" shoulder to shoulder, but any use of momentum that knocks an opponent over has to be a foul at least?
I'm fine with the first one. I think the total lack of reaction from the players suggests a free kick would be a huge surprise.

Second one is a foul on Vardy, but it's also a foul by Vardy initially which the referee missed. Give the first obvious one, and avoid having to give the more controversial second one!