Law 18 - Common Sense (originally appeared 8-02)

Don't you hate it when you sit down for a nice family dinner (if you don't remember those then watch some Leave it to Beaver reruns), and you find yourself constantly interrupted with telemarketers? Now imagine yourself on the soccer pitch with those same telemarketers calling you. This is the effect that too zealous a whistle can have on the game. Luckily, FIFA recognizes that common sense must prevail. For this reason the Laws of the Game are particularly sparse; only 29 pages in length."Common Sense" is the so-called Law 18, which goes along with the printed Laws 1-17. In older versions of the Laws of the Game, this showed up as "in the opinion of the referee". This has been replaced in recent years with the caution against stopping play for "trifling" offenses, which "produce bad feeling and loss of temper;and spoil the pleasure ."What is considered trifling? It depends on the skill level and tone of the specific game.Common sense calls for: 1) keeping everyone safe; 2) keeping the game fair; and 3) keeping it within the accepted bounds of soccer. Compare a goal kick that is a little outside the 6-yard line versus holding an attacking player as she tries to get off a shot. One is trifling, the other is not. What is missing for the lawyers in the crowd is clear definition. Judgment will vary between individuals, which is why there is only one whistle on the pitch. When you think a call was missed, asked yourself was it different from the preceding action (has the referee been consistent) and did it materially impact the game. Let Law 18 be the rule and not the exception.