First, a brief summary of what has been worked out so far about foul play. In the chapter “What is a penalty?” a fundamental problem was discussed. This is: An offence should actually be prohibited by the fact that the punishment imposed would have to bring disadvantages to the party committing the offence. This would not ban foul play, but it would classify it as it deserves: it is unwanted by the (neutral) spectator and the coach’s advice to the players is as a consequence “don’t do it, as it has unfavourable consequences for our team.” Apart from that, it’s also about reputation. A fouling player is downgraded because he was/is unsportsmanlike. The result of this chapter related to the current situation, i.e. the “actual state” is: the opposite is the case with the current application and interpretation of the rules, even possibly the rule constitution, which, however, could be changed.
Another advantage is that it is even possible to get away with “skilful fouling”. So you foul a little bit all the time, and the referee can’t really punish any of the individual, minor offences. A short tug here, a short block there, an imperceptible “step on the foot”, then held again and finally a bit of pushing. Hm, when should he whistle now? Apart from that, the rule application in general is already shown to be disadvantageous for the attackers. So for identical offences, holding or pulling on both sides, the defender gets the nod. On the one hand, this is observation, on the other hand, the evidence technique for this has been proposed (compile scenes detached from the position on the pitch and have them judged).
It is even more difficult in the penalty area – this is shown in detail in the chapter “Penalty”, also with the evidence technique — in which, contrary to the common opinion that the defenders should be more careful there because of the danger of penalties, they tend to foul even more. The referees protect them in this by simply refusing to point to the spot — all of which is well justified and proven.
The wall distance, once a free kick is awarded, is not respected and is (somewhat) too small anyway.
If these disadvantages for the attackers are still not enough, here is another thesis in the same direction: The introduction of yellow cards has legalised foul play.
We still remember the times when a fouling player was initially made out to be the bogeyman by the crowd. This was certainly unpleasant for him, because whistles simply hurt. People might try to pull themselves together, back off or apologise – but seriously. If these recognised unsportsmanlike acts were not yet sufficiently “appreciated” by the spectator, the referee intervened at some point. These situations are also still very vivid: the referee strides energetically towards the offender and admonishes him insistently. “We don’t want to see that here, fellow sportsman. We have rules. I ask you to obey them.” The accused bowed politely, appeased, promised to restrain himself. “Yes, Mr. Arbitrator, you are right. I will try my best.”
But it is precisely the sentences “We have rules” and “I ask you to abide by them” that lead to the daring thesis: today there is a rule for this. And the player is abiding by them. Surely everything is correct? The rules state that gross foul play or other gross unsportsmanlike conduct is punished with a yellow card. That’s what happened: “I was grossly unsporting, I fouled badly, yes, the referee saw it, rubbed the card in my face, that’s right, let’s move on. Everything correct.”
The unsportsmanlike conduct no longer exists. It has usually evaporated through the writing down. Perhaps the spectators applaud instead because everyone has adhered to the rules in such an exemplary manner, including the referee. In an interview, a Stefan Effenberg lookalike then says: “Yes, I had to intervene, pick up the yellow card, wipe my mouth, move on!” All covered by the rules. By the way, the game was won thanks to the exemplary use of the rules…