Whatever level of game you are officiating you can be taken by surprise at some point in your career with a mass confrontation incident.

Judging the temperature and the behaviour of players in a game is obviously part of your role and appropriate intervention on free kicks with a stepped management approach can help to avoid a mass confrontation incident.

Too much advantage can result in retaliation, dissent can erode your control, so in this blog I want to give you an insight into the criteria which I put together when I was at the PGMOL

Mass Confrontation

The following guidelines should be adopted in the event of mass confrontation situation:

Assistant Referees

·        The Assistant Referees should quickly adopt the most appropriate viewing position of the incident by entering the field of play and moving quickly to the scene of the incident,

·        At the conclusion of the incident the assistant referees should be prepared to offer assistance to the referee confirming the identify of players involved, their location and any other relevant information

·        The assistant referee patrolling the touchline where the technical area is located may have additional problems with the occupants of the technical area.  The first priority should be the on-field incident


·        The Referee should avoid jumping in but stand back and observe the incident, but please blow your whistle loud so that all players are aware of your presence.

·        Players who are seen to be striking, kicking or acting aggressively should be identified as opposed to those who are clearly trying to separate the offenders

·        Once the confrontation has subsided and before the game has restarted, the referee should consult with the assistant who has been observing the incident.  The referee should consult with both assistants before taking any disciplinary action

·        The required disciplinary action should then be taken.  Offending players should be moved to a position where all the other players can still be observed.  Where action requires the dismissal of two or more players ensure they leave the field of play individually to prevent further misconduct. I would suggest that you dismiss the away team players first.

·        The Football Association expects that your priority should be to identify and punish accordingly:

  • The instigators
  • Any player whose action clearly escalates or inflames the situation

Fourth Official

·        The fourth official assists the referee at all times

·        In the event of mass confrontation the fourth official’s priority should be the conduct of the occupants of the technical area

·        At the conclusion of the incident the fourth official should bring to the attention of the referee anything he may wish to report

Work that little bit harder to avoid this type of incident, incidentally I write this with a wry smile on my face. During my career I was involved in the famous battle of Old Trafford that resulted in Manchester United and Arsenal been deducted points,

Keith Hackett