No one can take me away from here

In the opinion article by João Caiado Guerreiro in the newspaper A Bola: "Who can force a coach or player to leave the field? Sports law answers. And will the punishment be heavy as it was in Germany?"
News 14/08/2023

I’m not leaving here, no one is taking me out of here because it was a great game in the Super Cup. A dominant FC Porto, pressing, with the usual claw, chances of goal in the first half of the challenge. And a strong, fast and accurate SL Benfica in the second half, with tactical changes to which the Invicta club could not respond. The national champion won well, the runner-up was a worthy winner.

It was a pity that the “Dragons'” clawing scorched a beautiful spectacle. Pepe was sent off for an “emotional foul”, and Sérgio Conceição was again red-carded for protesting. Worse, the Porto coach refused to leave the pitch for 4 minutes and 18 seconds, and only after much diplomacy and pleading did he head to the dressing room. Let’s not forget that Roger Schmidt did the same thing, and for more minutes when he coached Bayer Leverkusen, the punishment was heavy. Yes, this does not justify Conceição’s behaviour, but it is not unique, although I do not remember an identical situation in Portugal. Who can force a coach or player to leave the field if they don’t want to? Sports law answers. And will the punishment be heavy as it was in Germany?

The Disciplinary Regulations of the Portuguese League, in its article 168-A, says, “The coach (…) who is expelled for the infraction provided for in article 140 (…) is punished with the sanction of suspension of one game and accessory with (…) fine”. And regarding the non-compliance with the expulsion order, art. 110 no. 1 says: “When the referee, before the regulation period, gives the game as finished because an expelled player does not leave the playing area after the team captain and his delegate have failed to do so at the request of the referee, the club to which he belongs shall be punished with the sanction of defeat in that game (…) and a fine (…)”. The same happens with any other element included in the technical file of the match (the coach, for example), says paragraph 2 of the same article.

Therefore, when a player or other team member refuses to leave the field, it can lead to his team losing the game. But there is more, art. 147 of the Regulations itself provides that “(…) refusing to leave the playing area after having received an expulsion order causing the referee to end the game before the regulation time, will be punished with a suspension sanction to be fixed between a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 8 games, and accessory (…) fine.”

As you can see, the rules are well thought out to hold players and coaches accountable and oblige them to comply: if the offender does not do so, they all suffer defeat, and the offender himself has a much more severe sanction. It is, and it is essential to make it clear, forbidden to the elements of the Liga Portugal to resort to force, whatever the situation.

To do this, we would have to go further and imagine a scenario in which, if a member of the teams refuses to leave the playing area, the police, in charge of maintaining public order, intervene using their powers – for example, by complying with art. 3 of Law 53/2007 – and order the offender to comply with the referee’s order to avoid further disturbances. Resisting would have other consequences outside the sporting domain and could even constitute the crime of disobedience with severe penalties!

And while we’re on the subject, and note that we’re just starting the sporting season, the “Direito ao Golo” goes to all those members of the security forces who have the difficult job of ensuring that we can watch soccer in peace. It remains to be seen whether the “soccer world” will ever be able to realize that that’s all we want.

Article by João Caiado Guerreiro in A Bola newspaper.

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