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Introducing a new Total Football refereeing column - By Keith Hackett

Total Football is delighted to announce that legendary referee Keith Hackett is on board as a new columnist.

Using his many years of experience and expertise, Keith will bring you the best refereeing advice available through the pages of Total Football.

Keith starts his new Total Football column with one of the biggest talking points in football.



(Better known to referees as DOGSO)

When out on the field of play during a game many of us have found ourselves exposed to that long kick up field by the defender towards his forward players for them to chase.

Referees often have to act quickly and apply an explosive sprint in order to gain contact with the game and to achieve a credible viewing angle.


“Proximity to play helps SELL your decisions and aids credibility and match control”

You see the forward in possession of the ball heading towards his opponent’s goal when the defender commits a foul challenge.

Yes it can be a simple holding offence or even a careless trip and you blow your whistle to stop the game.

Now you have to consider if the offence meets the criteria of denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. The sanction then turns from a simple free kick or penalty kick if it is committed inside the penalty area to the issuing of a RED CARD and dismissal of the offender.

So in your sprint to regain contact with the game you must ensure that you have good vision to determine where the defenders are placed, and at times this may require you to move off your diagonal run in order to enhance your viewing angle.

Your assistants can also from their position help you with your decision and here we often see the valuable addition of the communication equipment that they wear.

You must avoid getting caught in a position where the defender obstructs your view.

If it is your belief that the full set of DOGSO criteria is not fulfilled then you are not going to issue a red card and dismiss the offender but merely award a free kick or penalty kick.

You must also determine if the defender has committed an act of unsporting behaviour by stopping a promising attack and if this is your view then you must caution the offender and show the yellow card.

So let’s look closely at the criteria for showing the red card for the denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity.


Referees should consider the following circumstances when deciding whether to send off a player for denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity:

The distance between the offence and the goal
The likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball
The direction of the play
The location and number of defenders
The offence which denies an opponent an obvious goal scoring opportunity  may be an offence that incurs a direct free kick or an indirect free kick




It was a great pleasure to coach Howard (pictured) over several years and to play a part in him realising his ambition.

Yes I set his goals and targets - and to his credit he studied these and realised his dream of officiating the UEFA Champions League final and the World Cup final in the same year.

My advice to him in order to improve his decision making was simple:

In your process of determining if a DOGSO offence had been committed; in your thought process take away the defender who has committed the offence. Now you must decide, in taking that defender who had committed the offence out of your thoughts, would the forward have had the opportunity to have a shot on goal had no offence taken place?

If your answer is yes, having taken into consideration the criteria, then show the RED CARD and dismiss the offending player from the field of play.

Remember you cannot ignore the law and apply the ones that suit you, sometimes you have to have the courage to make those difficult decisions.


Enjoy your officiating,

Keith Hackett


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