Why Do Footballers Argue

3 Reasons Why Football Players Argue With The Referee

Last updated on March 9th, 2022

Football is the one most-watched sport in the world, and along with it comes really charged emotions.

During the match, you may see football players argue with the referee, and you may ask yourself if it is actually necessary?

Why do football players argue with the referee?

Football players argue with the referee as they disagree with the decision made by the referee, which usually puts their team at a disadvantage. They believe that arguing with the referee will help to sway the referee’s decision to reverse his or her decision.

Here are 3 main reasons why football players may argue with the referee:

  • Unfair bookings and sending offs
  • Penalties that were given or not given
  • Goals that were wrongly allowed or disallowed

#1 Unfair bookings and sending offs

When you commit a serious offence in football, you may receive 2 types of bookings:

A red card can be especially harmful to a team, as the team will now be one man down. If a referee makes an unfavourable decision to either send off or not send off a player, an argument may ensue.

Here are some of the possible scenarios:

Players who are wrongly booked or sent off

There are times when a referee may wrongly book a player. Most of the time, the player and his teammates may argue with the referee.

This is especially if the player is wrongly being sent off!

One of the more controversial decisions was Robin van Persie being sent off in the match between Arsenal and Barcelona in 2011.

The referee blew the whistle for offside. However, van Persie continued to play the ball and attempt a shot on goal. This was done just a few seconds after the whistle was blown.

van Persie was given his second yellow card for this offence, and he was sent off!

In another example, Chris Basham of Sheffield United was given a red card for a supposedly dangerous tackle on Kenny McLean.

However, the decision was subsequently overturned by VAR.

This is one of the pros of having VAR in football, where unfair decisions like this can be overturned after a second look!

Players who should be booked or sent off

In other cases, there are some players who make a dangerous tackle and should be sent off. Instead, they are only given a yellow card, which may cause the opponents to be furious and argue with the referee.

Casemiro is a central defensive midfielder (CDM) who is notorious for not getting sent off.

One such example was his horrendous tackle on James Milner which could have been a red card.

#2 Penalties that were given or not given

Awarding a penalty is another contentious decision that referees may sometimes make. This is because penalties have a chance to change the course of the game, as it gives the attacking team a good chance of scoring a goal!

However, did you know that a football player cannot score a penalty if it rebounds from the post?

Here are some possible scenarios:

A contentious penalty is given

There are times when the attacking player may over-react to a light touch by a defender, where they may fall rather easily to get a penalty.

If such a penalty is awarded, the defending team will be bound to argue with the ref for making such a decision.

One such example was in the Bundesliga, where the referee awarded a penalty to Eintracht Frankfurt for this tackle.

However, after consulting with the assistant referee, he decided to reverse his decision as the VfB Stuttgart player touched the ball before the attacker!

In another Bundesliga match, Aaron Hunt went down after a light touch from the defender.

While the players from FC Nuremberg were arguing with the referee regarding his decision, Hunt admitted to the referee that he did not deserve a penalty.

This is true sportsmanship in the game!

A clear-cut penalty was not given

In the reverse, a penalty may sometimes not be given, even if the decision seemed very obvious.

This happened in a match between the Netherlands and Portugal,

or in this match between Barcelona and Malaga.

The attacking team will be infuriated with the decision and will most probably argue with the referee.

#3 Goals that were wrongly allowed or disallowed

While penalties are a contentious decision, goals are even worse!

There are times when goals are wrongly awarded, or not awarded when they should have:

Goals that are wrongly awarded

There are certain goals that maybe be wrongly awarded to a team. Some of the scenarios where this could happen include:

In the 1993/94 Bundesliga season, a ghost goal was awarded to Thomas Helmer, even though the ball was nowhere near the net!

In another match between Gabon and Portugal, there was a moment of confusion as a goal was awarded to Gabon, even though the ball did not cross the line!

Here are some goals where the attacker was in an offside position, but they were counted!

These goals being allowed are one of the reasons why VAR was introduced.

Goals that are wrongly disallowed

In the reverse situation, there could be goals that are wrongly disallowed too.

One of the more well-known incidents was during this match between Serbia and Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo thought he had scored the winning goal. However, the assistant referee did not raise the flag to signal the goal!

This left Ronaldo extremely furious, especially since it was supposed to be the winner in this World Cup qualifying match.

Why do football players argue with the referee after a card?

Football players try to argue with the referee after a card to protest against the decision, and to sway the referee to rescind the card.

Some football players may think they are ‘innocent’, which is why they will try to argue with the referee against their decision.

One such example was Luis Suarez who was booked for looking at the VAR monitor.

Here are other examples where players will argue with the referee over a red card.

Another contentious decision would be when the referee gives a player a yellow card after they take off their shirt during a goal celebration.

Does arguing with the referee work?

Arguing is not the most effective way to convince the referee to reverse his or her decision. Usually, the referee will overturn the decision after consultation with the assistant referee, or the virtual assistant referee (VAR).

Football players may argue with the referee as they are emotionally charged during the game. However, this has little influence on the referee’s decision!

This is because there will be a bias in the players’ argument as they will mainly want what is best for their team.

Instead, the referee will either consult the assistant referee or VAR regarding the decision, to see their views.

This has led to reversals of red cards,

and reversing a goal decision.

Both of these decisions were made due to the assistant referee or VAR, and not by the players!


Arguing with the referee is something that is common that you may see in football.

However, most of the time, it is not really that effective!

Sometimes it may get really heated, until the referee may have to rely on the captain to maintain their teammates’ discipline. The captain of the team is the one who wears the armband and leads the team out before kick-off.

He can be any player on the pitch, such as a goalkeeper, defender or even a striker.

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