Soccer Abusive Language

Soccer Abusive Language

It is important to be respectful to others and maintain sportsmanlike conduct at any sporting event or competition. Sports such as soccer have official rules in place to hold athletes and their teams accountable. This particular offense, abusive language, is issued whenever a player or coach engages in offensive or derogatory language towards other players, coaches, or officials.


Abusive language is a misconduct violation that is called when either a player or team official utilizes abusive, offensive, or derogatory language during a soccer game that is inappropriate and a distraction from the sport. The language can occur either on the field or off the field and does not have to occur while players are actively playing soccer.

If a player says anything that is deemed as abusive language by a referee, they can face several consequences. At first, players may receive a cautionable offense, which can be called for dissenting language and unsportsmanlike behavior. In that case, a referee will issue a yellow card. In extreme cases, using abusive language is considered a sending-off offense. If a player commits a sending-off offense, they will be ejected from the game, and their team must play at a disadvantage. 

Similarly, if a team official, such as an athletic trainer or coach, utilizes abusive language, they may be directed to leave the premises. It is up to the referee's discretion to determine whether or not a person has violated the rules. When the offense is called while actively playing, a referee blows the whistle, and gameplay stops. In some cases, an indirect free kick may be awarded to restart play.


In professional leagues, referees will issue either a cautionable or sending-off offense if the abusive language offense is called. A cautionable offense is a warning to a player, while a sending-off offense results in an ejection from the game. The NCAA dictates that using profane language is a cautionable offense at the collegiate level, while using abusive language will incite a sending-off offense. In both cases, an indirect free kick may be awarded to the opposite team to resume gameplay.

Referee Signal

Soccer Abusive Language Referee Signal

A referee will issue either a yellow or red card by holding it up in the air with one hand while looking at or gesturing towards the player it has been called on. Depending on the severity of the language, a referee can issue a cautionable offense, which means they would hold up a yellow card, or a sending-off offense, which means they would hold up a red card. If the offense occurs during gameplay, the referee may blow their whistle to halt gameplay.


  • A soccer player yells and utilizes derogatory language when a referee makes a call they do not agree with. The player is persistent in their offensive language and uses language that is not appropriate. The referee issues a cautionable offense.
  • A soccer player says comments that use inappropriate language and vocabulary while defending an opposing player on the field. The language is clearly heard by a referee and distracts the opposing player. The referee stops play and issues a yellow card to the offending player.
  • A soccer player uses derogatory language under his breath to distract an opposing player that is dribbling the ball. The opposing player is visibly affected and complains to an official. The official witnesses this action the next time and charges the offending player with a cautionable offense.

Similar Misconducts to Abusive Language

  • Dissent
  • Unsporting Behaviour
  • Entering the Opposing Technical Area


What is an abusive language offense in soccer?

Abusive language is a prohibited kind of behavior that can warrant a cautionable offense in soccer. Abusive language includes derogatory, discriminatory, and inappropriate language that either a soccer player or team official verbally says on the field. The offense can be issued during gameplay or in between plays, and the referee has the power to issue either a yellow or red card at their own discretion.

What are the consequences of being called for abusive language in soccer?

The player or team official that is called for abusive language in soccer can face two different kinds of offenses. One is a cautionable offense, which is displayed as a yellow card by the referee and is a warning. The more severe consequence is the sending-off offense, or red card, where the player is required to leave the field. Furthermore, the opposing team may be offered the opportunity for an indirect free kick, which gives them the opportunity to set up a shot on goal after the kick taker has put the ball back into play.

Can a manager be called for abusive language?

Yes, a manager can be issued an offense for abusive language. In fact, the referee can call any team official present on the field during the game for abusive language. If a team official or manager is called for abusive language, they will be issued a sending-off offense. This means they are ejected from the game. That way, team officials are held to the same respectful and sportsmanlike conduct expectations as soccer players.