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In sports, a foul is an inappropriate or unfair act by a player as deemed by a referee, usually violating the rules of a sport or game. A foul may be intentional or accidental, and often results in a penalty. Even though it may not be intentional fouling can still cause serious harm or injury to opposing players, or even their own players if unaware of their surroundings during particular situations on sports. Often own team mates can clash and foul each other by accident, such as both going for and with eyes on a ball in AFL. Strategical fouls violate the traditional norms of cooperation and agreement to the essential rules and regulations of the game, or are perhaps not part of the games at all.
Individual sports may have different types of fouls. For example, in basketball, a personal foul involves illegal personal contact with an opponent. A technical foul refers to unsportsmanlike non-contact behavior, a more serious infraction than a personal foul. A flagrant foul involves unsportsmanlike contact behavior, considered the most serious foul and often resulting in ejection from the game.
In association football, a foul is an unfair act by a player as deemed by the referee. In association football or rugby, a professional foul is a deliberate act of foul play, usually to prevent an opponent scoring.
Facial is a term used in some contact sports to refer to a foul that involves one player hitting another in the face.
Penalties awarded against fouls usually affect the outcome of the game immediately, as seen in the examples above. However, in some cases committing a foul may have further repercussions in the form of a fine (penalty), especially in professional competitions. For example in the National Basketball Association players are given a $2000 fine each technical foul committed for the first five technical fouls committed in the regular season. Players may also receive fines up to $50,000 for committing fighting fouls. Great athletes push on the rules, norms and boundaries of their games in pursuit for victory/success, although there can be consequences for crossing lines and unwanted outcomes such as suspensions or bans from the games all together.
Coaches are not exempt from fouls. In some cases, coaches can also receive fouls. For example, in basketball the coach can be given technical fouls or be immediately ejected from the game. Two examples of a technical foul committed by a coach are entering the court without permission from the referee or physically contacting an official. In the event of receiving two technical fouls, the coach will be ejected from the game.An example of when a coach may be immediately ejected from the game is if they commit a punching foul.
Fouls don't always affect game control, therefore referees need to find a balance for the right opportunities for risks to be let go for the game flow to continue. Risks fouls play in sports depend on the sort of action by the guilty player upon an opposing victim. Appropriate risks, that are borderline fouls, all falls down to the location on field, whether it was really intentional, the type of 'challenge' posed upon players and whether it will impact on game control and the game outcome. Referees try to eliminate unnecessary stoppages, considering the players prior behaviour and whether they have a bad reputation or continual intent to foul. Minor fouls that are often overlooked by referees as they are not jeopardising a players safety, having no intent to be reckless, careless or show excessive force. They are also overlooked when opposing players do not feel threatened of have any anticipation of the foul happening again and not purposely trying to stop play and slow down the game flow.
The main referee ensures that the game is played fairly and that each player follows the set rules. However, if there is an infraction, the referee has the power to stop play and take disciplinary action.
There are three types of solutions a team can be awarded when a player with possession of the ball is fouled by the defending team.
Direct Free Kick is issued when an opposing player commits a foul that is careless, reckless, or any act that will cause harm to their opponent. Most fouls occur when a defender first makes contact with the player rather than the ball. This also applies to a player that handles the ball; depending on the referees decision the offender can receive further punishment (yellow or red card).
Similar to the Direct Free Kick, the Indirect Free Kick restarts the play. The team given an Indirect Free Kick is unable to score from the spot. It first has to touch a player on the same team in order to resume play.
When a free kick is being performed, the opposing team has to be at least 10 yards from where the ball is going to be struck.
Lastly, the Penalty Kick is another form of advantage play when the opposing team disobeys the rules. However, a penalty is only awarded when the offence is committed in the opposing players own box. It is then taken in one spot, 12 yards out from the goal, regardless of where the foul was committed.
Soon after any of these free kicks have been issued. The referee has the decision to take further disciplinary action. The perpetrator is then issued either a yellow or red card, depending on the severity of the action.
Defensive Fouls Most common fouls seen in basketball are defensive fouls. In which a defending player will make contact with the offensive player. If the offensive player is holding or dribbling the ball, the ball will be given to the offensive team out of bound. If the offensive player is deemed in the act shooting they will go to the free throw line and shoot either two or three free throws depending on their shooting position when the foul was committed. However if the offensive player shoots and gets fouled however the basketball still goes in the basket. The player will be sent to the free throw line to shoot one shot. This play is also know as an 'and one.' 
Offensive Foul An offensive fouls is called when a player on the offensive team interferes with the defender whilst they are moving or they're feet are not set that will be deemed as an offensive foul. If the player with the ball shows reckless abandon and knocks over a defender who has his feet set at the time the offensive player leaves the ground or runs into them. That will also be deemed an offensive foul.
Technical Foul The result of a single technical foul includes the opposing team to shoot one free throw and the ball is given to the team who had possession when the technical foul was given. After a single player or coach commits his 16th technical foul for the regular season he will be penalised with 1 game suspension. Followed by a 1 game suspension for every 2nd technical after the 16th has been reached.
Flagrant Foul A flagrant foul may be issued as a flagrant 1 in which contact is considered unnecessary, or a flagrant 2 based in which contact is considered unnecessary and excessive. This is decided by how the on court officials rule the severity of the foul often with the help from video footage to ensure well informed decisions.
The entitlement of a sports person to commit fouls can be abused and used as an excuse to hurt or injure other players on the field. Fouls on the sporting field can be used in a malicious way to purposefully hurt or settle disputes with other players. For example, in a game against Manchester City F.C. and Manchester United F.C. held in 2002 Roy Keane claimed that he intentionally committed a horrible foul to injure Alf-Inge Håland a member of the opposing team.
Another way in which fouls are controversially abused in sport is when players pretend to be fouled by another player. This results in players receiving unfair penalties and the so-called 'victims' receiving free-kicks and other rewards unjustly. One sport where this practice is common is Association Football. In football players are known to perform Diving (association football) which is the practice of pretending to fall over as a result of an opponent tripping you over. Although diving produces outrage and controversy amongst many football fans, it is commonly practised amongst professionals and amateurs alike.
Referees come across these situations regularly. At such a fast tempo, they have to make a rash decision on whether or not the player performed a dive or they were legitimately fouled. A test by Peter G. Renden was done to determine if motor experience in football contributes to the ability to recognise dives in potential tackle situations. This study showed, experienced players as well as referees were able to pin point the differences. In comparison, fans and novice participants that had little experience to recognise the difference between a dive and foul showed a lower result.
Players also try do intimidate their opposing sides to give them a psychological edge. Fans sadly encourage this sort of behaviour, feeling the tension rise and wanting to see reactions from players as a thrilling scene. Opposing sides like to get a retaliation from other players, forcing them into an aggressive attitude that will lead them down the track of unnecessary physical conduct. This excitement fans get from visualising such unethical behaviour leaves them with the thoughts of such actions being alright.
In some cases, the actual severity of fouls aren't always picked up by the referee during the game. This results in the association of the sport to look into the issue further. For example, in 2013 Townsville Fire captain Rachel Flanagan was deliberately tripped by player Brigette Ardossi, although it was not seen at the time. The WNBL were considering to take further action on the unsportsmanlike foul.
- Violence in sports
- Foul (nautical), in nautical terms, to entangle
- Foul ball, in baseball, a batted ball that lands in foul territory
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