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Weirdest Reasons For Fouls, Penalties And Forfeits In Sport

brown and blue trousers with restricted sign not allowedThere can be no doubt about it; sports are fun to watch and often draw in millions from a viewing figure perspective around the world. Obviously, there are countries where some sports are considerably more popular.

While most sport events usually go off without a hitch, there are instances where the completely unanticipated can happen, due to obscure rules that many people are not aware of, which can result in minor or major (depending on the incident) penalties and even forfeits.

Most recently, Chinese snooker player Ding Junhui was docked points at the English Open Snooker Championship for not complying with the dress code as highlighted in the tournament’s rulebook. As such, he wore the wrong colour trousers (brown instead of black), a mistake that he admitted that he wasn’t aware of.

As a result, the 36-year-old sent a friend to buy the correct attire for the remainder of his game against Ma Hailong, which Ding would go on to win.

“I totally forgot I needed a black shirt and trousers,” Ding revealed.

“My memory is not good. I didn’t think about it. Once I was playing I tried to just concentrate on the match.”

“Luckily Ma’s safety was not that good and he gave me enough chances to win.”

This incident subsequently got us thinking about different instances when players or teams have been docked points, been given forfeits or conceded penalties for breaking some bizarre rules in their respective sports.

NFL: Drop-kick Rule

In American football, one bizarre ruling is based around the drop-kick. It sees a player take a snap behind the line of scrimmage, dropping the ball on the turf and then drop-kicking it through the uprights of the short-stop after taking the snap, which is against regulations.

New England Patriots’ NFL player Doug Flutie famously did this at the end of the 2005 season, mainly as a bit of fun. While there is some morality code surrounding this, at the time, it was considered ‘legal’ and became known as a ‘Hail Flutie’ – a mock-up of the ‘Hail Mary’ throw.

Fencing: Leaving The Piste

A considerably technical sport with many different rules, fencing is a sport that not many people think about; however, it is particularly popular at the Olympic Games.

One of the most famous instances of a bizarre penalty in fencing occurred at the 2012 London Olympic Games in the semi-final when a decision was protested against by the South Korean team on behalf of their female representative Shin A-Lam, who came under scrutiny for a time-keeping incident.

It took 30 minutes for the officials to come to a decision, with the South Korean team protesting the decision-making, with it appearing that this was completely improvised. As such, the panel ruled against the South Korean team.

Throughout the process Shin didn’t leave the piste (staying there for one hour before being led off), as this would have been an acceptance of defeat, however, she was ruled against anyway and went on to lose her bronze medal match. Despite her appeal being turned down, the IFF offered her a special medal in the aftermath, which she turned down.

NFL: The Fair Catch Kick

Another NFL rule, which has been decades since it was under scrutiny, this is when a punt returner calls for a fair catch, the receiving team has the option of attempting to convert an undefended field goal – this can even occur with no time left on the clock.

In the eighties, the San Francisco 49ers’ Jeff Fisher attempted a 71-yard kick, though this failed spectacularly, with the player seemingly completely unfamiliar with the rule.

ITF: Hat And Ball Hindrance

This is a ruling from the game of tennis and there have been a couple of notable examples in recent years.

It relates to a player’s hat coming off during a game or a ball falling out of their pocket. If either of these incidents occurs, the point has to be replayed, because this is considered to be a distraction.

In the 2011 US Open Women’s final, this happened with Serena Williams who frustratedly yelled “come on!” just as her opponent was returning the shot and ultimately Williams did not accept the ruling gracefully.

The same thing occured at the 2012 US Open when Scottish tennis player, Andy Murray’s hat came off his head right at the exact moment that he was returning a drop-shot from his Czech opponent Tomas Berdych. In light of the incident, Berdych was insistent that he had been distracted by the shot and the point had to be replayed as a result. However, the replay showed that there was not even the slightest chance that Berdych was going to get anywhere near the ball.

Both of these players had previous animosity and with the point at break-point, Berdych did not let up, which meant that Berdych took the advantage instead of the game returning to Deuce. Murray certainly did not accept the penalty well, though took it better than Williams.

Golf: The Alligator Rule

This refers to when your ball lands close to a dangerous animal in golf – especially on exotic golf courses where you can get alligators or snakes. If this instance happens, you are allowed to drop your ball a safe distance away from the animal. However, you cannot move your ball closer to the hole, while there are also limits as Bryson de Chambreau found out on the 2020 PGA Tour.

His ball had landed close to some ants and he was in the process of moving his ball when he was called out by officials. The player’s reasoning was that the ants were potentially dangerous and could bite him, however he was ruled against and had to play the ball as it lay.

Golf: Celebrating In The Line Of Vision

While there currently is no rule against this, it is considered particualrly bad eittiquete and sportsmanship. Very recently at the 2023 Ryder Cup, Europe’s Rory McIlroy very nearly came to blows with the caddy of US player Patrick Cantlay, Joe La Cava after he was still celebrating a long putt in McIlroy’s line of vision while he was attempting his putt.

A number of players from the European team were also particularly affronted by this, though the fallout from this led to the car park after the round with McIlroy confronting the caddie, having to be calmed down.

Ultimately, McIlroy missed his putt, though it could see a change in ruling if the sport’s governing body looks into what is acceptable when it comes to acceptable etiquette surrounding this.

Had this decision been taking further, it could well have led to the US team being docked at least one point, which could have had an even bigger impact on their 16.5 – 11.5 tournament loss.

Football: Not Scoring An Own Goal From A Free-Kick Or A Throw-In

Over the years, we have seen many bizarre rulings in football, though one that most people are not aware of this that if you score what appears to be an own goal from a free-kick or throw-in, then it does not count.

It is very rare for this to happen, however, in the West Midlands derby, Aston Villa’s Swedish centre-back, Olof Mellberg threw the ball into his own net past goalkeeper Peter Enckelman who did not touch the ball.

The aftermath led to a considerable amount of confusion, with many Birmingham City supporters believing that the goal should have counted, though the rulebook proved otherwise.

Football: A Goal-Kick Has To Leave The 18-Yard Box

In football, for a goal-kick to count, it has to leave the 18-yard box to be counted, which can lead to a lot of confusion.

This particular incident occurred with goalkeeper Joe Hart when he accidentally touched the ball twice, allowing QPR striker Charlie Austin to put the ball into a virtually empty net. However, as incensed QPR fans found out, this was disallowed and the goal-kick had to be retaken.

Should Rules Be Easier To Follow In Sport?

boxer punching a question markThere is no doubt about the fact that there are currently some rules in various sports that are seemingly pointless. Certainly football includes several of these that many people (and even players) are not aware of.

Initially, the offside rule was simple to follow, however, over the last couple of decades, this has changed by a significant amount, even to the point of a player’s body (that doesn’t affect the game) being offside, which has caused a lot of controversy. Even more so with the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology, which has ruled out seemingly, perfectly acceptable goals over the last couple of years due to a very minor infraction that had zero impact on the flow of the game.

Going forward, it certainly makes sense for the rules of most sports to undergo a complete review and potentially an overhaul, to make the game easier to follow, understand and ultimately become more enjoyable for competitors and spectators alike.

There would also need to be consistency across the sports, especially from a national perspective, which means that the rules of a sport in one country would need to be the same as every other.

In Ding Junhui’s case, it wasn’t as though he flouted any major rules in terms of the sport of snooker itself, but a particular ruling of one tournament that could have had a detrimental affect on his chances of progression in the competition.

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