What Happens When a Soccer Team Forfeits?

players confront a referee on the field.

So, your team is losing badly in a soccer game, and you’ve had enough. You don’t want to continue playing, so you decide to forfeit the game. But what exactly does that mean?

Soccer fans witness teams ditching games from time to time which can lead to lots of confusion with regard to the fate of the forfeited team and the competition at large.

This article answers the question “What Happens When a Soccer Team Forfeits?” by discussing the effects of walking away from a game before it officially ends and what reasons may inform the decision to take that drastic decision.

What is A Forfeit In Soccer?

A forfeit in soccer is when a team decides to give up and not play. This can be for any number of reasons, such as not having enough players, or because they are losing badly and don’t want to continue. Teams may initiate the forfeiture in most cases by notifying the referee or organizers of the tournament.

But it is not uncommon for a referee to also call a game off and rule it as a forfeiture against one team based on the circumstances on the ground. Forfeitures were common during the initial stages after the game was invented before rules were made to ensure punitive consequences for the offending team.

What Happens When a Soccer Team Forfeits?

The scoreline of a forfeited game is automatically recorded as a 3-0 loss for the offending team. The team that did not forfeit is also awarded the maximum number of points they could have earned from the game. In addition to this, the forfeited team may suffer additional punishments, such as bans from the league, cup, or tournament as well as steep financial fines.

This is why you should think carefully before making the decision to forfeit a game. The consequences can be dire for your team including irreparable damage to your reputation.

7 Common Reasons Why A Team May Forfeit A Soccer Game

There are a number of reasons why a team may forfeit a soccer game. This may range from totally understandable circumstances to bizarre incidents like the whole team refusing to play a game to attend the wedding of a teammate.

Here are the common reasons cited by soccer teams to forfeit games.

1. Lack of Adequate Players

referee shows red card to black player.

The most common reason for a team to forfeit is simply not having enough players. This can be due to injuries, suspensions, or even the refusal of players to show up on the day of the game. If a team does not have at least 7 players (including the goalkeeper), then they will have to forfeit the game, according to FIFA Rules.

2. To Avoid Embarrassment From A Heavy Loss

Another common reason for a team to forfeit is to avoid an embarrassing loss. This may happen if a team is losing badly and decides that it’s not worth continuing to play. In some cases, the key players may even be in danger of getting injured if they keep playing especially when the coach has exhausted the allowed number of substitutions.

3. Biased Refereeing

soccer field filled with snow.

If a team feels that the referee is not being fair, they may decide to forfeit the game. This could be because the referee is making bad calls that are going against the team, or because the referee is favoring the other team significantly.

4. Bad Weather Conditions

Bad weather is another common reason that may influence a soccer team to forfeit a game. This may be due to the field becoming unplayable because it is too wet or icy, or because of dangerous thunderstorms in the area.

In some cases, the game may even be postponed by the referee if they feel that the conditions are too dangerous to play in. However, when one team’s repeated requests to postpone the game due to unfavorable weather conditions are ignored by the referee, a forfeiture may be used as a last resort to protect the players.

5. Racist Abuse

Unfortunately, racism is still a problem in the world of soccer. In some cases, teams may decide to forfeit a game after racist abuse from the opponent’s players, fans, or even the referee.

This has happened on multiple occasions, with one recent example being when the U-16 team of Hertha Berlin decided to forfeit their game against VfB Auerbach after their players were subjected to racist abuse from the latter team’s fans.

6. Not Enough Money

For some teams, the reason for a forfeiture may be due to financial problems. The lack of adequate finances can prevent teams from being able to afford to travel to away games or pay fines or fees owed to the competition organizers.

Sometimes, a team may also forfeit if they cannot afford to pay their players.

7. Other Bizarre Reasons

While the reasons mentioned above are some of the most common ones, there have been a few cases of teams forfeiting for more bizarre reasons. One example is when a team in Kosovo was forced to forfeit a Champion’s League qualifier because several of its players tested positive for Covid-19.

Also, a Romanian team raised eyebrows in 2019 after forfeiting a game to attend the wedding of a teammate.

Reasons Why A Team Should Not Forfeit A Soccer Game

While there may be valid reasons why a team might need to forfeit a game, it is not always the case. Forfeiting a soccer match can have a number of negative consequences, both for the team and for the league as a whole.

Here are the top reasons why teams should avoid walking away from games.

A Forfeit Is An Automatic Loss

scoreboard showing the results at the end of the game.
soccer match scoreboard display the goal result with out focus stadium background

The first and most obvious consequence of forfeiting is that it results in an automatic loss. This means that the team will not only lose the game, but they will also lose any chance of salvaging points from that game. In a close race for the title or for playoff spots, this can be a huge blow.

The Team May Be Banned From Future Competitions

Another consequence of forfeiting is that the team may be banned from the competition. This is usually only done in cases of repeat offenders. This can be a devastating blow to a team, as it means they will not be able to compete in the specific competition at all.

It Sets A Bad Example For Other Teams

When a team forfeits a game, it sets a bad example for other teams in the league. This is because it shows that the team is not committed to playing and competing. It also makes it seem like the team does not care about its fans or the competition in question.

This can damage the reputation of the team and make it harder for them to attract new players and fans.

It Hurts The Competition As A Whole

When a team forfeits a game, it hurts the integrity of the competition as a whole since fans often want to see all teams compete to discover the best one. This can lead to fewer fans and less interest in the championship, league, or tournament overall.

Tips For Avoiding Forfeiture

There are a number of steps teams can take to avoid forfeiting a game and a few of them include:

Making Sure The Team Is Registered

One of the most important things a team can do is to make sure that they are registered with the league. This means that all of the players on the team are eligible to play and that the team has paid any necessary fees.

Have A Solid Roster

team's roaster before a game.
Football scoreboard broadcast graphic template with squad soccer team England

Having a solid roster can also lower the risk of teams being forced to forfeit games. This means that the team should have a good mix of players with varying experience levels. There should be enough players to cover all positions, in case of injuries or suspensions.

Build A Good Relationship With The Competition Organizers

It is also important for teams to have a good relationship with the competition organizers. This enables the ability to communicate any problems or concerns that the team has. It also means being honest and transparent about the team’s ability to play.

Make Sure The Team Is Financially Stable

Finally, it is important for teams to make sure that they are financially stable. This means having enough money to pay for essentials like travel, fees, and fines. A solid financial background also ensures that the players on the team are well-paid and receive their wages promptly.

What Are The 3 Consequences of a Forfeit?

Here are the 3 main consequences of a forfeit in soccer. In most cases, the more frequently a team forfeits games, the more severe the extent of the punishment handed. The 3 main consequences of a forfeit are delved into below.

1. The Forfeited Team Automatically Loses The Game

This is the most straightforward consequence. If a team forfeits, they automatically lose 3 points in the standings in the case of league games or group stages of a tournament. However, they are eliminated from the competition if it’s a cup match.

2. The Scoreline is Recorded As A 3-0 Loss

When a team forfeits, the score line is recorded as a 3-0 loss. This has a couple of consequences. Firstly, it means that the team not only loses the game, but they also lose by a wide margin.

Secondly, it means that the team’s goal difference takes a hit, which can be important in close title races or when teams are fighting to avoid relegation.

3. The Team May Be Banned From The Competition

In more severe cases, especially among repeat offenders, the team may be banned from the competition altogether. This is a very harsh punishment that effectively damages the team’s tournament or season.

What is A Double Forfeit?

A double forfeit is when both teams in a game forfeit. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but it usually occurs when both teams are at fault for something.

For instance, if both teams field ineligible players, or if both teams are involved in a mass brawl, then a double forfeit is a possibility. In most cases, a double forfeit results in both teams being deducted points. Double forfeits may be rare, but they do happen from time to time.


Forfeiting a game is a serious matter and that is why it should be avoided at all costs. There are a number of steps teams can take to avoid forfeiting, such as making sure the team is registered, having a solid roster, and maintaining a good relationship with the competition organizers.

If a team does forfeit, there are a number of consequences that they may face, such as an automatic loss, a 3-0 score line, and a possible ban from the competition.


How many players do you need to forfeit a game?

FIFA rules automatically regard a team with fewer than 7 players on the field to have forfeited the game. In most cases, a team will forfeit voluntarily if they don’t have enough players to take to the field. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as injuries, suspensions, or player unavailability.

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