Has a Soccer Team Ever Forfeited a Game?

soccer team forfeiting game header image

Forfeiting a soccer game would be the last resort for any team competing in a competition. But recently, I realized I didn’t know if any soccer team had taken this last resort and forfeited a game. So I decided to find out.

Here’s what I discovered.

Soccer teams have forfeited games in the past.

Although it is rare, there are several occasions where a team has decided that the best move for them would be to forfeit their next soccer game.

When a team forfeits a game, the referee will immediately stop the game and award the opposing team a 3-0 victory.

As I was looking into this, I discovered three examples of teams forfeiting their next game – all with various reasons for choosing to forfeit the game.

I’ll share each of these examples with you, but first, let’s quickly look at what the rules of soccer say when it comes to forfeiting a game.

Forfeiting a Soccer Game – the Rules

FIFA (the governing body of world soccer) decides on the rules of soccer in cooperation with the International Football Association Board (IFAB).

You can have a look at the official laws of soccer here or check out my easy-to-understand guide to the rules of soccer.

As you look through the rules of soccer, you will notice that the rules don’t specifically address a team’s decision to forfeit a game. What you would see, however, is how a team could forfeit a game.

For example, in Law 3 of the “Laws of the Game” the rules state that:

“A match[game] may not start or continue if either team has fewer than seven players.”

IFAB Laws of the Game

Any team can forfeit a soccer game. All a team would have to do to forfeit a game would be not to show up at all or, alternatively, send only six players at most. If a team has fewer than seven players on the field, then the referee will not start the game.

This is the definition of forfeiting a game: To lose, or give up your right to play the game.

In each of the examples I show you below, this is precisely what happened. Each team refused to send enough players to start the game.

You’ll also have noticed that the rule above says that “a game may not continue if a team has less than seven players.”

A soccer team can forfeit a game partway through. If a team has fewer than seven players on the field, then the referee will stop the game. This may be because the team has chosen to field less than seven players, or it could be that they have had multiple players sent off, and there are now less than seven left on the field.

The Consequence of a Soccer Team Forfeiting a Game

Another critical part of the decision to forfeit that you should know is what happens when a team decides to forfeit a game.

The FIFA Disciplinary Code is pretty clear about this. The code states that:

“A team sanctioned with a forfeit is considered to have lost the match

FIFA Disciplinary Code

When a team doesn’t show up to play a game and forfeits the game, then that team will automatically be sanctioned and is considered to have lost the game 3-0.

It is also the case that in some competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League, that a team can be fined up to $1,000,000 for forfeiting a game! [source]

So, when a team decides to forfeit, they need to make sure they understand the consequences of their actions.

3 Examples of Teams Forfeiting a Game

Image of an empty soccer field
Empty soccer field

Now, as promised, let’s look at three examples of teams who choose to forfeit a game and the reasons why they did.

Example 1 – Bolton Wanderers

In 2019 a team forfeited their upcoming game for what is believed to be the first time in league soccer in England. [source]

The team, Bolton Wanderers, was due to play Brentford in a game that had already been rescheduled. Unfortunately, the Bolton Wanderers players had not been paid by their club for the previous two months, and the players decided to go on strike. This meant that they did not turn up for the game, and therefore, the game was forfeited.

The opposition was awarded the victory by the English Football League and given three points for the game.

Example 2 – Barcelona

In the year 2000 Spanish team Barcelona was due to play in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey against Athletico Madrid. However, due to a clash of schedules on the day the game should have taken place, Barcelona couldn’t field a full team of players.

Despite appealing to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to rearrange the game, the game was due to go ahead at the same time that many of Barcelona’s players were away on international duty with their national teams.

Because of this, the remaining Barcelona players refused to play the game and instead chose to forfeit the game. [source]

Their opponents, Athletico Madrid, were awarded the victory and went on to play in the final. Because of their actions, Barcelona faced a fine and possible exclusion from the following year’s competition.

Have a look at what happened for yourself in this video below.

Barcelona forfeiting game against Athletico Madrid

Example 3 – Poiana Mare

In maybe the most surprising reason on this list of examples, the fourth tier Romanian side, Poiana Mare, forfeited their game against CS Carcea because it clashed with the date of the wedding of one of their teammate’s! [source]

The team did try to have the time of the game rescheduled, but after the opposition refused, Poiana Mare decided that their teammate was more important than the game. The entire team went to the wedding rather than turn up at their scheduled game!

I doubt there has been any other game forfeited for this reason through the history of soccer!


As you can see, it is very rare for a team to forfeit a soccer game. Still, it does occasionally happen for a variety of reasons. It is also not a decision that a team will take lightly as there can be serious consequences for the team.

If you’re interested in more soccer info then have a look at one of my other articles such as:

Does a defender ever score in soccer? or Does a handball have to be intentional?

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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