On a free kick, a request comes from the coach to enforce the minimum 10 yard rule. Is this sufficient to bring the kick from the state of a QFK to a ceremonial free kick?

In the document “Free Kick and Restart Management” from the 2009 Referee Program Directives, there is a clause that a ceremonial free kick is to take place if the “attacking team” requests a CFK by asking the ref for enforcement of the minimum 10 yds.

This brings up a more interesting question: Is the coach, according to the rules, a member of the team?

USSF answer (April 20, 2009):
We realize this will come as a surprise to many coaches, but they have absolutely no authority in a game and cannot make requests of the referee, the assistant referees, or the fourth official (if there is one). They are not members of the team, but are either paid or unpaid advisers.

A free kick becomes ceremonial on any occasion when the referee believes that the kicking team is not interested in taking a quick free kick and wants the required distance to be established. Full details can be found under Law 13 in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game.”…


1. in a game played where corner flags were not available…if the ball goes out of play from an attacker’s foot and travels directly over where the corner flag would have been, is it restarted with a goal kick or a throw in?  Are corner flags required for a game? must they actually be a flag or can they be just a post (flag on one that was provided had torn off)?

2. keeper commits a passback violation that was not obvious to all players (or to the referee) but was to the two attacking strikers.  Immediately following the keeper picking up the ball but before the referee had blown his whistle, the striker pulled the ball out of the keeper’s hands (not unsportingly though), placed it on the ground, passed it backward to the other striker who taps it into the goal.  The referee agreed that it was a passback violation, but took a second or two to fully process it and decide that it was an infraction.  The whistle was never blown, even after the ball went into the net.

question…is the infraction enough for the foul to occur, or must the referee blow his whistle to award the foul? since the foul and misconduct situations do not require there to be a whistle, would this situation require one?  is this a goal?  What about less controversial the whistle the device that awards the foul or communicates it?

it goes without saying that the crew got in a lot of trouble (with the players) for allowing this to happen.

USSF answer (April 10, 2009):
1. Yes, corner flags and posts are required. However, if they are not available, the referee must make certain that he or she can judge where the corner is. The final decision in your question is up to the referee.

2. It’s difficult to determine in which instance the referee made himself look more foolish: (a) in missing the goalkeeper picking up the deliberate pass from his teammate (?!?!?!) or (b) in allowing the striker to pull the ball from the goalkeeper’s hands while the ball was still in play, at least in the eyes of the referee. Where was the assistant referee? Where was the referee? Neither one was anywhere near the field of play, right?

Fact 1: The players (through the IFAB) make the Laws of the Game, but it’s the referee who enforces them, not the players.

Fact 2: The whistle is needed to stop play for a free kick or penalty kick. (See Interpretations, use of the whistle.)…


During a recent amateur men’s league match where I was the referee, I called a foul against the defense and awarded a free kick about 25 yards from the goal line near the corner of the penalty area. The offense asked me to move the wall 10 yards and I informed the kicker to wait for my whistle. The kicker, a little over anxious, takes about 5 steps before kicking the ball. I blew the whistle to restart at about his 3rd step. The goalkeeper sprints out and punches the ball away which goes directly over the touch line on the opposite side of the field. At the time, I thought the kicker proceeding before the whistle and then my blowing the whistle may have been confusing to some players, so I ordered a retake. I took a little heat for it from the defense at the time.

In thinking about the decision, I though about Advice to Referees – 2007. In section 13.3, it states that the free kick must be retaken if the play is restarted prior to the signal. While the ball was not kicked yet, I had reasoned that play had begun because he had taken steps and was obviously going to kick it. Prior to the game, I had also looked at the 2009 Game Management model for MLS. In there it states that if the ball goes directly to the goalkeeper and he retains possession, let play continue. My scenario was slightly different. If I think about what was fair, I would have given a throw-in where the ball went out of touch after the keeper punched it. What advice can you give me? Thanks very much.

USSF answer (March 18, 2009):
The defending team has only one right at a free kick. That right has nothing to to with a wall, nor to loiter in front of the kicker; it is to be allowed to play without distraction by the referee. That has certainly not occurred here. On the other hand, as we have often stated here, the kicking team does have the right to attempt to deceive their opponents at a free kick. We hereby reinforce the statement that “must wait for referee signal to take free kick” means exactly and only that — the ball cannot be kicked until the whistle sounds. Award the throw-in.…


This is an accumulation question that comes to mind only over years of watching games.

Referees are typically generous in placement of the ball for the taking of a free kick unless it’s advanced unreasonably closer to the goal (sometimes, just sometimes an inch beyond the corner arcs) OR when the ball is advanced beyond the penalty area or beyond the halfway line. There is no instruction I’m aware of that says that placement must be within the bounds of either area. But, I keep seeing referees force the ball back before the kick is accepted. This seeming pettiness goes against the ambition of keeping the game flowing without unnecessary interruption.

Why do referees do it?

USSF answer (March 9, 2009):
To prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage.…


On an indirect kick is the ball in play when first touched by the player or is it when it moves
and by moves does it have to move at least one rotation?

Ref calls a indirect kick. Places the wall, the kicking team places two player in either side of the ball.
The ref whistles to start , and one of the players touches the top of the ball but does not move it.
The second player then kicks the ball into the net with out any other player touching the ball
is this a goal?

USSF answer (February 2, 2009):
No, the ball does not have to move a rotation. It must simply move from “here” to “there,” as long as it is clear that the ball has been kicked — i. e., forced into the movement from “here” to “there” by a kicking motion — and has moved that undefined distance.

As to your question about the goal, no, it is not a goal.…


Team A is granted a direct free kick within shooting distance of the goal. Team A’s shooter asks for 10, the referee notifies the players that the restart is on his whistle and marks off the 10. The referee then gives the signal to start play. As Team A’s shooter begins running up to the ball but before she kicks it, a player in Team B’s wall moves toward the ball thinking, incorrectly of course, that the whistle made it good to go. Neither the kicker nor the kick is affected by the encroachment and the ball goes over the crossbar for what under normal circumstances would be a goal kick.

Should there be a rekick because there was encroachment or is it ignored when it has no effect on the play? If there must be a rekick, is that still true if the player had scored with the free kick?

USSF answer (November 3, 2008):
Our guidance to referees on this sort of situation is contained in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance, the referee must quickly and emphatically indicate to the attackers that they may not restart play until given a clear signal to do so.  Under these circumstances, an attacker who restarts play without a signal should be verbally warned and, upon repetition, be cautioned for unsporting behavior.  The free kick in such cases must be retaken, regardless of the result of the original kick.  An opponent who moves closer to the spot of the kick (from any direction) before it is taken must be cautioned and shown the yellow card if the referee has delayed the restart to ensure that the opponents are at the minimum distance.

If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement as required by the Law.  The free kick must be retaken even if the momentum of play causes the ball to be kicked before the referee signals.  The infringement plus the referee’s decision to deal with it cancel any apparent restart regardless of a delay in announcing the decision. However, referees are also expected to consider whether the infringement on the minimum distance was trifling (had no effect on the freedom of the attackers to restart) and, if so, to refrain from issuing a caution and to allow play to proceed.

The referee is expected to deal with opponents who fail to respect the required distance, even in situations in which they were induced to do so by attackers appearing to put the ball into play, but where the ball was not kicked (touched with the foot and moved).

An attacking team may exercise its right to take a free kick when the players see an advantage to do so even with an opponent closer than the minimum distance. However, they may not thereafter claim infringement of the distance requirement if the ball is kicked to an infringing opponent who is able to control the ball without moving toward it. In this case, because the attacking side has considered the encroachment trivial, the referee must accept what he or she has seen.
On the other hand, when the attacking team has exercised the option to restart play quickly and the opponent closer than the required distance moves toward the ball and performs an act that makes a difference in the play, such as blocking the kick, that player has committed an offense that must be dealt with firmly in accordance with the Law. After the referee has cautioned the failure to respect the required distance, the original free kick must be retaken as required by Law 13.

That citation contains all the information you need.…


Men’s amateur match, free kick 35 yards from goal. The attacker is getting in position to kick the ball. There is no indication of a ceremonial kick (ie whistle held high with “my whistle” command). Two defending players are 6-7 yards from ball. The referee is encouraging them to retire. “Get back, get back” with appropriate hand gesture. Quick kick is taken and a goal results. Defenders including goalkeeper are “frozen” and do not move appropriately to the ball. In this case should the goal be allowed or kick recalled? Did the referee involvement constitute indicating a ceremonial kick?

USSF answer (October 22, 2008):
The Advice to Referees tells us:

Law 13 requires all opponents to be at least ten yards away in all directions from the location of any free kick and it is the duty of these opponents to retreat the required distance as quickly as possible without being directed by the referee to do so.  It is also the right of the team which has been given the free kick to start play quickly even if one or more opponents have not yet moved back the required distance, provided the other requirements of Law 13 have been met.

The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team’s right to an immediate free kick.  At competitive levels of play, referees should not automatically “manage the wall,” but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possible, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance.

However, it also mentions in 13.3:

If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance, the referee must quickly and emphatically indicate to the attackers that they may not restart play until given a clear signal to do so.

If the referee in your case interfered with the defending team’s sole right in a free kick, not to be confused by the referee, then the goal does not count and the kick must be retaken.

We feel that the referee’s action did NOT constitute turning the free kick into a ceremony.  His fussbudgety verbalizations were poor mechanics.  Our advice: Do one thing (make it a ceremony and quickly declare that the kick may not be taken without a whistle) or the other (shut up), but not both.…


The recent events in the NFL made me think of writing in to discuss a call from several years ago:

In a recreation level tournament, I was involved in the following call and while I think I blew the call, I want to get your opinion. In a well played but very aggressive match at the U-17 level(several yellows had already been issued to both teams), with less than 5 minutes left in the second period, player A1 was fouled while on the attack just outside the penalty box. Player B1 was called for the foul (not serious enough to warrant a card) and Team B proceed to set up a wall in preparation for the direct free kick. Player A1 asked for his 10 yards, so when I walked it off, it put the wall of Team B inside the penalty box. As player A1 took the shot, one of the players from Team B within the wall stepped forward toward player A1. I was the ref watching for any offside and as soon as the player from Team B stepped forward, I blew the whistle. The unfortunate thing is, the ball went into the net for what Team A thought was a score. In that split second, I realized that I blew the whistle too early and had to proceed forward from there. I waved off the goal, carded the player from Team B for the “failure to retire” and since the foul occurred within the penalty box, awarded Team A the penalty kick. Unfortunately, the shot off the penalty kick did not go in the net. One of  my question is this, while I know there is no such things as a delayed foul, could I have applied “advantage”, waited to see what happen to the shot, and then carded the player on Team B for “failure to retire” and re-awarded the direct free kick which as a result of the foul would have made it a penalty kick? Am I correct that while the ball is in actively in play, any whistle basically immediately make the ball “DEAD”?  Team A did not need the goal that I waved off to win the match, but I went up to the Coach of Team A and explained myself as best as possible with regards to the fact that I felt like I blew the call.

USSF answer (October 3, 2008):
You are correct that the whistle stops play and we were with you until you awarded the penalty kick. Whatever for?? The correct restart was a retake of the original direct free kick. As we state in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” Advice 13.3: “If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement as required by the Law. The free kick must be retaken even if the momentum of play causes the ball to be kicked before the referee signals.”

And the entire problem would have never come up if you hadn’t whistled too soon. Consider holding off a moment unless there is some mischief that MUST be dealt with NOW.…


I have a question about a restart off a free kick.

Recently, I was coaching a game and a young referee called a hand ball right outside the penalty area. My players lined up a wall right behind the ball so the other team could not take a quick free kick. The referee was moving back the wall when the other team set the ball and scored while the referee was moving back the wall. I quickly yelled and protested to the referee that a whistle was needed because he was moving the wall. He agreed and a re-kick was ordered and the other team did not score. The opposing coach protested saying a whistle was not needed.

USSF answer (September 4, 2008):
Let’s do a little analysis here on the true state of the situation that concerns you.

First, if your team actually “lined up a wall right behind the ball so the other team could not take a quick free kick,” this is a blatant violation of both the spirit and the letter of the Laws of the Game. The referee should immediately have indicated that the restart could not occur, cautioned one of your players, advised the other players to quickly retreat to the required minimum distance, and then signaled for the restart. There would then have been no question that the kick could not be taken until the referee signaled — your team would have (as it did) successfully prevented a quick restart, but it would have paid at least some price for this obvious misconduct.

Second, assuming the referee failed to understand the need to deal with the misconduct and proceeded to move the wall back, the attacking team was still free to take an quick kick because they had not been ordered by the referee to wait. Clearly, the referee was distracting the opponents but, frankly, this was their own fault. None of this would have happened had they not violated the Law by being closer than the minimum distance. In short, what the referee did was bad mechanics but not a violation of the Laws of the Game.

Lessons to be learned from this:
The defending team has only one right at a restart, not to be distracted by the referee. They have no right to form a wall nor to prevent the opponents from taking a position anywhere on the field. In this case, you are correct about the referee: Because he was pushing your team back, this required a clear indication to the kicking team to wait for his whistle to restart. The referee should have called the kick back and had it retaken, but the referee should have been astute enough to notice that the kicking team wanted to take a quick free kick. That would have solved every problem.

If your team insists on engaging in illegal gamesmanship, they must be prepared to assume the consequences, regardless of whether the referee uses recommended mechanics or not.
Who is correct? What is the correct ruling?…


I noticed in one of the current issue responses “Putting the ball into play from a kick restart” that the situation is very similar to an indirect free kick restart. While the response was clear that it must be the decision of the referee as to what is a “kick” and what is not, ATR 13.5 makes it clear that “Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient”. It has become commonly accepted for teams to restart from indirect kicks without the appropriate kicking motion. My question is this…should the correct call be to (a) stop play for an improper restart, warn the players about the proper restart procedure (and subsequent caution for delay or persistent infringement if continued) or (b) allow play to continue, ignoring the tap, treating the subsequent kick as the “first touch” and maintain the indirect signal until a true second touch happens, thereby calling back any goal that might be scored directly from the improperly taken restart and continuing play with a goal kick restart?

USSF answer (September 2, 2008):
The Law is clear: “The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves.” We have stated clearly in Advice 13.5 that there must be some “kicking motion” to put a kicked restart into play. The referee is the sole judge of what constitutes a kick.

Another point in your question needs to be cleared up: We would dispute that “It has become commonly accepted for teams to restart from indirect kicks without the appropriate kicking motion.” Some players may do it and some teams may use that as a tactic, but this does not mean that the definition in the Laws of how an indirect free kick (or any other kick restart) should be taken has changed. It is only referees who are reluctant to enforce the Law who have allowed this tactic to become “commonly accepted.” If the kicker fails to follow the Law and it makes a difference, then the referee must uphold the Law. If it didn’t really matter, then let it go (or perhaps give a warning). This is only common sense.…