MANAGING A FREE KICK

Question:
This subject probably has been beaten into the ground before but in my referee association interpretations are all over the map. In Advice to Referees, Law 13 – Free Kicks, 13.3 says “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, referee should not automatically “manage the wall”, but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possile, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance .”  13.5  (first paragraph) says “If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance…”  Second paragraph  says “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.”  The italics are mine.

So here is how I would manage a free kick:  A) Indicate spot where kick is to be taken.  B) Move away to observe kick.  C)  If attacking team asks for ten yards, move defense (wall) ten yards from ball and tell attackers not to play ball until signal is given (I also read Law 13 to say that a whistle is not required, only a “clear signal”).  D)  Give signal for restart. E)  If a defender intrudes upon the required distance on the restart, I could whistle a retake, and give a caution, if the defender’s action interferes with the restart (I would play advantage if not).  F)  If ten yards is not asked for, and a defender purposely interferes with the restart I may whistle a retake and issue a caution depending upon the outcome of the restart.  On any restart I would not call for a retake if the defenders interfered with the play but the attackers maintained advantage.  I know things vary slightly with different levels of soccer, but I am talking about competitive level.

Some referees will always tell defenders to back off and or/manage the entire restart without a “ten yards” request from the attackers.  Am I erring in some way?  Should I back off defenders? Or is the way I now manage a free kick OK?  I would appreciate an answer from an authority, USSF, so I can argue the correct points.

USSF answer (July 10, 2008):
Whatever works for you, //name deleted//, but there are some other things to consider.

The sequence you describe works fairly well with a couple of minor exceptions. First, regarding “step” (C), be aware that not every time the ten yards is asked for does it actually need to be enforced. Make a quick judgment as to whether in fact the opponents are far enough away and, if they are, order the attackers to proceed with the restart. Second, also regarding step (C), you may not have intended it but the actions in this step are reversed — if requested to enforce the minimum distance, the first action you need to take is to state clearly (by word and/or commonly understood gesture) that the restart cannot occur except by your signal and then back the opponents up the necessary distance. Third, in situations where an opponent attempts to interfere from within ten yards but is unsuccessful (and therefore you choose not to caution), don’t ever forget the value of talking to or warning the player about his or her behavior. Finally, vary the procedure as needed so long as you honor the basic underlying principle — namely, the opponents have no rights in a free kick situation, their actions are already suspect and they must generally be on the best behavior, so your job is to intrude as little as possible and let the attackers control the situation. That is, after all, why we call it a FREE kick.…

“LIFTING” THE BALL TO KICK IT

Question:
On a restart; Can a player scoop/lift the ball in the air for another player to volley it?

USSF answer (June 24, 2008):
Yes, that is legal. A player may take a kick restart by lifting the ball with one or both feet simultaneously. Law 13, under the new 2008/2009 Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees, tells us: “The ball is in play when it is kicked and moves. A free kick can be taken by lifting the ball with a foot or both feet simultaneously.”

However, the player who is allowed to do that by flicking the ball to another player may NOT play it a second time him- or herself. If the ball is truly flicked up and then propelled (contact with the ball is lost and then regained), then a second-touch violation has occurred.…

BALL IN PLAY FROM KICK RESTART; ADVICE 13.5 FOR 2008

Question:
The 2007 ATR is quite specific that a tap on top of the the ball, stepping on the ball, or dragging of the ball does not count as the first touch for an indirect free kick – the ball must be touched in a kicking motion. So far this season I have refereed mover 50 games and have talked to thirty or more referees. Not one coach, or even one referee has been aware of this ATR. I have taken the tack this season to inform both teams during equipment check that I would be following the ATR and then giving the coach a copy, so that they would know where I was getting my information from. I have had now problems. However, this does require a little “speech” to the players, a luxury one does not always get.

At the recent [local] tournament I had the opportunity to talk to several level 5 referees about this ruling – they were unanimous in telling me that you don’t tell teams about this ruling and you certainly don’t follow it – if you disallowed a goal because the only touches were a tap on top of the ball and a kick that put the ball in the goal you wouldn’t make it off the field in one piece.

I’m now in a quandry – do I follow the ruling – if so, do I tell the teams before the game. Imagine this situation – League tournament finals, score tied, one minute to go, defender makes a high kick – IDFK just outside, or inside, the penalty area. Kicking team lines up four players who run at the ball in turn. The first player jumps over the ball, the second player taps the top of the ball, the third player kicks it, loops it over the wall tough play for the keeper. The keeper, following the ATR, knows that a goal cannot be scored, and not risking touching the ball, backs away from the ball and lets it go untouched into the goal. What’s my call? Do I follow the ATR and signal for a goal kick, following a ruling that NOBODY else in the stadium knows, risking major mayhem, or do I make the easy call – GOAL penalizing the goalie for knowing the rules?

That raises a second question – why isn’t a ruling that makes such a fundamental change in how what can be a critical play is judged, better advertised?

USSF answer (June 3, 2008):
It is not surprising that many State-level referees, no matter which state they come from, do not follow the instructions in the Advice to Referees. We find this to be the case throughout the United States, because so many “senior” referees and assessors seem to know more than the Federation about how games should be refereed.

No matter what your colleagues may tell you about what is in the Advice to Referees, it is the interpretation of the U. S. Soccer Federation and should be followed by all referees, assessors, and instructors. Anyone who troubles to read the introduction will find that the Advice is intended to be read by referees, instructors, assessors, players, coaches, parents, and anyone else wants to know what to expect from the officials in a game.

Section 13.5 of the Advice has been changed for 2008, but only “gently.” It now reads:

13.5 BALL IN PLAY
The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the “kick” need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being “kicked” can include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot.  The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for “failing to respect the required distance” when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.

The referee must make the final decision on what is a “kick” and what is “not a kick” based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls “Fingerspitzengefühl” (literally: “sensing with one’s fingertips”).

The intelligent referee will do at least two things here:
1. Recognize the situation for what it is and deal with it correctly.
2. Not to explain all this to players or coaches or spectators either before the match or at the time of the first indirect free kick (which is the only situation where the distinction is important).

We continue to emphasize to new referees that, for example, the “captains talk” (the coin toss) is not the time to lecture on the Law.…

FAILURE TO RESPECT THE REQUIRED DISTANCE

Question:
After a direct free kick was awarded, the three members of the defending team lined up about 6 yards from where the ball was placed for the restart (obviously not yielding the required distance). The attacking team elected to take a quick kick rather than ask for the required ten yards. One of the defenders jumped up and to the side and was able to deflect the ball with his chest. In this situation, should the defender be cautioned for failure to yield ten yards and the free kick retaken, or does the attacking team’s decision to take the kick negate any requirement to yield the required distance? If this situation is a violation of the law, as a follow-up question, if the defenders did not move and were struck by the ball, would this also be a violation?

USSF answer (May 6, 2008):
1. Yes and yes. The defender within ten yards clearly interfered with the taking of the free kick. The attackers have the option to restart even though there are defenders within ten yards but that does not absolve these defenders from the duty to not interfere from within ten yards.  And clearly the ball was not misplayed directly to the opponent — he “jumped up and to the side” in order to deflect the ball.

2. No. If the ball had been kicked directly to a defender who happened to be within ten yards at the time there is no infringement, no card, and no stoppage.…

HANDLING AN INDIRECT FREE KICK AT THE GOAL LINE

Question:
Team A is awarded an IFK at the 12 yard line, and Team B sets up a wall just in front of their goalkeeper. Team A’s kicker hits a hard shot towards the upper corner of the net and a defender (not the goalkeeper) reflexively reaches up well above her head to deliberately deflect the shot over the top of the goal.

1. Can DOGSO be called in this situation, given that the goal would have been disallowed if the ball went directly into the goal?

2. Does the situation change if the defender who handled the ball was standing directly in front of the goalkeeper, who was reaching up for the ball and theoretically might have mishandled it – leading to a legal goal – had the defender not illegally handled the ball first?

My view is no DOGSO in either case, but I’m not certain. Thanks for your help.

USSF answer (April 3, 2008):
1. While the goal would have counted if the ball had entered the goal, the player did not prevent an obvious goalscoring opportunity, because, as you suggest, the goal would not have counted if the Team B player had not touched the ball. Caution for unsporting behavior and restart with a penalty kick for the Team A.

2. No the situation does not change.…

INDIRECT FREE-KICK RESTARTS

Question:
On an indirect restart, with the directive that a touch on top of the ball with no movement (in the opinion of the referee) does not count a the first touch, when can the defenders move within 10yds? Can they move on the feint or should the restart be stopped and caution issued?Also if the next player who touches the ball does so twice (without the ball touching another player) is the player guilty of a double touch?

USSF answer (December 19, 2007):
The opponents must remain at least ten yards from the ball until it has been kicked and moves. The ball is not in play until it is kicked and moves. Simply tapping the ball does not move it; there must be a perceptible move from “here” to “there.”

In answer to your questions:
1. The defenders must wait until the ball has actually moved before they approach.
2. If, after the ball is in play — i. e., has been kicked and moved — the kicker touches the ball a second time (except with his hands) before it has touched another player, an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred* (see page 3). So, yes, if the next player to kick the ball after a “tap” on the ball (which does not put it into play) touches the ball twice in succession, that player is guilty of a double touch.…

THE “RIGHTS” OF THE OFFENDING TEAM AT A RESTART

Question:
A common issue continues to come up in games. The issue revolves around the ceremonial restart after a foul is called. The common misperception is that the defense has the right to a whistle by the referee prior to restart if they choose to build a wall. Furthermore, it is the understanding of most players, that if one of them stands in front of the ball so as to require the referee to tell him to move. That this automatically gives them a dead ball situation and ample time to set the wall.

There are 3 reasons for a signal required before a free kick restart, if my understanding is correct:
1. If a card is issued
2. If an injury has taken place
3. If the OFFENSE request a wall relocation.

Otherwise it is the offense’s right to put the ball back in play immediately. As a referee I am aware of this, and there have been numerous discussions about this at meetings and clinics and the logical position is that the defense should not gain an advantage by commiting a foul. Problem is that the players never see this info and TV games further confuse the matter, in that pro players know how to get a signal restart, and the announcers rarely infuse it in their commentary, thus creating the impression a whistle is required any time there is a wall situation. Could you please confirm/elaborate on this issue briefly for us so we can make the info available to Team representatives.

USSF answer (December 7, 2007):
You will find all anyone, even players and coaches, could possibly care to know about this matter in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” which you may purchase (or view online) at ussoccer.com. The pertinent portions of the Advice are 13.1-13.4. Thousands of other referees have taken advantage of this opportunity. Your group could be next.

Normally, we instruct referees to allow the kicking team to take the kick quickly, if they wish, without interfering with it. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the defenders are too close to the kick, he or she should avoid playing into the defenders’ hands and becoming an unwitting player on their team — the referee has done the work of the defense by delaying the restart of play and has not made the defenders pay any price for this benefit. Once the referee has decided to step in to deal with opponents who are too close to the kick, the threshold for a caution has been met.

The defending team has only two rights at a free kick:

(1) The right to retire immediately a minimum of ten yards away until the ball is in play, i. e., is kicked and moves. Any player who fails to do so runs the risk of being cautioned and shown the yellow card for failure to respect the required distance at a free kick, no matter what they may see in professional games.
(2) The right not to be diverted by the referee interfering with the action in other than a ceremonial free kick situation. This is what the referee is doing when he or she starts talking with the opponents — even if saying nothing more than to back away — or, worse, when the referee is actively engaged in being “the first brick in the wall” while still allowing the kicking team to kick whenever it wishes. The Advice lays out a fairly simple set of rules — keep your mouth shut, unless you have to or are asked to step in — in which case the free kick automatically becomes a ceremonial restart and the first thing out of the referee’s mouth had better be an admonition to everyone that the free kick cannot now be taken without a signal by the referee. The kicking team has rights too: the right to a “free” kick, free of interference from the opponents and, if they wish to take the kick quickly, free from the interference of the referee. The referee cannot abdicate the responsibility to ensure that the free kick is indeed “free.”…

MAINTAINING THE REQUIRED DISTANCE

Question:
Indirect free kick for attacking team just outside the (opponents’) penalty area. An opponent moves closer to the spot of the kick before it’s taken and then he deliberately touches the ball with his handles. Ok caution, but retaken indirect free kick (for infraction law 13 – distance) or penalty kick (for handling)?

USSF answer (December 3, 2007):
We presume you meant that the opponent handled the ball rather than touched the ball with his handles (plus, we are not entirely sure where his handles would be).

What you describe is a classic example of the section in Law 5 that requires the referee to punish the more serious violation when a player commits two or more offenses simultaneously. Here, the opponent violated Law 12 by failing to retreat the required minimum distance (and compounded his offense by clearly interfering with the free kick). For this alone, the referee would stop play, caution the opponent, and restart by having the IFK retaken. However, the opponent also committed a foul by touching the ball with his hands after it had been put into play. For this alone, the referee would stop play, caution the opponent for committing a tactical foul if appropriate, and restart with a DFK (or, in this case, a PK if the handling occurred inside the opponent’s own penalty area).

Given that the two infringements were committed at the same time, the referee should stop play, caution for the failure to respect the required distance, and restart with a DFK (or PK if the handling occurred inside the opponent’s own penalty area). There is no issue of sending off the opponent for interfering with an obvious goal scoring opportunity because a goal cannot be scored directly from an indirect free kick.…

KICKING THE BALL INTO PLAY

Question:
In a game I was refereeing, a team tried to take a corner kick with one player toe-touching the ball without the ball moving and another player taking off with it on a dribble. I called for a re-start asking the players to actually move the ball.

What is the correct ruling for restarts on corner kicks and indirect free kicks? Does the ball need to rotate or be passed with the foot in order to have a legal re-start? Toe-Taps? Are they still legal?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
It is clear that you will be a good referee, as your instincts meet the gap in your knowledge. Now it’s simply a case of bringing your knowledge up to the level of your instincts.

In the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” you will find this excerpt, ATR 13.5, which deals with when the ball is in play. It also applies to corner kicks. (And to answer your specific question: No, toe-taps are not legal, and never really were.)

13.5 BALL IN PLAY
The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the “kick” need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being “kicked” does not include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot. Being “moved” does not include the ball simply quivering, trembling, or shaking as a result of light contact. The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match. In all events, the ball must be put into play properly.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for “failing to respect the required distance” when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.

The referee must make the final decision on what is a “kick” and what is “not a kick” based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls “Fingerspitzengefuehl” (literally: “sensing with one’s fingertips”). The bottom line is that not everything that produces movement of the ball is a kick and thus would not legally put the ball into play in any of the kicking restarts.

DELIBERATE HANDLING AT RESTARTS

Question:
I am trying to figure out why a deliberate handling infringement by the kicker is discussed in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17. It seems that once the ball is in play, a deliberate handling infringement as discussed in Law 12 would cover this. Is there something about denying a goal or an obvious goal scoring opportunity that requires this to be distinguished from a Law 12 infringement?

Answer (September 5, 2007):
We need to remember that the Laws are written for the players, too, even though most of them do not ever bother to read them. Although the same might be said for most referees after their first year of refereeing. The emphasis on deliberate handling in Laws 13, 14, 16 and 17 (and you forgot 15) is to remind both players and referees that the game must be restarted for more serious offense if two infringements are committed simultaneously. In this case they are: a second play of the ball before someone else has touched or otherwise played it and deliberate handling. The second play of the ball is usually simply an indirect free kick offense, whereas the deliberate handling is a direct free kick offense. Most referees would recognize that, but some would not.…