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.)

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.


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.…


I’ve been questioned for advice by a junior referee on the following situation:
Referee whistles a foul that would call for an IFK restart. However referee fails to signal IFK, kick is taken, and the ball travels directly into the3 opponent’s goal.

What is the current consensus on the referee’s next action? Restart? (Retake, Goal-Kick, or Center-Kick?)

Answer (July 9, 2007):
The Questions and Answers 2006 tells us:
6. An indirect free kick is awarded to the attacking team outside the opponents’ penalty area. The referee fails to raise his arm to indicate that the kick is indirect and the ball is kicked directly into the goal. What action does the referee take?
He has the free kick retaken because of the referee’s mistake. The initial indirect free kick, is not nullified by the referee’s mistake.

7. A player takes a quick free kick and the ball goes into goal. The referee has not had the opportunity to indicate that the free kick was indirect. What action should the referee take?
Order the kick to be retaken as the original offence only merited an indirect free kick but the referee did not have the opportunity to give the recognized signal.

This information is repeated in the Laws of the Game 2007, under Additional Instructions and Guidelines for Referees:

An indirect free kick should be retaken if the referee fails to raise his arm to indicate that the kick is indirect and the ball is kicked directly into the goal. The initial indirect free kick is not nullified by the referee’s mistake.…


Does the ball need to be stationary in the goal area before it can be kicked? A parent on my team said that she witnessed in a game that her daughter was refereeing a keeper that was rolling the ball out and a defender kicking the ball into play while the ball was still moving in the goal area.ÂI have looked this question up in “Advice to Referees”, “FIFA Laws of the Game” and the 2006 question and answers and cannot find in any of these publications that the ball has to be stationary only that it has to be on the ground in the goal area.

USSF answer (April 11, 2007):
The fact that the ball is stationary at a goal kick is one of those things that the makers of the Laws, the International F. A. Board (IFAB), have left out, because they assume that “everyone knows” that the ball must be stationary. (In fact, if you had been watching one of the EPL games yesterday on Fox Soccer Channel, you would have seen the referee make the kicking team take a goal kick again, simply because the goalkeeper had kicked the ball while it was still moving.)

Here is an answer we gave back on September 26, 2005 that explains the technicalities of the matter:
An excellent question. Nowhere does it state specifically that the ball must be stationary for goal kicks, but it is implied in Law 17 for corner kicks (and in Law 14 for penalty kicks). The specific statements in Laws 8 and 13 that the ball be stationary for the start and restart of play and free kicks also imply that the ball must be stationary for all kick restarts. (Note: This answer was first published on July 9, 2001. Nothing has changed since that time.)

Law 8
* the ball is stationary on the center mark
* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward


Law 13

Types of Free Kicks
For both direct and indirect free kicks, the ball must be stationary when the kick is taken and the kicker does not touch the ball a second time until it has touched another player.

Law 14
Position of the Ball and the Players
The ball:
* is placed on the penalty mark

Law 16
* the ball is kicked from any point within the goal area by a player of the defending team
[the inference here being that if the ball was at “any point” it was stationary, but you could probably argue that one either way]

Law 17
* the ball is placed inside the corner arc at the nearest corner flagpost
[the inference here (and in Law 14) is that if the ball is “placed,” it is stationary]
* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves

In all cases of a kick restart, the ball must be stationary before being kicked. It is not in play until it has been kicked and moves (forward in the case of kick-off and penalty kick).…


I am having some trouble understanding the difference between these two offenses. screening I believe is when the player has the ball under control without using his hands, arms, legs or body to protect his control of the ball, if an offense has occurred the opponent is awarded a DFK.Impeding the progress, I believe would be when the ball is not under control, the player deliberately prevents the opponent from playing the ball by obstructing the shortest path to the ball, the opponent would be awarded an IFK.

If the opponent is impeded in his progress to the ball by a player using his arm, legs, hands or body (what else can a player impede and opponent with) is the opponent awarded a DFK? Thank You for your time, great web site.

USSF answer (April 10, 2007):
“Screening” is not necessarily an offense, though the word is certainly used that way by various people. To “screen” someone illegally is to block that person’s view. It is most applicable in relation to a player in an offside position “screening” the view of the opposing goalkeeper (or possibly an opposing defender).

You might perhaps mean “shielding,” which is when a player has possession of the ball and does not wish others to take it away. (This is also called “screening.”) When shielding, a player may use the body and arms to protect the ball, but the arms may not be used as tools to push the opponent away. (In other words, the player may not contact the opponent with the arms.) That would be the offense of either pushing or holding, depending on what was done.

Shielding becomes impeding when the player who is shielding the ball does not have possession and cannot establish it.

Here is a definition of impeding from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

“Impeding the progress of an opponent” means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent. Impeding can include crossing directly in front of the opponent or running between the opponent and the ball so as to form an obstacle with the aim of delaying progress. There will be many occasions during a game when a player will come between an opponent and the ball, but in the majority of such instances, this is quite natural and fair. It is often possible for a player not playing the ball to be in the path of an opponent and still not be guilty of impeding.The offense of impeding an opponent requires that the ball not be within playing distance and that physical contact between the player and the opponent is normally absent. If physical contact occurs, the referee should, depending on the circumstances, consider instead the possibility that a charging infringement has been committed (direct free kick) or that the opponent has been fairly charged off the ball (indirect free kick, see Advice 12.22). However, nonviolent physical contact may occur while impeding the progress of an opponent if, in the opinion of the referee, this contact was an unavoidable consequence of the impeding (due, for example, to momentum).

The referee’s judgment of “playing distance” should be based on the player’s ability to play the ball, not upon any arbitrary standard.

The restart for holding or pushing is a direct free kick, taken from the spot of the offense. The restart for impeding is an indirect free kick, taken from the spot of the offense.…


I was curious about restarts in indoor soccer. I once heard that all restarts are direct but I always thought it was based on the case (contact vs dangerous play etc.). Could you explain this to me?USSF answer (April 7, 2007):
The indoor rules published by USSF tell us that all indoor restarts are direct. However, at the moment, many indoor facilities have their own modifications of the Laws. You should ask if your indoor facility’s program is affiliated with the U. S. Soccer Federation before going any farther.…


Referee awards IFK for a defender playing in a dangerous manner. Let’s say 23 yards from goal. Attacking team lines up for the kick and takes it quickly. Referee fails to give correct signal for IFK. Attacking teams kick ends up in net. Obviously you cannot award the goal. What is the correct restart for this situation?If I read ATR 13.9 (2006) correctly, it does not spell out what the restart after the referee fails to signal IFK is. It does spell out what happens if the referee signals IFK when it was clearly a DFK restart. You retake the DFK. FIFA Q&A 13.6 states to retake the IFK for failure to signal correctly. This situation is clearly a referee mistake and not one by either team. Which document (Q&A or ATR) is correct?

I remember being taught that the restart is retake the IFK but I cannot find supporting documentation from USSF only FIFA Q&A. Could you please help clear this up?

USSF answer (April 3, 2007):
Let’s look at it logically. What does Advice 13.9 say?

The failure of the referee either to give the correct signal for an indirect free kick or to hold it for the required period of time does not change the nature of the restart, nor does it alter the requirement for a subsequent touch of the ball for a goal to be scored.

What does the Q&A say?

6. An indirect free kick is awarded to the attacking team outside the opponents’ penalty area. The referee fails to raise his arm to indicate that the kick is indirect and the ball is kicked directly into the goal. What action does the referee take?
“He has the free kick retaken because of the refereeÕs mistake. The initial indirect free kick, is not nullified by the referee’s mistake.”

The Q&A answer makes sense because the referee’s failure to give an IFK signal changes the dynamics of the play–the attacking team might have set up and executed the kick differently if it had known that it was an IFK instead of DFK (one presumes that the ball going directly into the net was a deliberate consequence of the team attempting successfully to achieve that result) and so the retake of the IFK restores the status ante quo. The same reasoning would apply if the referee gave an IFK signal for what should have been a DFK restart (e. g., among other consequences, it unfairly misleads the defenders into not defending against the possibility of a goal being scored directly).

There is no disconnect here and no problem. The correct solution is to have the kick retaken.…


A defending player (red) kicks the ball away from the goal line past the goalkeeper (red) who has his back to the kicker and could not have seen how the ball was propelled past him. Goalkeeper sees the ball as it travels within 2-3 feet of him and, in the penalty area, picks it up with his hands. Same scenario but the ball initially goes no less than than 7-8 feet from the goalkeeper yet the goalkeeper chases the ball and in the penalty area picks it up with his hands.In either case should the referee stop play and award an indirect free kick to white? Is the determination of an infraction founded in the referee’s opinion of whether or not the kicker was deliberately kicking the ball to the goalkeeper or that the kicker deliberately kicked the ball and it happened to go close enough for the goalkeeper to handle it?

USSF answer (February 12, 2007):
As stated in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game,” the decision to punish this possible infringement of the Laws is always in the opinion of the referee.…


I have a couple questions involving the setting of defensive walls based on occurrences I’ve seen in youth and adult matches. In a lot of adult matches in my area, when the whistle is blown for a foul, the defensive player takes his time getting up off the ground and then stands precisely in front of where the ball will be positioned. As often as not, he will be joined by a teammate. They may talk with each other, opponents, or the referee in what appears to me to be an effort to delay their leaving and simultaneously distract the referee from his/her mission at that point: To encourage a quick free kick, unencumbered by defenders within 10 yards of the ball. I’ve seen frequent instances where the referee tells them either by words or gestures to leave the vicinity repeatedly while the ball is being retrieved, and continue to do this with slow, partial compliance after the ball is positioned. Often the attackers do not ask for the 10 yards but the referee continues trying to move the defenders out, sometimes from a distance, sometime wading into the group and “pushing” them back (not physically touching them though). In these instances, the attackers will put the ball into play when they see that they’ve obtained a slight advantage due to a defender turning his head to see if he’s lined up properly with the goal, or turning his head to look at the referee and acknowledge the referee’s request to back out. Everybody seems to know what the games are at this point: The attackers’ game is to use the referee to distract the defenders and to put the ball into play when they see a good opportunity without waiting for the 10 yards. The defenders’ game is to get a good wall set up behind the player who is stalling the taking of the free kick. Surprisingly the defenders don’t complain that the referee was distracting them when the attackers get off the free kick, but then it seldom scores either. My lead question for you is “Just how long should the referee persist in trying to back out the defenders unbidden by the attackers?” I heard there was a memo some years back recommending that the referee should do this only until the ball was positioned, then to become an observer unless the attackers asked for the 10 yards. The advice to referees says (section 13.3) “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.” So, should we not ask or demand that the defenders leave? Or should we desist at some set point unless the attackers ask for the 10 yards? That is not interfering with the attackers’ rights but it could be construed as interfering with the defenders’ rights (to not be distracted by officials). I know I took a lot of words to get to the point but this has been bugging me why so few fouls result in quick free kicks.My second question is in regard to the behavior of players in the properly set defensive wall. I don’t see this often and when I do, it typically is with girls and I chuckle but one of my colleagues has a sterner attitude. After the wall is set at the proper distance, the girls will have their arms on one another’s shoulders and they begin singing or dancing in unison, maybe kicking one foot high a la Can-Can. I watch the attackers and try to judge whether the defenders’ actions unfairly distracted the kicker. If I don’t see them visibly distracted, I let it go as a trifling infringement and let the girls have their fun. The coaches of the attackers usually want the defenders to be cautioned. My stern colleague doesn’t see much humor in the situation and usually tells the defenders to “knock it off!” Is there a standard response to this situation, or should one try to judge whether the defenders’ actions unfairly distract the kicker and act accordingly? If there is a standard response, what should it be?

Thank you for your insight into these situations. I’m a great fan of the advice you give.

USSF answer (January 3, 2007):
1. Defending team fails to retreat at restart:
Normally, we do 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 on your own initiative to deal with opponents who are “too close to the kick,” the threshold limit for a card has been met.

2. The wall as chorus line:
The referee must recognize that while members of the wall are allowed to jump about when opponents are taking a kick, choreographed actions that are unnatural and designed to both intimidate and to shock and distract their opponents constitute bringing the game into disrepute. As this occurred before the ball was in play, the correct call could be unsporting behavior on the part of the particular player whom the referee chooses from the chorus line. Caution and show the yellow card; restart with the free kick.…