Restarts, Walls, and Related Stuff

Ryan, an adult amateur player, asks:

Offense has a free kick in a shooting situation near the defensive team’s box. An offensive player wants to position himself in the defensive wall. What is he allowed to do? Can he force his way into the wall? Does it matter who “gets there first”? Does the defense have a right to set up a wall without any offensive players involved in it? I get if the wall is set up and an offensive player wants to stand on the end or in front, but can he actually have a right to be INSIDE the wall?

Answer

No, he cannot force himself into the wall nor does he have any right to be in the wall.  It’s first come, first served.  Obviously, if a teammate happens to be standing right where a wall would be formed, the opposing team cannot prevent him from being there,  i.e., the defending team cannot complain or force him out, but expect to be aggressively squeezed or be the butt of other, hidden if possible,  actions expressing their unhappiness at what they would consider to be an intrusion.

Frankly, there really aren’t any particularly good reasons to be in the wall in the first place  — ducking or pulling out at the last moment in the hopes of creating a gap through which the kicker might drill a shot just doesn’t work (the theory is nice but the practice is terrible).  Standing at the end of the wall only adds to the wall’s effectiveness unless there is a light pass to the teammate at the end who can quickly turn and has an unobstructed shot-on-goal opportunity.

Frankly, the maneuver most likely to be successful is to practice and then be prepared to perform the restart quickly while the opposing team is still disorganized.  Many teams seem to think that the restart cannot occur unless and until the wall is formed.  That is incorrect, and the surprise alone is worth it even if it doesn’t directly lead to a goal.

The Law allows and encourages the free kick restart virtually at the moment the referee completes the stoppage of play for an offense (and assuming the ball is at or near the restart location).  At that moment, with few exceptions, the referee should (if they know what they are doing anyway), get out of the way and be prepared for an immediate restart.  The exceptions are

  • if the offense involves misconduct (the restart must be held up in order for the card to be given),
  • your team asks for a delay because you want the minimum distance rule,
  • there was an injury on the play that requires the removal of the injured player(s),
  • one or more opponents are either so close to the ball location or have taken control of the ball (e.g., kicked it away) that they would be considered to be delaying the restart of play (which should lead to a caution — see first bullet),  or
  • your team doesn’t want to restart immediately for some other reason (e.g., wanting to sub).

In all these cases, the referee must clearly and quickly signal that the restart is now delayed until the restart is specifically signaled.

There are a couple of other, more rare exceptions but, basically, the referee is expected to allow (and do nothing to discourage) the quick restart.  However, not all referees (notably newer ones) are aware of this expectation under the Law and jump right away into “wall management” mode.  Your team also needs to be able to decide quickly when using this quick restart ability will be to their advantage and when it will not.

Going back to your original query, however, our advice is that trying to get a teammate into a wall is not a right, usually results in a lot of pushing and shoving if not downright mayhem, and rarely is worth it in the first place.  There are better techniques.

Restart Management

Hyung, a referee of U12 players, asks:

It’s not clear to me how to manage restarts for free kicks when the attacking team doesn’t know the procedure/options (e.g., ceremonial vs quick ).  Should the attacking team always initiate asking the Referee for a ceremonial restart? What if they don’t ask?  Is it the Referee’s duty to ask the attacking team?  A few seconds pass and it’s obvious the attacking team will not take the free kick quickly.  Also, they didn’t request enforcing the minimum distance (10 yds).  Is it at this point the Referee should take charge and do the free kick ceremonially?  If the attacking team doesn’t ask for 10, is 5 yds acceptable? Is this in the rules? Is it best for the Referee to lead in this confusing situation and restart ceremonially?

Answer

You have some good questions here, all of them pertaining to issues of correct or preferred mechanics and procedures but not so much matters of Law.  In fact, the term “ceremonial restart” is not found anywhere in the Laws of the Game — it is entirely a matter of tradition and recommended procedures.  In short, you will not find answers to any of your questions except in publications which, mostly unofficially, attempt to explain the art of refereeing.

We can, however, start with some fundamental principles and work from there.  First, the core definition of a free kick (Law 13) is a restart given to a team because the opponents have violated the Law in some way and the Referee has stopped play for it.  It is called a “free” kick because the team awarded this restart must be given the opportunity to put the ball back into play without hindrance or interference (i.e., freely).  To this end, all opponents are required by Law to retire (move away) at least ten yards from the location of the free kick in every direction.  This is a legal burden placed on the shoulders of every opponent and the Referee’s job is to punish any opponent who fails to do so (before, during, or after the kick).  In a perfect world, what should happen is that, as soon as the Referee whistles for a stoppage and signals a free kick restart (indirect or direct), all opponents hurriedly move at least ten yards away in the spirit of sporting behavior and the attacking team is able to take its free kick in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately, this expectation is rather akin to also asking players who commit an offense to publicly admit their error, apologize to the opposing team, hand the ball over to them, and clear a path between the kick and the defending team’s goal.  Needless to say, this is not what happens in our imperfect world.  What usually occurs, depending on the circumstances of the stoppage, the temperature of the game, what’s at stake, and simple hormonal imbalances, is that some opponents will try to interfere — by not moving at all, by standing near the ball, by kicking the ball away, by blocking the likely path of the kick so as to diminish the attacking team’s ability to recover from their opponent’s commission of a violation, and other tactics limited only by the inventiveness of wily soccer players trying to gain an advantage at almost any cost.

All of this is summarized briefly in the general principle that the Referee’s obligation in these cases is to allow, expect, and protect as much as possible the taking of the quick free kick.  Why?  Because a quick free kick (a) gets play moving again — usually a good thing, (b) restores as much as possible the condition of the harmed team prior to the offense, and (d) serves as a better deterrent to future illegal acts.  The antithesis of the “quick restart” is the “ceremonial restart.” (more…)

When Is It Over?

A high school/college player asks:

The game has seconds remaining. There is a deliberate handball in the penalty area. The referee does not see it but the AR raises his flag. The referee then whistles to end the match. The players start walking off of the field. The AR runs up to the referee and they talk. The referee then brings the players back on the filed and awards a penalty.

Can the referee award a penalty after the game has ended?

Answer (note: answered solely in terms of a USSF sanctioned game)

The 2016/2017 Laws of the Game state clearly in Law 5 that “the referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half … and left the field” (emphasis added).  There are several important aspects of the Law which must be understood  in order to provide guidance on this question.

The AR is an integral member of the officiating team and Law 5 tasks the referee with performing his/her responsibilities “in cooperation with the other match officials.”  This means that the referee has a duty to receive and act appropriately on information provided by an AR.  There are several situations that help us understand the relationship between the referee and an assistant referee.  For example, the Law allows a card for violent misconduct (but not a foul) to survive a stoppage and restart of play if an AR had seen the offense, signaled the referee, and maintained the signal until recognized by the referee.  Another example is an attacker in an offside position who becomes actively involved in play (and is properly signaled for an offside violation by the AR but the signal is not seen), followed shortly thereafter by a foul committed by an opposing player which was seen and whistled by the referee.  Here, the Law allows the referee to accept the offside violation signaled by the AR and, since it occurred before the defending player’s foul, to punish the offside violation and then to deal with the defender’s actions as misconduct occurring during a stoppage of play.

Put these things together and we have (a) the AR signaling a PK offense just before time expires but not seen by the referee until the end of the 2nd half is whistled combined with (b) the fact that, although time had expired, the referee had not yet left the field.  Accordingly, the referee could properly accept the information from the AR, rescind his decision that time had expired (which it hadn’t prior to the offense), and bring the teams back onto the field for a PK — which would be in extended time because time would expire while the PK restart was being administered.   All the rules applying to “a PK taken in extended time” would apply.

Of course, this sort of scenario would not occur if proper mechanics had been followed — specifically quickly making eye contact with both the ARs before signalling for the end of the period (first or second)!   Nor should the correct referee’s decision here be complicated by such extraneous factors as the score (no matter what it is).

 

“COWBOY” REFEREES STRIKE AGAIN

Question:
During a game, can goalie speak to someone beside the goal during game? Referee issued yellow for not paying attention to game?

Answer (June 30, 2015):
There were two people of diminished mental competence involved here: the goalkeeper and the referee. There is no such rule in the Laws of the Game, and referees are forbidden to interfere in any player action that is not covered in the Laws.

NOTE: There are too many “cowboy” referees in our game. That is my term for referees who make up their own rules as they go along, confusing players, fellow officials, and the spectators. My recommendation to them: Just call the game in accordance with the Laws. It is so much easier on everyone.

REFEREE CANNOT CHANGE A DECISION ONCE THE MATCH HAS BEEN ENDED

Question:
My 15 yr. old son was involved in a physical altercation during a soccer game with 5 seconds left in the game.

The altercation involved 2 of our players and 3 players from the opposing team. One of our players and one of the opposing players were each given a red card and ejected from the game. The Referee gave my son a yellow card and he was allowed to play out the remaining 5 seconds of the game.

After the game had ended, the referee and 2 linesmen gathered at centre field. About 5 minutes after the game had ended, the referee walked over to my son (where he was sitting on the team bench getting changed) and proceeded to give him a red card without explanation. There was no further incident nor foul language or anything that prompted the yellow card being increased to a red card. I believe perhaps one of the linesmen convinced the ref after the game had ended that my son was deserving of a red card for his participation in the initial altercation that resulted in 1 player from both teams being red carded and ejected from the game.

Can a referee change a yellow card to a red card after the player has been allowed to continue playing in a game and/or after the game is over and the player has left the field for the day and without further incident?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Major referee error, Dad. Once the game has been ended, the referee may not change any decisions made prior to the final stoppage. This wording from Law 5 (The Referee) confirms that:

Decisions of the referee
The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.

The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Your son has the right of appeal against this decision and the referee should be sent back for further training—along with whichever assistant referee recommended changing the original decision.

THE REFEREE CANNOT REVERSE A DECISION AFTER THE GAME HAS ENDED

Question:
Goal is scored in the closing seconds of the game. Referee sets up with a restart and blows the whistle for the match ending. As a referee exits the field the losing coach complains that that goal was scored after time had run out. The referee confers with this ARs and decide that he did play more than the allotted time.

Question is once a referee signals the end of the game, can he change facts.

Answer (March 30, 2014)
No, the referee cannot change the facts of the Game or his decisions once the game has been terminated (declared over). Law 5 is quite clear on this matter. Under Decisions of the Referee, the Law states:
The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

TEACHING REFEREE (AND AR) SIGNALS

Question:
I teach classes for beginner referees. I seem to recall, from the murky past, specific instructions for referee signals when indicating free kick versus throw-in direction. Specifically, should the referee face the touchline when signalling (for throw in) as opposed to facing the goal line (for free kick)?

I’ve looked thru the Guidance and ATR and can’t seem to find anything.

This is probably trifling, but I’d like the proper citation nonetheless.

Answer (August 23, 2013):
All signals without exception are given while standing square to the field. As for assistance in instruction, you should look through the various online materials in the referee Resource Center at ussoccer.com — including a detailed “show and tell” video on AR signals.

TRADITION AT DROPPED BALLS AND OTHER RESTARTS

Question:
I’m confused with some of these procedures. I was made to understand from the laws of the game that a dropped ball is a method of restarting game, that any player may challenge for the ball. And that the referee cannot decide who may or may not contest a dropped ball.

Question: (1) Why do referees drop the ball for a player to play it back to the opponent after a temporal stoppages or why do one team play the ball back to the opponent after it has been dropped by the referee. (2) If the player fails to play it back to the opponent, will the referee caution the player? (3) In what situation can players from different teams contest for a dropped ball (4) In thesame line, when a player is down and the ball is been played out through the touch line so that the player down in the field can receive treatmeant. Why do players always start it by throw-in the ball to their opponent ( i cannot find it in the laws of the game).

Answer (May 2, 2013):
Deciding who “may or may not” contest the dropped ball is a concept that has been refined over the years by the Spirit of the Laws and tradition, which is well known to the players, and the referee. Or most of them. The tradition is outside of the Laws, but even special efforts and instructions by national associations, as well as hints from the International Football Association Board, the people who make the Laws, have not affected any real change.

(1) If play was stopped because of injury to a player of one team that was not caused by a foul (and thus there is no free kick), tradition requires that the referee drop the ball for the team whose player was injured. This includes events in the penalty area where the goalkeeper had possession; the ball is dropped for the goalkeeper and other players stay away.

(2) It is not against any Law to not play the ball to the other team. There is no penalty if the player fails to play the ball to the other team, but even his own teammates and team officials will often criticize him. The referee should not caution the player.

(3) If play was stopped for misconduct or a foul committed by players of both teams, the dropped ball is contested.

(4) If play was stopped when a player was injured and the other team kicks it out, tradition requires that the team that takes the throw-in play the ball to the other team. This is usually done by kicking the ball to the goalkeeper.

BLOCKING OR HOLDING THE GOALKEEPER AT A CORNER KICK OR FREE KICK

Question:
During corner kicks, some teams in our league (U14) place one or more players immediately in front of the goalkeeper to block his view of the play. In some situations, those same interfering players on offense deliberately crowd the keeper, making it difficult or impossible for him to make the play.

Is this legal?

Answer (January 19, 2013):
No, it is not legal, and the referees should be dealing with it. Shame on the for allowing it. The particular text covering this offense is in the back of the Laws of the Game, under Law (not “rule”) 12 in the large section on “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees”:

Holding an opponent
Holding an opponent includes the act of preventing him from moving past or around using the hands, the arms or the body.
Referees are reminded to make an early intervention and to deal firmly with holding offenses especially inside the penalty area at corner kicks and free kicks.

To deal with these situations:
• the referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is in play
• caution the player if the holding continues before the ball is in play
• award a direct free kick or penalty kick and caution the player if it happens once the ball is in play
If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.

Disciplinary sanctions
• A caution for unsporting behavior must be issued when a player holds an opponent to prevent him gaining possession of the ball or taking up an advantageous position
• A player must be sent off if he denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity by holding an opponent
• No further disciplinary action must be taken in other situations of holding an opponent
Restart of play
• Direct free kick from the position where the offense occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick if the offense occurred inside the penalty area

"PROTECTING" THE GOALKEEPER (AND OTHER PLAYERS)

Question:
I did a U-12 girls game today and had a tough call to make.

The keeper and the striker were both going for a 50/50 ball. As the keeper reached down to grab the ball, the striker kicked the ball into the net. The strikers follow through kicked the goalkeeper’s hand. The girl had to go to the hospital. I allowed the goal to score because the keeper didn’t have control of the ball. The coach came on to the field to help the keeper and then turn on me. He said that I needed to protect his players more. Did I make the right call by allowing the goal to score?

Answer (October 29, 2012):
In a word, yes! You did fine. The position of goalkeeper is the most dangerous on the field, as the goalkeeper is required to go up in the air and down to the ground in her effort to protect her goal and stop the ball. There is no rule that “protects the goalie” from contact initiated by other players — as long as that contact is not against the requirements for a fair charge and does not happen when the goalkeeper is attempting to release the ball for others to play — in other words, to punt or throw the ball out of the penalty area.

Let’s break this down into smaller parts to help make the entire problem understandable for referees, coaches, and players alike.

1. THE GOALKEEPER POSITION AND DANGER
Yes, safety is the referee’s first concern under the Laws. However, referees — and coaches and players — need to remember that the position of goalkeeper is inherently dangerous and the goalkeeper is allowed a bit more leeway than other players in placing him- or herself in danger and thus affecting how the opponents can act. Everything he or she does when attempting to clear a ball or take it away from an onrushing attacker is dangerous. Why? Because it is the ‘keeper’s job to stop the ball from going into the goal, no matter at what height above the ground it may travel. Unless the ‘keeper or the opponent did something that was careless or violent or reckless, and you indicated that they did not, then there was no foul, but simply bad luck. This is one of the lessons referees, players, and coaches need to learn.

Would we allow this for the opposing attackers? Not if it places the goalkeeper in danger that he cannot avoid. Is this inconsistent? Yes, but it is the way the game has always been played.

2. GOALKEEPER POSSESSION
The goalkeeper is considered to be in control (= possession) of the ball when the ball is held with both hands, held by trapping the ball between one hand and any surface (e. g., the ground, a goalpost, the goalkeeper’s body), or holding the ball in the outstretched open palm. And the “hand” in this case can consist of as few as one finger of the ‘keeper’s hand.

The Laws do not grant the referee (or, in this case, the coach) the power to extend the definition of goalkeeper possession, nor to legislate new meanings on the field of play.

3. PLAYERS’ RIGHTS AND FAIR CHALLENGES
The goalkeeper has no more rights than any other player, with the exceptions of protective equipment and not being challenged when attempting to release the ball into general play. When not in possession of the ball, the goalkeeper may be fairly challenged. And the fairness is determined by the referee, not the coach and not the player.

There is no rule that “protects the goalie” from contact initiated by other players — as long as that contact is not against the requirements for a fair charge and does not happen when the goalkeeper is attempting to release the ball for others to play — in other words, to punt or throw the ball out of the penalty area.

Any time a player (either a field player or a goalkeeper) raises his/her leg above knee level there is the likelihood that someone will be hurt. As age and skill levels go down, the referee must interpret both “possession” and “safe challenge” more conservatively. Something an adult player might be allowed to do is not always the same as something a youth player (U14 for example) would be allowed to do.