Fouls and Restart Locations

Gary, an Adult/Pro Coach, asks:

If there’s a foul off the ball, despite the ball being in the center circle, can the Referee award a penalty ?

Answer

Not only “can the Referee,” the Referee must.  With rare exceptions (and fouls are not one of them), the Law sets the location of the restart to be where the foul occurred, not where the ball was.  In this case, if it was a direct free kick foul and it was committed by a defender inside his or her own penalty area while the ball was in play, the restart is a penalty kick even if the ball was at the far other end of the field at the time.

For example, Red is attacking the Blue goal with play occurring just above the Blue team’s penalty area.  At the Red end of the field, however, the Red goalkeeper and a Blue opponent are having an intense debate inside the Red penalty area over something that happened several minutes earlier, during which the Red goalkeeper shoves the opponent.  The trail AR sees this and signals for the foul, the lead AR (down where play is currently occurring) mirrors the signal, and then directs the referee’s attention to what is happening behind the Referee’s back.  Trusting the judgment of the experienced ARs, the Referee stops play immediately (no advantage is applied), deals with the misconduct (if any), and orders the ball brought back to the other end of the field for a penalty kick by Blue.

The consequences would be much different if, instead of striking by the Red goalkeeper, it was the Blue opponent who committed the shoving.  Here, advantage might be applied depending on the seriousness of the offense (it is not recommended if violence is involved).  If the Red team’s advantage is maintained, then play should be allowed to continue and, at the next stoppage, the Blue player might be cautioned if the shove was deemed reckless.  If advantage was not maintained or if the shove was violent, play should be stopped and then restarted with a direct free kick by Red where the shove occurred after any misconduct with dealt with.  If the shove did not require an immediate stoppage, the trail AR would simply wait for the next stoppage, signal for the Referee’s attention, explain what happened, and let the Referee decide what action to take.

In situations like this, it is imperative that the AR observing this behavior understands the implications of signaling for a stoppage.  The AR’s decision must be based on believing — based on experience, the pre-game conference where the Referee made clear his or her preferences, and the AR’s observation of the Referee’s decisions in the match so far — that the referee would have stopped play (i.e., not considered the event doubtful or trifling and not have applied advantage) if he or she had seen the event.  The other AR must be aware of the trail AR’s signal and have the presence of mind to mirror it.  Finally, the Referee must trust the trail AR’s judgment that, under the circumstances and based on standard mechanics, play must be stopped.  The system works … when everyone understands their respective roles and acts accordingly.

When Is the PK Over?

Robert, a referee of older youth players, asks:

A penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving. How about giving me some examples when a ball stops moving during a penalty kick situation.

Answer

The International Board, in its infinite wisdom when it rewrote the Laws of the Game to make them simpler and easier to understand, wasn’t entirely successful in several of its changes.  This is one of them.  Note that almost the exact same language was used in Laws 10 and 14 to say when the kick was complete:

Law 10:  The kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws

Law 14:  The penalty kick is completed when the ball stops moving, goes out of play or the referee stops play for any infringement of the Laws.

More to the point of your question, both Laws include “ball stops moving” as one of the ways that a kick from the mark (KFTM) or a penalty kick (PK) may be considered ended.  This works fairly well for a KFTM and it also works for a PK taken in extended time.  As long as the ball continues to move while making contact with any one or combination of the goalkeeper, goalframe, or the ground, a valid goal can be scored.  Yet, at the same time, in each case no one else is allowed to participate in the play.  Thus, if a PK in extended time or a KFTM struck the crossbar, rebounded backward onto the ground in front of the goal, but had acquired a spin which resulted in the ball now rolling forward a few feet into the goal, that goal would count.  The same would be true if the ball rebounded from the crossbar to the back of the goalkeeper and then rebounded from there into the goal.

A regular, ordinary PK, however, is a bit different because, except for the original kicker, the ball can be played by anyone once it is in play (kicked and moved forward).  During that time, it is entirely possible that the ball could be motionless … and it doesn’t matter because, with one exception, no one particularly cares when, whether, or even if the PK is “over.”

The exception is if an outside agent interferes with play at the taking of a penalty kick.  Ordinarily, if play is stopped because of outside agent interference, the restart is a dropped ball.  We can just picture some spectator, who supports the Orange team which is just about ready to defend against a PK, thinking that, if he or she ran onto the field after the PK was taken and interfered, the referee would have to stop play and then restart with a dropped ball (effectively taking the PK away from the hated opponent)!  So the Laws of the Game provide that, if the interference occurs while the ball is moving toward the goal and hasn’t made contact as yet with any part of the goalframe or the goalkeeper, the restart will be a retake of the PK.  Until the ball stops moving forward (not just stops moving), the PK is not “over” at least for the purpose of retaking the PK rather than having a dropped ball in the case of outside agent interference.  The implicit theory of this provision is that a team which has been awarded a PK should have a reasonable opportunity to score and any event which interferes with that during the period from the ball being kicked and the ball reaching the immediate area of the goal should result in the offended team getting to redo the PK after all the dust has settled.

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…)

Not So New Rule

Mark, a coach of older youth players, asks:

I had a Referee tell me that standing in front of the ball to delay a team from taking a free kick is now a yellow card. I can’t find it in the Laws of the Game. What is the rule now?

Answer

There is no “now a yellow card” — it has always been a cardable offense.  It is in the Laws of the Game — see Law 12 (p. 85) and Law 13 (p. 93) in the 2016/20917 edition — and it has been clearly interpreted in various USSF documents (Advice to Referees, for example).  Moreover, it was the partial subject of a recent document issued by the International Board regarding the meaning of several Law changes that occurred in 2016 (“Revision of the Laws of the Game: Questions and Answers”.

Let’s unwrap this and see what is at issue here.  For decades (literally), one of the cautionable offenses which a player could commit was to “fail to respect the required distance” on a free kick (many of us simplify this as the “10-yard rule”) which mandates that all opponents must be at least 10 yards away from the ball (in all directions) on a free kick until it is in play.  Ignore for a moment some of the “ins and outs” of how this is enforced.  The point is that opponents who fail to retire to a point which is at least 10 yards away can be cautioned.  Let’s also agree that “standing in front of the ball” means that this player is closer than 10 yards and is thus committing a violation of the Law which the Law itself declares to be misconduct and worthy of a yellow card.

However, in more recent years, the approach to this issue has become more complex.  While a yellow card for “failing to respect the distance” should not cause anyone any confusion, there has developed the notion that standing in front of the ball is a bit different.  The 2013-2014 version of Advice to Referees put it this way (emphasis in bold added):

13.2 Opponent Attempting to Delay a Free Kick
Opponents engage in a different form of misconduct when they act to delay a free kick. While delay is a byproduct of interfering with the free kick by failing to respect the minimum distance, there is a difference between merely being within ten yards of the restart, which may or may not cause a delay, and using certain ploys which necessarily will result in a delay.

Typical examples of causing a delay in this way are kicking the ball away when a decision has gone against them, picking up the ball and not giving the ball to the attacking team or to the referee, moving to retrieve a ball some distance away and then walking slowly to bring the ball back, and standing so close by the ball as to effectively interfere with all reasonably likely directions for the restart. These ploys must be met with an immediate response because, as a result, a delay is no longer theoretical; it has been forced and the challenge to Law 13 must be dealt with swiftly.

So, the bottom line is this.  It is a cautionable offense to interfere with the taking of a free kick or corner kick by failing to retreat to at least 10 yards away (a similar violation occurs respecting a throw-in but here the minimum distance is two yards).  It is, however, a cautionable offense to delay the restart of play by standing so close to the ball that it blocks the team in possession from kicking the ball in a direction they would want.  Ironically, the team in possession of the restart (which includes every restart except the dropped ball) is also subject to a caution for delaying the restart of play in various ways (e.g., unnecessarily switching the location of the ball on a goal kick or persisting in failing to throw the ball so that it enters the field).

The Dropped Ball

A referee asks:

Situation 1: There is no ‘double touch’ rule applicable to a dropped ball, right?  Only to all other restarts? Because the moment it touches the ground, even if simultaneously touched by a player, it is in play….& double touch rule doesn’t apply to the ground (which is what put it in play).

Situation 2:  The player who is the first to touch the ball…if he/she pulls it away or pushes it away & dribbles it, can that player shoot on goal?  What if, with his/her first touch, the player passes it to his/her other foot, which means the other foot or the one that first touched the ball = can be used for a shot on goal + a successful shot on goal can be allowed, as it is not a ‘direct kick on goal’ from a dropped ball?

Answer — Situation 1

It is correct that there is no “double touch” (also known as a “2nd touch”) violation possible on a dropped ball, but not for the reason you suggest.  It is not “the ground” that started the sequence of events which led to the ball being in play, it was the referee.  All second touch violations are based on and apply only to the person who performs the restart and only if that person is a player.  Touching the ground is merely a requirement for the ball to be in play, the same as the ball leaving the penalty area is one of the requirements for the ball to be in play on a goal kick.

Answer — Situation 2

Three people are important in understanding a dropped ball restart: the referee (who does it), the first player to make contact with the ball (who gains possession), and all other players on the field regardless of which team they are on.  The referee initiates the restart. If there is no “first player who contacts,” this means that the ball left the field directly from the drop and the Law requires that the ball be retrieved and dropped again at the same location.  Once you have a “first person who contacts,” a different dynamic takes over.  The referee goes back to officiating and this “first contact player” (let’s make this easy and say A12) takes center stage.  A12, in all respects but one, can play the ball in any way permitted by the Law.  This means, of course, that A12 can move the ball anywhere on the field by dribbling it (either or both feet), by heading the ball, by passing it to a teammate (or an opponent), and so forth.  The single thing A12 cannot do is score a goal (against either team!).

Notice, we didn’t say can’t “shoot on goal” because, in fact, that is something A12 could certainly do — it’s just that, if A12 did so and the ball went into either goal, the goal cannot be counted.  Using the left foot and then the right foot while dribbling makes no difference because it stays the same person and the rule applies to the person, not to one or the other of his/her feet.  Nor does it make any difference if A12 pushes the ball into space, then runs to the ball and continues moving it by any lawful means.  And it also makes no difference if A12 kicks the ball such that it deflects off the referee (or a crossbar or goalpost) and goes back to A12, who proceeds to continue moving the ball — A12 remains the “first contact player.”

So where do all players other than A12 come into this thing?  Once any of the “other” players (regardless of team) makes legal contact with the ball, the special identity of being the “first contact player” totally disappears — even to the point of A12 passing the ball to A43 who then passes it back to A12 who then shoots on goal … and scores (legally).  The moment A43 made contact with the ball, A12 is no longer the “first contact player”and now, along with any other player, can score legally.

By the way, if A12 did put the ball into the net without any other player making contact with the ball, the restart would be a goal kick if it was the opponent’s net but a corner kick if it was A12’s own net.

Throwing things

From a referee in Romania:

LOG USSF edition 2015/2016  writes at page no. 128: “If a player standing inside the field of play throws an object at any person standing outside the field of play, the referee restarts play with an indirect free kick from the position of the ball when play was stopped (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).”  This situation is not presented expressly in the LOG 2016/2017.  How should we handle a situation in which, for example, the goalkeeper aggressively throws the ball at a person off the field of play?

Answer:

It’s always difficult to figure out what to do when there is no explicit guidance.  The best approach is to continue doing what the Law has said in the past because the prior guidance has not been specifically modified or rejected.  So, in short, continue following the prescribed restart:  an indirect free kick where the ball was when play was stopped.  However, that said, your question also raises two issues that we might usefully address.  First, why is it an indirect free kick?  Second, what does “where the ball was” mean in practice?

Although we use an indirect free kick because this is what the Law says (or said last year, as well as for many years before), it often helps to know the reason.  The Law involving thrown objects generally is based on the notion that, whenever anything is thrown, the object becomes an extension of the hand.  For example, if a player throws a rock at an opponent during play, this is considered a form of “striking” with the rock simply standing in for the fist.  Aside from the misconduct, where is the restart for this striking?  It is where the target was struck (or where the target ducked and avoided being actually hit).  It is as though the player had run up to that opponent and swung his fist.  Where the target is off the field, then, the thrown object leaving the field means that the thrower, in effect, left the field (there is, of course, still misconduct).  What is the restart if you stop play for a player who has illegally left the field?  An indirect free kick!

Now, as to the issue of the location of the restart, we come to a problem.  Wherever in the law an indirect free kick is specified as the restart and the location is not the usual “location of the offense,” the alternate location is “where the ball was when play was stopped.” (See, for example, the restart specified in Law 4 for a player re-entering the field without permission after being ordered off to correct or change equipment).  In all such cases, the location of the ball at the time of stoppage is easily determined because the ball has remained on the field.  This is true even in the case of a thrown object where the object is not the ball, but it is not true when the object is the ball and the ball has been thrown at something off the field.  Moreover, when has play actually been stopped?  Most people assume that this occurs only upon hearing a whistle but, actually, it is when the referee has decided to stop play.  In practice, though, by the time the dust settles, two things are locked in everyone’s mind — play is stopped and the ball is off the field. Since we do not restart play from off the field, we have to come up with something else — something consistent with the spirit of the Law.  Two location possibilities come to mind.  One is where the ball was last on the field when all this started and that would be where the thrown ball crossed the field’s boundary line.  The other is where the goalkeeper was when he or she launched the throw.  Either is supportable but, for various reasons, we would recommend defining “where the ball was” based on the position of the goalkeeper (it is probably the quickest to determine and the easiest to sell).

DEALING WITH ILLEGAL ENTRY OF A SUBSTITUTE AND ENSUING EVIL

INCIDENT ANALYSIS
An interesting question came up the other day about a recent game in Asia and what the referee should do when a substitute, warming up behind his team’s goal, sees that his goalkeeper is down and there are no defenders nearby to stop the ball, which is rolling quickly toward the goal. The substitute enters the field of play without the referee’s permission and prevents a goal from being scored by kicking the ball away.

Any debate as to what the referee should do must center around four issues:

1. What infringements of the Law have occurred?
• The substitute has entered the field without the permission of the referee and then interfered with play by kicking away the ball heading for the goal.

2. Where the infringement involves misconduct, what kind and what card?
• Substitutes entering the field of play without permission have committed unsporting behavior, a cautionable offense. In addition, a substitute can be sent off for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity, a sending-off offense.

3. What did the referee actually do?
• He whistled play dead, sent off the substitute, and restarted with an indirect free kick from the place where the substitute kicked the ball. While effective in dealing with the greater offense, the referee’s action was not entirely correct. Nor did the referee caution the substitute for unsporting behavior (entering the field of play without his permission).

4. With play stopped, what actions should the referee have taken, and what should have been the restart and from where?
• According to Law 12, “A player [and this includes substitutes and substituted players] who commits a cautionable or sending-off offense, either on or off the field of play, whether directed towards an opponent, a team-mate, the referee, an assistant referee or any other person, is disciplined according to the nature of the offense committed.”
• In this situation, the referee must first caution the substitute for unsporting behavior for entering the field of play without permission; that is the infringement that governs the restart. Second, the referee must send off the substitute for denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity through an act punishable by a free kick; this infringement does not figure in the restart — although it did during the game in question.
• The restart must be an indirect free kick for the initial misconduct, entering the field of play without the referee’s permission. The correct place would have been the position of the ball at the time of the stoppage (see Law 13 – Position of free kick). It would seem that an otherwise well-intentioned referee simply didn’t understand what the Law requires of him.

The place where the ball was when play was stopped would be its location at the moment the referee makes the decision to stop play, not where the ball might have ended up after the whistle was blown.

RESTART FOR MISCONDUCT

Question:
While team A is attacking, the ref blows his whistle and shows a yellow card to a player on team B. The infraction is loud dissent over a call made 5 minutes prior. When the ref whistled for play to stop, the cautioned player was 40 yards from the ball, and farther from the goal that team A was attacking.

The ref restarted play by awarding Team A an indirect kick from the spot where the cautioned player was standing when the whistle was blown.

Was the restart handled correctly? Correct spot and correct method of resuming play?

Answer (July 24, 2014):
Your answer is found in Law 12:

• An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
• plays in a dangerous manner
• impedes the progress of an opponent
• prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
• commits any other offense, not previously mentioned in Law 12, for which play is stopped to caution or send off a player

The indirect free kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

This is analogous to what happens if, during an attack on the opposing goal, the attacking team’s goalkeeper fouls one of the opposing team’s players back in the attacking team’s penalty area, no matter that it might be 80 yards down the field from where the current attack is occurring: the restart there is a penalty kick.

MAY A PLAYER KICK THE BALL WITH THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOT?

Question:
Please clarify that kicking the ball for a corner kick it is ok to kick with the bottom of your boot.

Answer (March 8, 2014):
Yes, the kicker may use the bottom of the foot as long as he has played the ball in a kicking motion. The referee needs to use common sense and apply practices currently accepted in modern soccer, no matter how much these may differ from what we have learned and applied in the past. On any free kick, whether direct or indirect, the Law is clear: The ball must be moved a minimum distance with the foot, preferably in a kicking motion. In many cases, this means that the ball may be stepped on, although it still must move some minimum distance. If the referee does not see some minimal movement on the initial kick, then the ball is not yet in play and the kick must be taken correctly.

WHAT TO DO IF BALL KICKED DIRECTLY INTO THE GOAL FROM A DROPPED BALL

Question:
The limitation on scoring directly from a drop ball. Can you clarify the meaning of directly in this situation. Thanks.

My confusion arises because in other free kicks (corner, IFK, DFK, GK, PK) the kicker is not able to play the ball twice. e.g. they must kick it, and they cannot dribble the ball (e.g. kick or play it twice in a row without an intervention from another player).

However, in the drop ball, a player can in fact take possesion of the ball (usually by foot since the ball must touch the ground to in play), dribble some distance, and kick the ball, without the intervention of another player without comitting a violation of the laws.

Hence, I’m trying to understand what “directly” means in the new Law 8 (Start and Restart) text for drop balls. The new law says, “If the ball enters the goal: * if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, goal kick is awarded” (Similar for own goal with a corner kick.

Is “directly” in this case ONLY the first touch or play of the ball, or is directly meant to include all initial play by a player, until the ball has been touched or play by any other player?

Thanks for clarifying the situation for me. I am a referee and a coach. Recently, as a coach, this situation nearly happened to one of my players. In her case she missed the shot wide, so the ball did not enter the goal. However, had she made the shot (off a pull back move at the drop, two quick dribbes to open space in the penalty area, and a shot with no touch from any other player), I realized that I was unsure if the goal would have counted or not had she made the shot.

As a referee, and realized I should come to understand the correct call in this case should I come to see it again. This is a new law change, and I haven’t seen any guidance in this situation.

Answer (January 8, 2013):
This year’s Law 8 on the dropped ball:

If the ball enters the goal:
• if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the opponents’ goal, a goal kick is awarded
• if a dropped ball is kicked directly into the team’s own goal, a corner kick is awarded to the opposing team

Yes, it is indeed a change in the Law, likely not noted by many people. It is an unusual change and is probably more confusing to referees, coaches, and players than necessary. Thank you for asking, and we are pleased to present the reason, straight from the International Football Association Board, as published for the IFAB by FIFA. And yes, it applies only to the first touch after the ball is in play.

FIFA Circular 1302, 31 May 2012: Amendments to the Laws of the Game — 2012/2013:

Reason
There have been a number of occasions where goals have been scored from “uncontested” dropped balls. This has put a great deal of pressure on the referee as he has to allow the goal to stand. We then have the unseemly situation where the opposition allows the team to score from the kick-off without any players trying to stop them in order to rebalance the game.

Just for the clarification of others, the dropped ball is NOT a free kick.