In a recent youth league (U10) our opponents used a tactic where to prevent a quick quick after a foul the coach instructed his players to line up within the required distance and “have the referee move you” Although you have answered a similar question, my question was if the coach is deliberately instructing players in an illegal tactic should the referee address the coach or the players? Also is each player involved cautioned or a single player cautioned (In the event the referee decides to issue a caution–At this level I’m sure rule 18 may imply some instruction first before penalty). I wanted to provide some (correct) insight in my referee report (we evaluate our referees and i take my role seriously to give them correct feedback so that they can improve).

USSF answer (April 9, 2009):
The referee cannot act on incomplete information. Unless the referee or one of the other officials hears the coach issue such instructions and judges that act to be irresponsible behavior, it did not happen.  Unless a coach is inciting to riot, we can’t really penalize coaches for bad advice or bad judgment or ignorance of the Law — only players who make the mistake of taking the coach’s advice.  If that is the way the coach is seeking to delay, then so be it.  It either works or it doesn’t.  In this case, this becomes a function of the referee’s knowledge of the Law, feel for the game, and competitive level of the match. No referee should hesitate to card a player for failure to retreat the required distance (FRD) — where it made a difference — despite the tactics of the coach, because it is the player doing it.

As to cautioning the players who are failing to withdraw the required distance from the spot of the restart, the referee should not issue cards willy-nilly, but should caution whichever player or players need the caution so that the referee can get the job done.  This follows the fundamental principle of doing the LEAST necessary to accomplish the desired result.  Usually, it only takes one, which is why we advise referees when faced with this sort of situation to single out ONE player by number and demand enforcement.  THAT’s the player who gets the card if there isn’t compliance.  Technically, of course, ALL players are subject to the same discipline.  Whom do you single out?  Doesn’t matter– though we would tend not to pick someone who had already been cautioned IF the prior caution was for something other than FRD. Now if it had been for FRD, hammer the sucker!).

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