I got into a debate with a fellow referee in a local adult amateur league the other weekend. It was a friendly disagreement, but I’m appealing to a higher authority to adjudicate which of us was correct, since we couldn’t agree.

Red Team is playing Green Team. A Red player fouls a Green player; the center referee stops play and signals a direct free kick for Green. A Red player (perhaps confused, perhaps intentionally) picks up the ball, places it, and kicks it, putting it back into play. The referee whistles to stop play, returns the ball to the spot of the original foul, and signals again for a Green kick.

We could not agree whether the referee was correct in doing so. One of us maintained that the ball was in play once the kick was taken, regardless of who took it, and the referee could not then stop play.

The other one of us argued that the referee could, indeed, stop play, as the kick taken was not a proper restart and that, in fact, had it been an obvious attempt by Red to delay the Green kick, the Red player could even have been cautioned for delaying a restart.

Who was right? A frosty beverage may be riding on the answer! 🙂

USSF answer (May 20, 2008):
The principle expressed in the following excerpt from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” fits the situation you presented to a tee. It makes absolutely no difference that in your situation it was the player who screwed up, not the referee. Retake the original restart!!!! If you believe there was some confusion on the part of the Red player, let it go with a friendly warning to pay attention. If you believe it to have been a conscious effort to subvert the referee’s decision, caution as suggested in your query.

If the referee awards a restart for the wrong team and realizes the mistake before the restart is taken, then the restart may be corrected even though the decision was announced after the restart took place. This is based on the established principle that the referee’s initial decision takes precedence over subsequent action. The visual and verbal announcement of the decision after the restart has already occurred is well within the Spirit of the Law, provided the decision was made before the restart took place.

And where/when do we get OUR frosty beverage??

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