Often times in the MLS I see a very frustrating tactic and I have seen this in the matches I referee. Players stand in front of the ball at free kicks, especially in dangerous areas. Often times because of the unpunished nature of the offense it also happens at midfield. Players often times want a quick restart and this prevents this tactic. I feel frustrated as a biased fan. I can’t imagine how frustrated players get and parents get at youth matches. I imagine that both sides are getting frustrated.
Since I feel like the enforcement of the law is not very consistent with the 7+7 memorandum I want to know how to prevent the tactic and when does it become a cautionable offense. What are the criteria for it to become cautionable? I know what the memorandum says but what sort of advice do you have on enforcing this law?
One example (from a biased Seattle fan) would be the incident where Riley was sent off in the LA Galaxy match. Shouldn’t the player who clearly “provoked” the confrontation receive a caution. Under the 7+7 memorandum provoking a confrontation by touching the ball after the referee has stopped play is one of the offenses of special concern of FIFA. I was surprised to find it was not in the week in review.
USSF answer (June 11, 2009):
We are fortunate to have input from Brian Hall, U. S. Soccer’s Manager of Assessment and Training.
First, let us address your question regarding the Riley situation. You are correct, the player who withheld the ball from Riley and, therefore, prevented Riley from putting the ball into play quickly should have been cautioned for delaying the restart of play. This exact subject was covered in U.S. Soccer’s “Week In Review 8” which can be found at http://www.ussoccer.com/referees/weekinreview.jsp.html (select week 8).
Explanation and video review of the subject are covered coinciding with Video Clip 2: Los Angeles at Seattle.
Now, to your broader question. Referees have been instructed and continue to receive guidance relative to delaying the restart and not respecting the required distance. In fact, the overall management of free kick restarts is covered as one of U.S. Soccer Referee Program’s main directives for 2009.
These directives can be downloaded at: http://www.ussoccer.com/articles/viewArticle.jsp_13172742.html. However, if you are watching the game worldwide, you will see referees elsewhere are facing the exact same challenges.
In the 2008-09 publication of the Laws of the Game, FIFA revised the wording relative to “distance” and free kicks. Check the new section FIFA has introduced to replace the old “Questions and Answers:” “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.” In this section, the term “distance” is defined:
“If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent is less than 9.15 meters from the ball intercepts it, the referee must allow play to continue.” It also states….
“If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent who is near the ball deliberately prevents him taking the kick, the referee must caution the player for delaying the restart.”
Key terms are “intercepts,” and “deliberately prevents.” Upon reading U.S. Soccer’s directive on “Free Kick and Restart Management,” you will see that “deliberately prevents” is defined as “lunging or advancing forward or toward the ball.” So, if a defender is less than 10 yards and he/she lunges or advances forward toward the ball and then makes contact with the ball, this player must be cautioned for delaying the restart. On the other hand, if an attacker takes a free kick and the defender is less than 10 yards but in view of the attacker, then the attacker assumes the risk of the quick free kick and any defensive contact would not be punishable (the kicker knew the location of the defender at the time he/she took the free kick).
Finally, as the directive implores officials, preventative measures should be utilized. Upon seeing players who act as a “statue” in front of the ball or who are less than 10 yards, referees should use presence to move the defender back and prevent further occurrences.