Last week I was officiating a game when an indirect free kick was issued. While the wall was being set by the official, an attacking player stood with a foot on the ball. The referee then got into position and blew his whistle while the attacking player’s foot was still on the ball. The player removed his foot from the ball and the wall immediately charged before the ball was kicked by the attacking team. By the time the attacking team kicked the ball the wall had charged to within 1 yard.
I immediately signaled for an infraction as, by my interpretation, the wall delayed the restart by moving inside the 10 yard zone before the kick.
Needless to say the defending team was livid as they felt that the ball had been played by the attacking team and so they charged.
I stand behind my call because I do not feel the ball was “kicked” or “moved” by the attacking team (as well I believe the official was in the wrong by blowing the whistle while the player was still in contact with the ball, making this muddy situation happen).
Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks!
USSF answer (March 1, 2010):
The kicking team is allowed to use deceptive tactics when taking the free kick, but they are not required to kick the ball into play immediately. The defending team is required to remain at least ten yards away until the ball has been kicked and moved, unless the kicking team decides to take the free kick quickly without waiting for a signal from the referee. To be put into play, the ball must be kicked from “here” to “there.” In other words, it must clearly move from one spot to another spot (which need be more than a trivial distance away).
The kicker (or putative kicker) may place and rest his or her foot on the ball. That is not an infringement of any of the Laws and there is no need for the referee on this game to be displeased with this portion of the restart. The kicker may then remove his foot from the ball and walk away, possibly to be replaced as kicker by a teammate or to immediately return and kick the ball. That is the right of the kicking team. The defending team should know that they have NO RIGHTS in this situation other than the right not to be confused by the referee — and that did not happen. They confused themselves and failed to follow the requirements of the Law.
Accordingly, the opposing team crashed in and, therefore, the free kick should have been halted immediately by the referee, at least one or more of the crashers cautioned for failing to respect the required distance, and play resumed with the original free kick.