Stephan, a U13 – U19 referee, asks (in more detail than can be repeated here):
What is the difference between FRD (the standard short version of “fails to respect the required distance”) and DR (the short version of “delays the restart of play”? I’m sending this question to look for advice from USSF on how they want DR and FRD to be enforced in scenarios where the defender is deliberately standing over the ball at a free kick. (detailed example redacted). if I do caution for this sort of behavior, I will inevitably get the “but he’s allowed to stand there until the attacker asks for 10” complaint from the opposing team. Should I be cautioning for this stuff, and if not, why not? Coaches and players often argue that cautions for this rarely occur in higher level games
First of all, the website does not speak for USSF. Whatever we offer here regarding the Laws of the Game comes from our officiating, instructing, and assessing experience. If you take a look at the home page of the website, under the “About” tab, you see the “rules” under which the site is operated and that includes a clear statement that the website is not and has not been since 2012 an “official” source of USSF interpretations. The Federation, in fact, has discontinued the prior standard practice of providing such interpretations on any routine basis.
Second, no matter what coaches and players say (keep in mind that they have biased reasons for arguing that their player should not be cautioned for this behavior), such actions are cautioned when appropriate. Two things to remember here. One is that you rarely see it because it rarely happens because, at higher levels of play, the players know a lot better than players at lower levels do where the referee sets the line. The other is that, at higher levels of play, the referee is more experienced regarding steps that can be taken to prevent this sort of behavior.
That said, there is a clear difference between the two offenses connected with a free kick restart (actually, they apply to any dynamic play restart performed by a player for which there is a required distance for the opponents – TI, CK, GK). One has general application, the other has a very specific application. We all pretty much understand “failure to respect the required distance” – it is the more common situation and, while it involves various important balancing decisions, it is one which all referees face on a regular basis. Any opponent who is closer than the required distance is taking a risk of being cautioned if, from within that distance, she interferes with the restart in any way. The only official action the referee can take to prevent or enforce the interference is if the team with control of the ball on the restart asks for the minimum distance to be enforced, which automatically converts the restart to a ceremony.
The second often comes as a surprise and, particularly for the examples we will give, should result in a caution for delaying the restart of play without hesitation. Note the difference. In the first case, it is actually the kicking/throwing team that delays the restart by deciding that they want the minimum distance enforced, but that is their right and, unless, having enforced the minimum distance, an opponent decides at the last moment (i.e., just before the kick is taken) to move from the required distance to somewhere illegally nearer and, from there, interferes with play, we go with what the kicking/throwing team wants.
Here, however, one or more opponents conduct themselves in such a way as to prevent any restart from occurring – for example, kicking the ball away, taking control of the ball and refusing or delaying returning it to the team which has the restart, or (and here is the most interesting example), standing so close to the ball as to prevent it from being kicked entirely. The referee might wait to see what develops if an opponent is, say, 2-3 yards away from the restart location at the moment of stoppage but is moving backward and giving at least the appearance of being in the process of respecting the required distance. Referees are advised in such cases to “wait and see” what the team in control of the ball wants to do and go with the flow – in other words, stay out of it until it is clear that the team in control wants or needs intervention. In this second scenario, however, the referee should step in immediately because, by the sorts of actions suggested here, the opposing team has concretely taken the decision away from the team with the restart by not even allowing them to have the ball or by blocking the ball so closely that the team in possession couldn’t take a restart even if that is what they wanted. In short, the player who, for example, stands right in front of the ball (or walks across the front of the ball at the critical moment) has deliberately removed the attacking team’s option of restarting immediately. This caution, thus, is immediate. By the way, teams in control of the ball at a restart can also be cautioned for delaying the restart of play if they … well … delay the restart of play though, in this case, we advise referees to give the attacking team a warning that their delay is noted and must not continue – after which, they are the ones to get the caution (example: an attacker with a throw-in continues, despite a warning, to somehow fail to throw the ball into the field, despite several apparent tries to do so, or who delays while apparently trying to decide with teammate they will throw the ball to).
By the way, taking note of the following common refrain from players – “but he’s allowed to stand there until the attacker asks for 10” – simply demonstrates either that (a) players haven’t the slightest idea of what the Law actually says or (b) they know but are simply gaming the referee in the hopes that he or she is not experienced enough to know what the Law says. It is actually very clear. At the moment of a stoppage where the referee has made it clear which team has control of the ball for the restart (which is why we strongly recommend that referees not delay making this simple fact clear!), all opponents are expected and required to be or stay at or to quickly get to the required distance.