I have a question involving the 2009/2010 ATR vs 2009/2010 FIFA Laws and interpretation of the laws. In the ATR 13.6 in reference to free kicks awarding to a defending team in their own penalty area. In the second paragraph it says that all opponents must remain outside the penalty until the ball has gone into play. And I believe that into play means leaving the penalty. But in the FIFA law book in the interpretation of the laws section for free kicks on page 123. Under the “Distance” heading the third paragraph talks about opponents being in the penalty, and the defending team takes a quick kick the referee must allow play to continue.

My question is this, what happens if the defending team kicks the ball to the opponent in the penalty area before the opponents have left the penalty area? Would the kick be a retake for the defending team or is it similar to a regular quick kick where it is taken at the risk of the team taking the kick. Or should I pretend I never saw the part in the FIFA law book.

Thank you for your insight

USSF answer (March 9, 2010):
In your comparison of one section of the Advice to a section of the Laws covered in the Interpretation section of the Laws, you are comparing apples and applesauce. Advice 13.6 simply repeats what is already in the Law:

Free Kick Inside the Penalty Area
Direct or indirect free kick to the defending team:
* all opponents must be at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball
* all opponents must remain outside the penalty area until the ball is in play
* the ball is in play when it is kicked directly out of the penalty area
* a free kick awarded in the goal area may be taken from any point inside that area

The information on p. 123 of the Interpretation states that the same principle that applies to free kicks outside the penalty area applies to free kicks for the defending team within the penalty area:

“If, when a free kick is taken by the defending team from inside its own penalty area, one or more opponents remain inside the penalty area because the defender decides to take the kick quickly and the opponents did not have time to leave the penalty area, the referee must allow play to continue.”

There is no dichotomy here, as any kicking team surrenders its right to opponents remaining at the required distance if it takes the free kick quickly, without waiting for the referee to remove any opponent who has remained too near to the ball. What this means with regard to your question is that the restart should not be held up by the referee solely because there may be one or more opponents still within the penalty area. In short, the goal kicking team has the right to kick immediately (not with a ceremony) even though there are opponents within the minimum distance.

However, at this time a major difference arises between kicks from within the penalty area and those taken outside the area. This involves what happens if one of those opponents makes contact with the ball while both are still within the penalty area. For a goal kick or a free kick, because the ball is not in play until it leaves the penalty area, there is no distinction between interception and interference — it’s all interference before the ball has been put in play (just as it would be if the contact had been made by a teammate rather than an opponent). If there is interference within the penalty area by an opponent on this sort of kick, the kick must be retaken.

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