In a game I was refereeing, a team tried to take a corner kick with one player toe-touching the ball without the ball moving and another player taking off with it on a dribble. I called for a re-start asking the players to actually move the ball.

What is the correct ruling for restarts on corner kicks and indirect free kicks? Does the ball need to rotate or be passed with the foot in order to have a legal re-start? Toe-Taps? Are they still legal?

Answer (October 15, 2007):
It is clear that you will be a good referee, as your instincts meet the gap in your knowledge. Now it’s simply a case of bringing your knowledge up to the level of your instincts.

In the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” you will find this excerpt, ATR 13.5, which deals with when the ball is in play. It also applies to corner kicks. (And to answer your specific question: No, toe-taps are not legal, and never really were.)

The ball is in play (able to be played by an attacker other than the kicker or by an opponent) when it has been kicked and moved. The distance to be moved is minimal and the “kick” need only be a touch of the ball with the foot in a kicking motion. Simply tapping the top of the ball with the foot or stepping on the ball are not sufficient.

When the restart of play is based on the ball being kicked and moved, the referee must ensure that the ball is indeed kicked (touched with the foot in a kicking motion) and moved (caused to go from one place to another). Being “kicked” does not include an action in which the ball is dragged by continuous contact with the foot. Being “moved” does not include the ball simply quivering, trembling, or shaking as a result of light contact. The referee must make the final decision on what is and is not “kicked and moved” based on the spirit and flow of the match. In all events, the ball must be put into play properly.

The referee must judge carefully whether any particular kick of the ball and subsequent movement was indeed reasonably taken with the intention of putting the ball into play rather than with the intention merely to position the ball for the restart. If the ball is just being repositioned (even if the foot is used to do this), play has not been restarted. Likewise, referees should not unfairly punish for “failing to respect the required distance” when an opponent was clearly confused by a touch and movement of the ball which was not a restart.

The referee must make the final decision on what is a “kick” and what is “not a kick” based on his or her feeling for the game-what FIFA calls “Fingerspitzengefuehl” (literally: “sensing with one’s fingertips”). The bottom line is that not everything that produces movement of the ball is a kick and thus would not legally put the ball into play in any of the kicking restarts.

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