This subject probably has been beaten into the ground before but in my referee association interpretations are all over the map. In Advice to Referees, Law 13 – Free Kicks, 13.3 says “The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team’s right to an immediate free kick .  At competitive levels of play, referee should not automatically “manage the wall”, but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possile, unless the kicking team requests help in dealing with opponents infringing on the minimum distance .”  13.5  (first paragraph) says “If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce the required minimum distance…”  Second paragraph  says “If one or more opponents fail to respect the required distance before the ball is properly put into play, the referee should stop the restart to deal with this infringement.”  The italics are mine.

So here is how I would manage a free kick:  A) Indicate spot where kick is to be taken.  B) Move away to observe kick.  C)  If attacking team asks for ten yards, move defense (wall) ten yards from ball and tell attackers not to play ball until signal is given (I also read Law 13 to say that a whistle is not required, only a “clear signal”).  D)  Give signal for restart. E)  If a defender intrudes upon the required distance on the restart, I could whistle a retake, and give a caution, if the defender’s action interferes with the restart (I would play advantage if not).  F)  If ten yards is not asked for, and a defender purposely interferes with the restart I may whistle a retake and issue a caution depending upon the outcome of the restart.  On any restart I would not call for a retake if the defenders interfered with the play but the attackers maintained advantage.  I know things vary slightly with different levels of soccer, but I am talking about competitive level.

Some referees will always tell defenders to back off and or/manage the entire restart without a “ten yards” request from the attackers.  Am I erring in some way?  Should I back off defenders? Or is the way I now manage a free kick OK?  I would appreciate an answer from an authority, USSF, so I can argue the correct points.

USSF answer (July 10, 2008):
Whatever works for you, //name deleted//, but there are some other things to consider.

The sequence you describe works fairly well with a couple of minor exceptions. First, regarding “step” (C), be aware that not every time the ten yards is asked for does it actually need to be enforced. Make a quick judgment as to whether in fact the opponents are far enough away and, if they are, order the attackers to proceed with the restart. Second, also regarding step (C), you may not have intended it but the actions in this step are reversed — if requested to enforce the minimum distance, the first action you need to take is to state clearly (by word and/or commonly understood gesture) that the restart cannot occur except by your signal and then back the opponents up the necessary distance. Third, in situations where an opponent attempts to interfere from within ten yards but is unsuccessful (and therefore you choose not to caution), don’t ever forget the value of talking to or warning the player about his or her behavior. Finally, vary the procedure as needed so long as you honor the basic underlying principle — namely, the opponents have no rights in a free kick situation, their actions are already suspect and they must generally be on the best behavior, so your job is to intrude as little as possible and let the attackers control the situation. That is, after all, why we call it a FREE kick.

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