I have a question about free kicks. If a defender, less than the required distance, intercepts a free kick by moving/lunging to the side (NOT forward) is this acceptable per the new parameters involving free kicks? The 2009 directives were not especially clear on this point.

USSF answer (February 13, 2010):
You would seem to have not read quite far enough in the Directive on Free Kick and Restart Management. The second bullet point under 4.

Quick Free Kick — Deliberately Preventing the Free Kick from Being Taken reads:

* Intercepts the QFK after the kick is taken: The referee may exercise discretion depending upon whether he/she felt the defender deliberately prevented the ball from being put into play. The referee must take into consideration whether the attacking team had the opportunity to play the ball and whether the attacker knew the position of the defender at the time the QFK was taken.
– If the attacker knew where the defender was at the time the QFK was taken, then the likelihood that the defender prevented the free kick from [being] taken is minimal. In this case, it can be assumed that the attacker “assumed the risk.”

This point is nicely illustrated in the new USSF DVD, Managing the Free Kick. Your State Director of Referee Instruction should have a copy of the DVD.

The DVD differentiates between Interference and Interception. In brief (see the video for full details), the video encourages to “wait and see” when an opponent stands too near the ball and the kicking team does not ask for the full distance. Interference occurs when the defending player, as the ball is kicked, steps TOWARD the kicker and plays the ball. This is failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a free kick, a cautionable offense.

Interception occurs when the defending player, as the ball is kicked, either moves to the side or sticks his/her foot to the side to play the ball; there is NO forward motion.

These changes in procedure have been made on the advice of FIFA, based on training they are giving to referees around the world.

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