Hyung, a referee of U12 players, asks:
It’s not clear to me how to manage restarts for free kicks when the attacking team doesn’t know the procedure/options (e.g., ceremonial vs quick ). Should the attacking team always initiate asking the Referee for a ceremonial restart? What if they don’t ask? Is it the Referee’s duty to ask the attacking team? A few seconds pass and it’s obvious the attacking team will not take the free kick quickly. Also, they didn’t request enforcing the minimum distance (10 yds). Is it at this point the Referee should take charge and do the free kick ceremonially? If the attacking team doesn’t ask for 10, is 5 yds acceptable? Is this in the rules? Is it best for the Referee to lead in this confusing situation and restart ceremonially?
You have some good questions here, all of them pertaining to issues of correct or preferred mechanics and procedures but not so much matters of Law. In fact, the term “ceremonial restart” is not found anywhere in the Laws of the Game — it is entirely a matter of tradition and recommended procedures. In short, you will not find answers to any of your questions except in publications which, mostly unofficially, attempt to explain the art of refereeing.
We can, however, start with some fundamental principles and work from there. First, the core definition of a free kick (Law 13) is a restart given to a team because the opponents have violated the Law in some way and the Referee has stopped play for it. It is called a “free” kick because the team awarded this restart must be given the opportunity to put the ball back into play without hindrance or interference (i.e., freely). To this end, all opponents are required by Law to retire (move away) at least ten yards from the location of the free kick in every direction. This is a legal burden placed on the shoulders of every opponent and the Referee’s job is to punish any opponent who fails to do so (before, during, or after the kick). In a perfect world, what should happen is that, as soon as the Referee whistles for a stoppage and signals a free kick restart (indirect or direct), all opponents hurriedly move at least ten yards away in the spirit of sporting behavior and the attacking team is able to take its free kick in a matter of seconds.
Unfortunately, this expectation is rather akin to also asking players who commit an offense to publicly admit their error, apologize to the opposing team, hand the ball over to them, and clear a path between the kick and the defending team’s goal. Needless to say, this is not what happens in our imperfect world. What usually occurs, depending on the circumstances of the stoppage, the temperature of the game, what’s at stake, and simple hormonal imbalances, is that some opponents will try to interfere — by not moving at all, by standing near the ball, by kicking the ball away, by blocking the likely path of the kick so as to diminish the attacking team’s ability to recover from their opponent’s commission of a violation, and other tactics limited only by the inventiveness of wily soccer players trying to gain an advantage at almost any cost.
All of this is summarized briefly in the general principle that the Referee’s obligation in these cases is to allow, expect, and protect as much as possible the taking of the quick free kick. Why? Because a quick free kick (a) gets play moving again — usually a good thing, (b) restores as much as possible the condition of the harmed team prior to the offense, and (d) serves as a better deterrent to future illegal acts. The antithesis of the “quick restart” is the “ceremonial restart.” (more…)