Recently a story was related to me about a dispute between a referee and a coach who felt victimized by a referee’s interpretation of law 8. The official allowed a kick-off, according to the coach, even though the side restarting play had a player run well into the opponent’s end of the field between the time the ref blew his whistle and the the time the kick was taken. That player eventually scored a crucial goal.
The official purportedly acknowledged this and justified his non-call for a re-take of the kick-off on the basis that there’s no law saying the player crossing into his opponent’s end had to wait for the ball to be put in play. In checking law 8, I read that the kick-off procedure is:
* all players are in their own half of the field
* the opponents of the team taking the kick-off are at least 10 yds. from the ball until it is in play
* the ball is stationary on the center mark
* the referee gives a signal
* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves forward
While the law seems to suggest that players STAY in their own half of the field until the ball is put in play, it in fact doesn’t state that. However, if players are allowed (as referees sometimes appear to allow them) to run significant paces ahead of any initial play on the ball after the whistle to begin play is blown, is that what the law was meant to allow? I see nothing in the “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” or elsewhere for the guidance I am requesting from you.
USSF answer (May 3, 2007):
Yes, ALL players are expected to remain in their own half of the field until the ball is in play. Being in play means that the ball has been kicked and moved forward. That forward motion may be only slight, but it must occur. That’s the Law.
Custom seems to be a bit more laissez faire, with the player who is to receive the kick-off normally a step or two into the other team’s half. Despite being counter to the Law, this is accepted practice throughout the world.
Occasionally one will see other players immediately flying down the field at the moment the referee gives a signal (usually the whistle) and the kicker approaches the ball. While this is done, it is counter to the Law and is NOT accepted practice. Lazy referees will not punish it. Intelligent referees will.