I saw the Chelsea v Blackburn semi-final game on television today and it appeared that on one free kick Pedersen teed up the ball by putting a divot into the field with his heel. On a later free kick his teammate appeared to be pushing down the grass around the ball with his hands prior to the kick. Are these “modifications” to the field cautionable per Advice to Referees 1.6 or are these types of teeing up the ball allowable? Also, I continue to see professional referees at the highest levels in Europe pacing off the 10 yards for a free kick. Do my eyes deceive me or has that practice been universally adopted?
USSF answer (April 16, 2007):
The practice of making divots or otherwise rearranging the field has always been considered to be unsporting behavior (or its linguistic predecessors). Nevertheless, it continues and is only rarely punished by referees.
As to pacing off the distance for free kicks, we cannot really comment on the practices of foreign referees, but that is sometimes a useful tool in slowing things down and proactively calming the players. Doing this should be kept in reserve for unusual circumstances.