What is the proper procedure for a referee to signal that it is OK for a player to take a penalty kick? The Laws of the Game say, “After the players have taken positions in accordance with this Law, the referee signals for the penalty kick to be taken,” but they don’t specify how the referee is to signal. It has always been my understanding that the referee is use his/her whistle to signal that it  is OK for a player to take the penalty kick. However, in a game earlier this month, no referee’s whistle preceded the a penalty kick. When I subsequently asked the referee, he said that a recent FIFA (or maybe US Soccer) referee advisory indicated that no whistle was required. He said that after ascertaining that all players were in the proper position, he told the player who was taking the penalty kick to proceed when he (the player) was ready. I was unaware of that rule, and I thought that the goalkeeper was somewhat taken by surprise – although it probably wouldn’t have mattered because the penalty kick was very well struck. In any event, what is the rule?

USSF answer (June 29, 2009):
Some referees like to make up their own rules as they go along. Others are quite inventive and also make up their own sources of information. Such is the case with your referee.

Here is what it says in the Laws of the Game, under Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidance for Referees (back of the book):

//snipped; not applicable here//

Use of whistle
The whistle is needed to:
* start play (1st, 2nd half), after a goal
* stop play
– for a free kick or penalty kick
– if match is suspended or abandoned
– when a period of play has ended due to the expiration of time
* restart play at
– free kicks when the wall is ordered back the appropriate distance
– penalty kicks
* restart play after it has been stopped due to:
– the issue of a yellow or red card for misconduct
– injury
– substitution

The whistle is NOT needed
* to stop play for:
– a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in
– a goal
* to restart play from
– a free kick, goal kick, corner kick, throw-in

The referee should NEVER advise a player at a restart to “Take the kick (or throw) when you are ready'”! What a can of worms that would open up.

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