Near the end of a hard fought 1-1 game, I whistled a handling offense by the defense just outside the penalty area. At least 2 defenders remained in position for an instant just in front of the spot of the foul, but the momentum of the ball caused it to roll 3-4 yards to the side. An alert attacker set the ball at this new position and took a quick shot at the goal as this location was not obstructed by defenders. The quick shot went wide and so I indicated a goal kick.
However, had the shot gone in I had to wonder how I would have handled this volatile situation. The defense could protest that the kick was not from the proper spot (if they were alert). Or, if I disallowed the kick certainly the offense would protest.
I think the proper procedure would have been to be alert to this quick kick tactic and whistle a second time as the ball is set in the wrong location and before a quick kick is attempted, and insist the ball be placed at the spot of the foul. Then, if the player quick kicked anyway everyone has heard the second whistle as evidence that play was not properly restarted.
Had the kick scored in the original scenario and I had not time to whistle for proper placement of the ball, I think the proper but unpopular decision would be to deny the goal and retake the kick from the proper location. In this case a few yards from the spot of the foul is VERY significant to restarting play unlike a restart near midfield.
Please advise. Thank you, this site is the best.
USSF answer (August 19, 2009):
The farther the infringement (and thus the ball) from the goal being attacked, the less the referee cares about finding the exact blade of grass on which to have the free kick taken. As the infringement moves closer to the goal, the more exact the position of the ball for the free kick should be. Although in this case the ball does not seem to have moved appreciably closer to the goal, it may have given the kicking team a better angle, so the restart should be stopped immediately, if possible. If that is not possible, then have it retaken properly — and admonish the defenders (no caution necessary) for hanging around.
If all else fails, the key is making a decision and sticking to it. Your opinion is protected in Law 5, as quoted here: “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”