I was recently an AR for a U16 boys club match. The score was 3-2 in favor of Team A when one of their defenders committed a foul inside their own penalty area. The center signaled for a Penalty Kick and everyone was pleased with the decision. The player from Team B stepped up to take the kick and the center whistled. The kicker started to run up to the ball and in the middle of his approach, he stopped completely, and then restarted towards the ball. The referee whistled (for trickery) before the ball was kicked (it did go into the net) and signaled for an indirect free kick the opposite way for Team A. Obviously fireworks went off and the game eventually ended 3-2. I have talked with different referees and assignors and there does not seem to be a general consensus on whether this was the right course of action. Some people believe that it was trickery and the correct decision was made; others believe that the player should have been cautioned but allowed to retake the kick. What is the correct course of action?

Also, this is completely unrelated to the incident but I was just wondering whether a defender (previously on the field of play) who is currently off the field of play (either over the touch line or goal line) would count as one of the last two defenders?

USSF answer (May 12, 2009):
1. We need to define terms before we start an answer. This is not “trickery” (at least under the Laws of the Game); it is a ploy and might have been legal. Only the referee can know for sure.

We offer for your reading this selection from the Interpretations and Guidelines for Referees from the Laws of the Game 2008/2009:

Feinting to take a penalty kick to confuse opponents is permitted as part of football. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the feinting is considered an act of unsporting behavior, the player must be cautioned.

And a selection from the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, Advice 14.9:

Infringements after the referee’s signal but before the ball is in play may be committed by the kicker, the goalkeeper, or by any of their teammates.  Violations of Law 14 by the kicker in particular include back heeling the ball (14.12), running past the ball and then backing up to take the kick, excessively changing directions in the run to the ball or taking an excessively long run to the ball (which, in the opinion of the referee, results in an unnecessary delay in taking the kick), or making any motion of the hand or arm which (in the opinion of the referee) is clearly intended to confuse or misdirect the attention of the ‘keeper.  In almost all such cases, the referee should let the kick proceed and deal with the violation in accordance with the chart below, which outlines the proper restarts for clear infringements of Law 14.  However, in the case of a kicker creating an unnecessary delay in taking the kick, the referee should intervene, if possible, warn the kicker to proceed properly, and signal again for the restart.

2. If the defender is off the field with the permission of the referee, his presence is not included when determining offside position. If the defender does NOT have the referee’s permission, then that player is counted, as applicable to the alignment of players.

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