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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 29943

Law 8 - Start and Restart of Play 11/23/2015

RE: Rec Under 17

Laura of :), VA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 29941

In my last question I explained how I'd gotten my first yellow card for standing in font of the ball during a free-kick. Thank you so much for the answers! I was just very confused by the ref because his reasoning for why the opposing team had been able to kick without a whistle previously was because the player hadn't asked for 10 yards, which would have made a whistle needed (that's what he said!). The way he said it sounded to me like she had to ask for 10 yards to get them and that me immediately standing 10 yards back was just a courtesy thing. In the first free-kick, I had my back turned and was counting the 10 steps for a wall, only about five away at the time. We've never had someone take a free kick and have it allowed without a whistle. Also the credibility of the ref went way down after there were at least 8 uncalled handballs throughout the game and quite a few other things. I understand the call now. But I still really don't think a card was needed. Does the rule say 'If this happens, give the player a card' or something? I've never even gotten a warning before for anything. I don't remember the last foul I committed other than a high kick (once). I just think a lot more things in that game were card worthy than what I did. One girl got slide-tacked from behind twice, on goal scoring opportunities with no call.
The initial foul that the free-kick was for was for not playing the ball but the girl had her arm around me and literally dragged me into her and to the ground. I actually thought the foul was being called against her! No one was hurt. I was actually the only one that went to ground. I probably sound like I'm just complaining now and I know refs hate that but I just want to make it clear where I'm coming from. I've never been a rule breaker or one to talk back to the ref. I thought he was coming over to be ready to tell me to move back if the kick-taker asked for 10 yards. I was in pure shock when I was shown a card! I had no idea what it was even for. Thank you for telling me I guess. It defo won't happen again. I just can't believe it was card worthy. A simple warning would have scared me enough. I was clearly dumbfounded by the call even before the card was fully out and even the other team looked mildly surprised. I just really think he should have at least given me a warning first. I'm sitting here, shaking while I type this at the memory. His tone was so rough and brutal. I thought he was gonna give me a red for my jaw dropping or something when he reached for his scorebook to get my jersey number.
So I guess my real question is, did it have to be a card or was it just what that ref decided on the spot? And what would you have done, taking into account what I was told by say, your assistant ref after the first freekick? Thank you so much for answering my questions! I'd like to do everything possible to avoid a card in the future!
Also, if you wanted to make a video of a ref showing cards to the camera to maybe numb the pain and maybe anger of people receiving them, that'd be great (hint hint). Might make less people blow up at you. I kinda involuntarily cried for the rest of the game which did not make for very good breathing :/

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Laura
Most cards are discretionary and the referee decided on the spot that a card was appropriate in circumstances. I suspect that the muddle involving the opponent was the prompt for the card. Put it this way. Had the tangle not happened with the opponent a card was less likely and that may have swayed the referee in dealing with the matter in the way that he did. As described by you the kicker could also have been cautioned IMO yet it may not have looked like that to the referee.
As to the tone, the referee will have seen two players wrestle each other to the ground. Without knowing the participants that type of behaviour can and does escalate into something more. Referees don't like confrontation between players and when these type of incidents happen referees go into stern mood. Mix in the restart mush immediately after the foul and it is easy to see a card coming out. In a schools game today I spoke sternly to two players for their rough behaviour after the ball was gone. It spoke to the need to let the players know that I was not going to tolerate afters. I could if I so wished cautioned the players yet I chose not to.
Also the showing of the card is also for the knowledge of other players and those observing plus stern words also sends out a signal. The card is saying that this behaviour is not acceptable and it will not be tolerated. In this instance the referee IMO could not allow two players in wrestle mode at a restart to go un-sanctioned. Perhaps bringing the players aside for a public stern warning may have sufficed and from your comments I believe that it would have. Referees don't have that benefit in a game situation and the easy way to deal with it is a card. The referee probably said to himself afterwards that the caution had the desired effect in that there were no further incidents to deal with.
So lets be clear about this. Most free kicks happen without the whistle. Does anyone ask for a whistle say on a defensive offside free kick. So why should it be different elsewhere. If a team wants to take a QFK then so be it. If the team wants the referee to intervene or the referee believes that it is best to manage the free kick then that makes it ceremonial which then makes it on the whistle. Unfortunately poor advice, myths etc along with the coached tactic of running in front of the ball in attacking positions has made referees insist that many free kicks become ceremonial and then on the whistle. In the same schools game a free kick was taken by the attacking team while the goalkeeper was busy organising team mates. He is then none too happy when the kick is taken and the ball sails wide. I tell him that it was NOT on the whistle and it was up to the kicking team to take the free kick as I was not involved in setting up the free kick. He immediately figured out that he got it wrong. Not sure what his reaction would have been had a legitimate goal been scored.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Laura,

This is one area of the laws where there's a lot of different ideas floating around. Unfortunately, even some referees are out there doing the wrong thing. And when your coach is telling you to break the laws (though he may not even be aware it's illegal), and the previous referee who disallowed your goal seemed to support your coach's approach...well, I can't blame you for being confused!

If the attacking team asks the referee to set the wall up, or move the defender's back, then that makes it ceremonial (on the whistle). When this doesn't happen, they can take it quickly unless the referee needs to intervene - but as the defender, you still are required to make a reasonable effort to move back.

As for the card, The laws state 'A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he/she commits any of the following seven offences:......... Failing to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner kick, free kick or a throw in'.

Beyond that, yes, it is the referee's judgement - and often you won't see it penalised. But when a player has clearly moved towards the ball for the purpose of blocking the kick, this is a very blatant offence. Players shouldn't need to always be warned before being booked - otherwise players will think they get one unbooked offence each game! So the referee will look to see if it was blatant, and if it was likely to have an impact. If you run up to the ball but they weren't even thinking about getting ready, or it's going to be a ceremonial kick, then you may get by with a warning. If there may have been a quick kick, it's an easy card. It's a blatant offence. Look at it this way - by blocking the kick, you're preventing them from making use of the quick kick (say, when the defence is unorganised). This is stopping them from potentially attacking - it's just as bad as holding back somebody who has a clear breakaway. I hope that helps you understand why you were cautioned for this one. As for the 'no warning' - really, it is the responsibility of the players to know the laws. But that's also why the caution itself doesn't impact upon the game - it's simply a warning to you. You took that opportunity to change your actions that game, and to research the laws. I wish there were more players like you!

As for the handling offences that weren't called, the offence is 'deliberately handles the ball'. If the handling is completely accidental, then no offence has occurred. It doesn't matter if it's accidental and the ball drops to that player's feet and they score - accidental means no foul. The referee will take into consideration the position of the arms (eg were they in a natural position, given what the player was doing?), the skill level, whether they had visibility of the ball or had the chance to react, whether it was purely a self-protective reflex, and so forth. You'll hear about 'ball to hand' meaning no foul, but 'hand to ball' means a foul - that's a loose rule of thumb, but it isn't that simple. The majority of handling events in any game are accidental and shouldn't be called. But yes, different referees will have different tolerance levels.

I can't say if the decisions were right or not but at least that may give you some information. Don't stress too much over it. It was just a yellow card, it's not saying you're a bad player, but for that sort of blatant offence it was justifiable. Some referees will be more likely to give a warning than others, especially given the age you play at (and I don't know much about the skill / knowledge level of those games), and I'll leave you to ponder the information we've provided in deciding whether it was the best decision or not. But it sounds like it was at least justifiable. I can't say 100% what I would have done - if you ran up to the ball but they weren't even thinking about taking the kick, then maybe I would have warned you. If you ran up to the ball as they wanted to take the kick and you prevented that, then the referee really had no choice but to caution you (after all, he couldn't order a retake under the laws unless an offence had been committed, and if an offence was committed, where's the card?).

And for what it's worth, I was generally a clean player myself, and there's been a few occasions where I'm still trying to figure out why I was cautioned! It happens, it's part of the game. You've learned something from, so take that out of the whole experience and put the rest of the experience in the past where it belongs so you can keep enjoying your soccer.

So don't worry about it. I'm glad you've found the site helpful, and please post again if you have any more concerns in the future or if there's anything else around this you're unsure about.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Laura,
In my opinion , a smart referee does not actually hate complaining or low level grumblings , in fact much information is obtained by selective listening. It is part of managing a match to not discount what is going on that you might have missed or be unaware of. It is the prolonged, personalized unreasonable public dissent that irks us, not the immediate emotional reaction to a blown call or a missed offside or a card coming at you from seemingly out of no where.

In my opinion, complaining is much different than seeking out information to avoid mistakes, which is what I hope you are writing to us for? Feeling upset or bad about perceived punishment is unnecessary, just relax, it is a game, it is supposed to be fun. You are not an evil witch just because you did something wrong by not being aware of the consequences nor is the referee a nasty ogre for his response . This is what life offers, a path along a journey where wisdom is gleaned from your own experiences and by accumulating, if at times occasionally enduring, the experiences of others.

Every referee, just as every player or coach starts and is on the journey of understanding, somewhere along the curve of experience. If the referee was a harsh taskmaster, your perception that he was unkind, it is on him if he was. We are all responsible for how we act and respond to one another, perhaps he was thinking it was you, being blatantly disrespectful, unaware you were innocent of subterfuge? Be wary of thinking you know the heart and mindset of another. Perception of the actions of another, that finger of blame is a fickle master. Your description of blatant handling being missed has me concerned! Are you aware that over 70 % of DH are in fact accidental in nature and often incorrectly awarded as free kicks?? It is the single most incorrectly made call in soccer ! You seem to be using the referee's failings as an excuse for your own? I remind you he is no more aware of your past experience's than you are of his!

Your use of the words... Rough and Brutal... and the fact you were upset and in fact still concerned even after the incident shows a very sensitive nature. Not to make light of your feelings but your reaction is in my opinion a tad excessive to a simple caution and looking through a very unbalanced mirror of the world! Firm and no nonsense, is not brutal or foreboding, but you paint a very grim picture of a referee trying to do his job even if you hold the opinion he does so poorly! Please do not misunderstand, you are certainly entitled to an opinion and no one can tell you how or what you feel but in my journey on this planet I have experienced rough and brutal but rarely on a soccer pitch from a referee showing a card for a blatant lapse of judgement!

You are now aware thanks in part to a single incident that made you question many of the experiences you had until that point. You were unprepared for the consequences because others had provided misleading or confusing answers to previous incidents. You can no longer use that as an excuse . Accepting responsibility for actions is not a crime nor is forgiveness for your self or another's mistakes made with no malice intended. No referee is perfect but respect for the position is a must, even if the respect for the person is suspect!

It is important to grasp the emotive state of players and the competitive needs of those in a match or even watching in support are much different than a referee who is supposed to be a neutral observer. I often point out there are 4 very different points of views from which the game is looked at.

A parent or spectator see what they think they see.
A player sees what they feel they see
A coach sees what he wants to see
A referee with integrity sees what he sees

The ability to be consistent has more to do with a referee managing a single match than thinking all referees are equal in knowledge and application of the LOTG. You will get a wide assortment of characters at the centre circle, stern silent types, talkative, funny, compassionate, all might be different but all show effort and use reasonable communication to manage a game in a safe fun manner to the best of their abilities. You will on occasion see the extreme as a mini Hitler who is so by the book with a stick up the butt where throw ins are repeated and bad breath is cautionable or a jovial buffoon sitting at centre circle making calls from 50 yds away with no idea of the irritation or concern they create in players. I teach players that the referee is a MATCH condition much like the weather or pitch surface, sunny or rainy, slippery or dry, hard or soft you adapt and play through the obstacles presented.

You ask DID it HAVE to be a card? Given the referee chose to do so in that match? Yes, your actions were in complete defiance of the LOTG in a very easy to see and understandable situation. I remind you again the referee has NO previous knowledge of your mindset or reasoning or lack of understanding of your actions. You are 15 or 16 not 8 or 9 where a word might be said, instead of a card shown. I hold the opinion by u12, playing 11 aside, the LOTG apply and cards are included. Yes many cards are discretionary, depending on the situation or circumstances each of us will determine if they are required as there are consequences to actions.

Your actions, in getting up close and personal to delay the restart are much different than the fast moving collision/foul in a blink of an eye, looked at from a single of point of view. Where the referee had to make a judgement to stop play based on what he has seen! The referee saw you deliberately perform a blatant act against the LOTG and acted accordingly. The fact he did or did not make other calls to your liking is not the issue. There is no justification, you were presented by that referee, to what I refer to as a ...TEXT... book example to send a ...CLEAR... message to both teams, that there will be zero tolerance to disrupting free kicks in that match. I asked you if ...ANY... other player was cautioned for the ...SAME... thing you did in that match? I was leaning to the idea that no one else was! Why? Because you provided the example required so it would not.

I encourage you to play fair, have fun and to question everything as a matter of understanding the world around you but I also suggest to avoid blame and look to fix things, find solutions and forgive yourself and others for not being perfect!

As part of my coaching methodology, usually because I coach the travel or select teams, I encourage all players to take the referee course and referee within the local leagues to be part of the team. The view from the middle is much different than any other!
Your story of turning your back and pacing the distance is a terrible tactic. First you DO NOT turn your back to ongoing play, rarely if ever and the game is always a go even when the ball is not in play, in fact perhaps focus at this time is even of greater importance not to get caught out!. I can warn you that pacing the distance could be likely noted as disrespectful, if not challenged by the referee. I includes a portion of the LOTG that explain your duties and offered a pregame chat example that helps correct unclear thinking patterns by players willing to ask a question or two should you ever take up the whistle or provide guidance to another.

'If a player decides to take a free kick quickly and an opponent who is near the
ball deliberately prevents him taking the kick, the referee must caution the
player for delaying the restart of play.'

A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the
following offences:
• delaying the restart of play
• failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner
kick, free kick or throw-in

Free kick outside the penalty area
• all opponents must be at least 9.15 m (10 yds.) from the ball until it is in play
• the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves
• the free kick is taken from the place where the infringement occurred or from the position of the ball when the infringement occurred (according to the infringement)Infringements and sanctions
If, when a free kick is taken, an opponent is closer to the ball than the required
• the kick is retaken

Pregame team chat If I was your CR I could have prepared you in the pregame with a short introduction when we (the officials) check equipment and id cards, roster, etc..
I start with,
Hi we are fair not perfect! My ARs are 1oo% off limits to ANY abuse or hassles. You bring any concerns directly to me! If you are respectful and there is time I will do what I can to respond but I will not debate or argue.
Any Questions?
Substitutions two at a time at the midline before the stoppage on your possession or at my discretion. Raise your hand when going off. I will wave in the replacements. HUSTLE Coaches you stay within the technical areas
Any Questions?
Offside Play the whistle! The flag is only for me. Putting up a hand asking to go to the washroom is not going to cut it!
Any Questions?
Free kicks & throw ins optimal word is FREE '1o yards NOW' is a phrase I might yell out but beware I am very anal about respecting distance and delaying restarts 2 yds. is for throw ins INDFK closer than ten yds. remember you can all be on the goal line under the crossbar and between the posts Keepers lets get the ball in play quickly no dawdling Advantage do you all understand it? special bylaws mentioned etc..
Any Questions?
We hope you all have a good game, play fair we will do our best to keep you safe! Is there Anything you would like me to go over or ask me before we begin? Thank you1

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol


You probably didn't realize that what you were doing was wrong, because you see it so often without there being any consequences. In fact in some cultures, it is expected that a player will stand in front of the ball to force a ceremonial restart after the defenders get themselves into position. That is blatantly wrong, but the myth persists that you must 'ask for 10'. It also doesn't help that pros and national team players do it all the time without getting carded. But at that level, the refs are expected to carefully consider the use of cards, ration them if you will, because people are paying to see the stars play, not get sent off for two cautions.

Still, this was a teaching moment for you. I remember giving a yellow card to a player a few years younger than you who totally was not expecting it, for delaying a restart. The other team was getting bothered because they were behind and wanted to go quickly, and the girl prevented that. I gave the caution and she was fairly shocked. As luck (or fate) would have it, I saw the team again the next weekend and was able to explain my thinking to them about pacifying the other team. I ended with, 'And I knew you weren't going to get another caution, so you weren't going to get sent off.'

It's better that players learn about inappropriate behavior at levels where they can benefit from the learning. These kind of things should really come up at U12 or U14, so the players don't get blindsided when the Law gets enforced at an older age. Unfortunately there's also all too many referees who watch it happen on TV and the pro refs do nothing, so they don't apply it in the youth leagues.

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Answer provided by Referee MrRef

Hi Laura,
a referee with integrity is a neutral official who reacts to what you choose to do! He can not read minds, he acts upon his instincts, knowledge and understanding of the LOTG and bases a decision on what he sees you do. He is not privy to your version of events either previous or ongoing perceptions nor are his values or perceptions for why or how he arrives at a decision available to us.

Your question which has legitimate value, does unfortunately seems to infer an injustice was done to you when in it was your actions that were wrong? The fact others might have fed you some bad intelligence or your not knowing the LOTG does not excuse cardable behaviour, although perhaps it could help explain it!

A referee is taught to judge the actions not the intentions of players. No referee is perfect and their decisions are perplexing at times but it seems unnecessary to suggest his integrity is compromised because you are upset over a decision he had every right to give!
Your broad assertions how free kicks are managed with words like ( never ) of the referee missing fouls and failing to see other calls from your point of view does not truly reflect the fair play status you claim to hold dear ...

The fact is cards serve a purpose! Whether the one you received could have had company for other things is something that referee will have to deal with in his own version of post match review. Although I grasp why you are upset and your confusion, I truly dislike the summary attitude you infer over being carded. A referee shows a card to a player for an action the player chose to undertake not as a personal dislike or reflection of their character. Redirecting anger at the referee should not be the #1 concern if you are shown a card or sent off but rather a sense of shame and some rethinking of your responsibilities and your accountability, is in my opinion, more appropriate, most of the time!

If you play soccer, even if you are trying to be honourable and play fair, there will be the odd injustice done to you and by you, even if accidental! A referee, by the very nature of his duties on the FOP is constantly forced into making decisions, not of which, everyone will be right, or satisfy the perceptions of another. My suggestion, file this under lesson learned, forgive, but do not forget!

The referees here on the panel appreciate the opportunity to help you understand the LOTG! You will have to go far and wide across the lands to find a better group to help you glean the passion, understanding and value of the beautiful game. You may think my efforts to do so seem harsh, but I can assure you a sense of injustice or a sense of justice both are arrived at from the perspective of a 3 sided coin. The truth you know, the truth you do not know, and the process of combining both truths. We value the fact you chose us to ask your question. I hope you value the effort those here volunteering of their time choose to give back! I hope you feel welcome and realize all our efforts here are directed to educating and creating the awareness of fair play, respect and integrity applies across the game to all its constituents. We are here to help all who ask for understanding to the best of our abilities but not necessarily to agree with everything you say. I choose to value your attempts to convey your feelings as heart felt rather than cynical aspersions cast at the match referee. The fact that you sought out answers is commendable. We encourage all to feel comfortable and not to leave with another negative refereeing experience, but we are remiss if we do not point out the value of an honest reply.

From our pitch to your pitch in the spirit of fair play

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