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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33330

Law 13 - Free Kicks 5/9/2019

RE: Under 18

don of houston, tx usa asks...

How strict to be with opponents standing in front of the ball on a free kick restart? You mentioned your frustration with pro refs not punishing this more in my last question, and I agree. But this particular caution always gives me reservations about giving it. There is always confusion among players if you give it because they claim 'the kicker didn't ask for 10 yet'.

Obviously if the kicker is trying to set it quick and they stand in front, clear yellow. But what if the kicker is setting it slowly and the opponent is still standing only 1-2 yards away? What is the best way to approach this specific YC offense?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Don
The way to manage this is though a stepped approach.
The first player that does this, which is a coached tactic, is to step in and stop the restart unless it is a quick feee kick. Speak with the player and let him know and those around him that this tactic is not acceptable. Use whatever words you feel suits your style. Ensure the player knows that a repeat gets dealt with. I use words like ** #8 it is not your teams free kick. I do not want you running in front of the ball at free kicks. Do I make myself clear** Hopefully the player heeds the warning. The referee might hear what you have outlined or is it on the whistle. I dismiss those by a repeat of the instruction
The difficulty is if it gets repeated by another player yet more than likely it is only two players thar are designated to do this. He gets a similar warning.
Now for me I read the game and what is happening at free kicks. Many times the kicking team do not want to take the kick quickly ( they might look like it but probably not) and would rather wait for team mates to move into position. In those instances there is little need to *get involved* other than what is already stated
At the Pro level it rarely happens as the kicking team will probably want to kick it back or sideways to get play restarted retaining possession although it still does not stop players doing it through years of going in front of the ball.
As you say the easy one is the free kick where the kick has been stopped. The others ones require management and for the referee to impose *restrictions* as he sees fit.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Don,
each referee is a part of the match conditions, your character and presence plays a large part as does your position, effort, anticipation and understanding of the LOTG.

Failure to respect the distance & delay restarts . Irritating as hell. The disrespect and non adherence by players in general forced the evolution of foam use and wall mechanics seemingly making a mockery out of a VERY simple premise the defenders have no rights at a free kick situation THEY created because THEY played unfairly then think its ok to force a wall be allowed!

Occasionally a deliberate cautionable action to delay or disrupt a restart will give a defending team time to regroup behind the ball and the caution for the delay or non respect of distance might have merit as a tactical ploy to further stop the attack. Sometimes a team with possesson thnks if they prolong a restart it uses up playing time. However, other than those very rare occasion such actions serve almost a ZERO purpose other than to place that player 1 step closer to being sent off when the need for that tactical foul does truly present itself as a 2nd caution PLUS wasted time can always be added.

Where we seem to have issues is not the obvious non compliant or direct interference but in the time frame where the attackers are thinking about what to do but have not asked you to intervene and the defenders are trying to get back to cover but gradually moving slowly or at weird angles as to cut across flight paths or injuries that must be almost life threatening given the time it takes to recover as they are picking them selves off the ground

On the pregame talk I often point out that I want restarts taken with a minimum of fuss and that there are inferred consequences to be had without directly threatening to caution. Lets conduct the restarts as efficiently as possible, this means the team taking them do not waste time or the defending team delays by interfering or not withdrawing to the required distances. I inform the team that if I yell out the color of the team whose free kick it is I expect the other team to vacate immediately! In cases where it is 100% clear WHO is at fault, I do not even go that far so if I say, TEN yards! or GET a MOVE on! or BACK OFF now! it is not an intervention, but a warning and may well be the ONLY warning you will ever get! Withdraw to a MINIMUM of ten yards, 2 yards at throw ins assuming it occurs from a correct restart point? Thus no more running down the touchlines creeping forward. Unless you HEAR a referee say NO restart an see that referee signal that there will be NO restart consider it a go for restart at anytime.

We are told not to interfere but let the players decide upon their own course of action. If there is any right the defenders have it is NOT to be lead astray by a referee intervening in a way that they think a wall is being allowed because he is orchestrating the free kick. It is why once the attacking team has approached us to say we want you to ensure our free kick is managed. However, UNTIL you as the referee have signaled, holding the whistle aloft, pointing at it with his free hand, saying loudly & repeatedly, NO restart occurs until I blow this!" Getting eye contact & responsive head nod from the guy sitting over the ball if not the acceptance of everyone within earshot. NOW we can all relax including the defenders because nothing is going to occur until the referee is ready and blows that whistle. Any action inside this time frame is strictly punished only as misconduct. Now we are to actually punish attackers for being too close to the wall itself as it is being set as a problem that likely NEVER should have occurred at all if the restart was not delayed or interrupted on such a regular basis? Players tactical theatrics are in direct response to how the LOTG are enacted.

Here is a favorite of mine attackers have a free kick about thirty yards out, defenders close, by Kicker yells, Ref ! Ref looks over player mouths quietly "Can I go?" Referee shakes his head says yes and backs away as they kick the ball into the goal. Defenders are ballistic claiming the moment the attacker said REF it was a a ceremonial free kick . I defy anyone to find that in the LOTG? Until the referee signals says it is not the restart was ALWAYS a go!

Same thing attackers are more in the middle about 35 yards out an attacking player on the right side of the ball says plaintively REF! pointing to the defenders lollygagging nearby but the attacker over the ball choose that moment to take a kick off to the left to a free teammate . The original player who said REF, was upset that the referee did not card the defenders that were to close, not accepting his teammate's pass off to another as a credible advantage given the keeper scooped the cross a few seconds later. He too held the opinion that because he said Ref and pointed to the two nearby defenders that we should go back and set it up as a ceremonial wall. Again the fact that he was ABOUT to ask the referee to intervene does not undo that the referee had NOT yet intervened when his teammate chose to restart, thus no going back. He eventually received a caution for his dissent. I defy anyone to find that in the LOTG? Until the referee signals & says it is not the restart was ALWAYS a go!

Foul, defender drags down the almost free one on one attacker, recovering defenders making their way back the kicker drew back his foot to play the ball forward. A defender who was up field changed his pace and jogged in from behind and left to take away that passing lane with his back now to the restart point claiming he was just trying to get in behind the ball and withdraw 10 yards never mind he was 16 yards away from the point of the foul to begin with and then used all that time to travel 20 yards back to be 4 yds in front so as to be in the way. He objected to the yellow card caution but it was 100% clear what his impact was as the kicker stopped dead. In other similar cases such a move might invite ball contact again caution given for what they did and its effect on play

We can ignore the need to stop restart & caution if the kicker places the ball and it gets to where he was trying to get it to go, even if the opposition are less than cooperative given it has no serious impact. In cases where the kicker deliberately redirects a ball at a retreating defending player, moving away, even if somewhat slowly we likely allow play on and the kicker is lucky it was not a hard blast into his head or groin as an attacking action designed to hurt or injure . When slow moving retreating defenders suddenly move quickly towards or change drastically their sideways motion to block an attempted kick into the area where the kick is headed thinking their proximity allows them to cut the angle most often this is cautionable. It is not a reaction to a ball hit close by where once the ball flight is predetermined, kicked and in play they can pursue it despite being closer than the ten yards.

I recall an international game quite a while back Canadian U-20 woman playing Brazil 2007 I think Marta was a young spitfire and our queen Sinclair battled hard in a very grubby match where I held the referee in charge as utterly terrible in managing the match. EVERY single restart was a bloody long winded disaster to the point where the referee was actually screaming at the players. It was to say a most embarrassing exhibition. The only redeeming aspect of that pathetically officiated match was offered up at the very next international match because it showed at least someone learned something from the debacle!

The VERY first incident of a restart where the distance was disrespected , boom, caution yellow card. The very first delay of a restart that 1st ball kicked away, boom, caution out comes the yellow card guess what? At the restarts for the rest of that match the defending players literally ran away as fast as they could because it was made painfully obvious this referee was enforcing that particular aspect of the LOTG. Players are not especially bright but neither are they painfully stupid they will take any & everything a referee allows.

No matter your opinion or approach on cautions for restart delays or non respect of distance, pay attention to the attitudes and mannerisms of those you are officiating. If you are constantly irritated, if the players are also constantly irritated then you are doing something wrong. If you are only occasionally at odds you can agree to disagree but if they can RELY on you to perform with integrity and equality you will find they will listen and respect whatever decisions you choose to make.

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