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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33496

Law 13 - Free Kicks 7/1/2019

RE: Adult

Andrew of Sydney, NSW Australia asks...

My question relates to when a free kick is taken and all opponents must remain at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball, unless they are on their own goal line between the goalposts. When does the the referee need to 'step out' the 10 yards? For example can the referee stop a a player from taking a free kick quickly to set a ceremonial wall/ wall management? Must a team ask for a delay in taking a free kick because they want the minimum distance rule or does the referee have the right to stop a free kick from being taken quickly so that all opponents must remain at least 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Andrew,
The referee is almost never absolutely compelled to step out the ten yards however they can always choose to do so, any time they feel it necessary. There are some situations where a kick cannot be allowed to be taken quickly, such as when the referee has started to issue disciplinary sanctions, an injury has occurred or a substitution is being carried out. In these situations (or any other time the referee chooses to do this for 'game management' purposes) the kick becomes what is known as a ceremonial or managed free kick. Usually (but not always) this involves the referee pacing off the ten yards, especially when 'vanishing spray' is being used.

If the referee does choose to manage the free kick in this way, then they must indicate clearly to both teams that the kick is to be 'on the whistle.' Once they have so indicated then that is indeed an instruction to the kicker not to take the kick until everybody is ready and the referee blows the whistle.

Neither is there any requirement for the kicking team to ask for the distance though a referee can (and often will) ask them if they want to have it enforced. There seems to be a myth that the attacking team has to ask for the 10 yards - they don't. The defending team has the responsibility to retire to the required distance and if they don't do this, the referee should take steps to ensure compliance. Now, if the referee asks, and the attacking team replies that they want the opponents back ten yards, and the referee has clearly indicated this is going to be the case, they can't then go ahead and take it quickly.

It is relatively common for free kicks to be 'ceremonial' when they are within striking distance of the opponents' goal, but they don't absolutely have to be. I have heard some referees say that they feel any kick near the opponents' penalty area must be made ceremonial but I don't agree with that philosophy. For me, the kicking team always have the right to take a quick free kick until and unless the referee tells them differently.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Andrew,
each referee has their own idea of what constitutes a NEED to do anything. The optimal word in free kick is (free), which allows the offended team to get on with it should they wish to as long as they follow a correct restart procedure. Recently FIFA created a new law preventing attackers from forming part of the wall, they must be a meter away otherwise they can be in trouble. Tactically it behooves them to set a wall at nine yards to assist the referee ensuring ten yards by the defenders. Are you aware the LOTG state 10 yards is the (minimum) distance theoretically you could set a wall at 11, 12, 15 yards if you stride it out because there is no set maximum?

Generally the need to show a card, an INDFK closer than 10 yards inside the PA or an actual request by the aggrieved team any of these set up the free kick conditions to be ceremonial in nature. Referees intervening need to get eye contact, whistle above the head being pointed too ,with firm DO NOT GO commands until I blow this! Get a nod of yes, they understand, before backing away and setting the wall .

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Andrew
Generally once a referee gets involved in a free kick in the scoring zone it can be a good idea to make the restart ceremonial. If a referee gets to the location of the free kick with everything in place for the kick and the team want to get on with play with no involvement by the referee then he should allow that. The team though must accept the outcome of the kick should it hit an opponent who is no 10 yards away.
If the kicking team want to request the distance to be enforced then the referee should accede to that request and make it ceremonial.
I guess the test is whether the free kick in the attacking third are managed properly in that there is little if any complaint for both teams. I would say that most teams want to go the ceremonial route so it is rarely a concern for the referee.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Andrew,
Thanks for asking - this is an aspect of law often misunderstood by players and referees.

First off, the attacking team has the right to a quick free kick. Anywhere on the field. Some referees will tell you not to allow a free kick around the PA because it causes too many arguments - that's just wrong; referees shouldn't be denying attacks just to make the afternoon easier for themselves.

However, there are some instances where the whistle is required for a restart when there has been an injury, substitution or a card.
Outside of that though, if you need to get involved, then this is changing a free kick around the PA to 'ceremonial'. That is - if you need to talk to players before the kick, that sort of thing.

We can make some assumptions. If for instance the ball is going to take some time to come back to the spot of the free kick, then it's ceremonial. You can often tell if the players are considering taking it quickly or not - if it's quick, don't forget it needs to be on the right spot and not moving (though if they take it quick and it just goes out anyway........). If the ball is at the location before you are, consider giving them a moment or two to see what they're thinking of doing. If a quick one is not apparent, jog in and ask if they want the wall.

If you're nearby, you can ask the attacking team if they want you to set up the wall. They'll almost always say yes. If they say not, back out of there quickly. Once you start walking the wall back, you've interfered and it's ceremonial - so communicate the need to wait for the whistle before moving to where the wall should be.

This all becomes less critical in the midfield - usually you can manage 10 yards from some distance simply using your voice, and there's no need to make it ceremonial.

When you are setting up a ceremonial FK outside the PA, hold your whistle up high, point to it and tell them to wait for the whistle before marking out the wall. It seems silly, but believe me - it makes a big difference in how often they kick early.

Another myth is defenders arguing that they don't have to be 10 yards unless you've moved them or the other team asked for it - that's wrong; a defender rushing up to block the kick is committing an offence. As to how to manage those is a whole other issue, but you can certainly book a defender for not respecting the required distance when there has been no conversation about 10 yards.

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