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Question Number: 34195

Law 13 - Free Kicks 4/12/2021

RE: Comp Under 19

Stephen of Sydney, NSW Australia asks...

Free kicks: I was recently told by another referee that a defending team has the right to call for a wall if a free is to be taken from within shooting range of the goal. That is, the attacking team cannot take a quick free kick if a defender asks the referee to set a wall. Is this a LOTG?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Stephen,
No, this is not part of the laws of the game. After a free kick is awarded, is entirely up to the referee to decide if they will allow a quick free kick or make the kick 'ceremonial.' The defending team has no say in this.

I'm not sure where your referee colleague is getting this idea but they are mistaken.

The attacking team has a kind of role in this, insofar as a referee can (and often does) ask them whether they want a quick free kick or not. If they decline the offer of a QFK then they are in effect, choosing a scenario where a wall will be formed.

However the referee does not need to (and in my opinion shouldn't) take any input from the defending team.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Stephen
Your colleague is mistaken. The conceding team has no rights or say in what the kicking team can do at a free kick.
The advice is that once a referee intervenes at a free kick to say caution / speak with a player or that 10 yards needs to be enforced then the free kick becomes ceremonial and it is then on the whistle.
Over the past years defending teams have in most instances ensured through placing themselves in front of the ball that referees have ended up making most of these free kicks ceremonial. That is not an ask yet rather opponents taking advantage of these situations rather than retreating the 10 yards.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Stephen,

I will say part of any confusion by referees MIGHT be in the guidelines where it states when the whistle should be used to start or restart play. The LOTG does say to restart play for a free-kick when the appropriate distance is required with a whistle, EVEN as it chastizes us that a whistle that is used too frequently/unnecessarily will have less impact when it is needed.

Utter bollocks! You have been listening to a wonky referee, too crook from the sun, dispensing bad advice! The defending team has absolutely no right except to withdraw 10 yds as prescribed by LOTG.

I believe the appropriate distance clause is directly linked to the ceremonial decisions but in these cases, a whistle signal SHOULD be used to restart play for ceremonial free kicks, penalty kicks, after showing a card be it a caution or sending-off, after an injury or substitution.
Almost in the same breath, LOTG gives us the thumbs up to not whistle restarting play from most free kicks, (as in a quickly taken free-kick) and a goal kick, corner kick, throw-in, or a drop ball. While I agree most restarts do not require a whistle in obvious situations I should point out that corner kicks have a greater degree of player disruptions so a whistled restart in most corners is not a bad idea. The whistle is suggested but it is NOT a guarantee where failure to use it is grounds for appeal or protest. The whistle is only recommended as a tool to avoid confusion.

What a referee SHOULD be aware of is NOT to interject themselves into the restart by actions or verbal commands that confuse the defenders as if you were going to make it a ceremonial free-kick. The fact (the defenders) want one is too bloody bad. Even if technically you made no obvious error be wary of acting in a manner that suggests a ceremonial restart. The attackers could request 10 yards if they wish to use a setup they may have worked in a dead ball situation. Then too, the attackers could be frustrated by your inaction in not punishing the defenders gathered about the restart point all of the time. Where we as officials inadvertently get tangled up is when we say or do things that lean to ceremonial, if you blow the whistle before the defenders are ready they will hold you responsible just as they might be upset at you not restarting with a whistle, to begin with. . You go ahead and allow a restart after you have followed in and talked when the kicker suddenly asks "Can I go?" while you are arguing with a defender in the wall. If the referee has not specifically stated NO, we are waiting for a whistle, then, in theory, game on. You could blow to signal the restart without ascertaining the defenders were expecting it. Even if technically you might have done nothing wrong match control could be that much harder if your action confused or distracted the players from their duties.

In practice, if the referee wants the player(s) to wait for the whistle before restarting play (e.g. when ensuring that defending players are 9.15m (10 yd) from the ball at a free kick) the referee must clearly inform the attacking player(s) to wait for the whistle.

Hold that whistle up for all to see & point to it, looking into the eyes of the player taking the restart stating, 'WAIT for the whistle!!" getting a yes or nod they understand and then continue with the wall or player placement.
My advice to ALL defenders is NEVER assuming the play is stopped UNLESS the referee has SPECIFICALLY stated that in fact, it will not continue until a whistle sounds!

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