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Question Number: 34205

Law 13 - Free Kicks 4/25/2021

RE: Competitive Under 18

Lucas S of Rocklin, California United States asks...

Hi refs,
So today my team had a game against the rival club from our area. It was 0-0 until about the middle of the second half when the opposing team got a foul right outside the 18 yard box. My team thought it was very soft (possibly a flop), so some of us (standing between the ball and the goal) were asking the ref about the call. While talking to the ref, the opposing teams’ player took the kick quickly while nobody was looking and scored. Most of us were extremely confused that the ref did not call it back as we are used to waiting for the whistle when a free kick is so close to the box and while the ref is explaining something. I don’t have the video yet for context, but I’m just curious on your thoughts. Should the goal have been allowed? Thanks!

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Lucas
Thanks for the question.
The advice to referees at the end of the Laws of the Game says that a signal is required to
** restart a game for:
# free kicks when the appropriate distance is required
# penalty kicks
Restart play after it has been stopped for a:
# caution or sending-off
# injury
# substitution**
It also says
** 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.**

It is ONLY advice in the case of a free kick and it is not part of the Laws. There are only three situation where a signal / whistle is part of the Laws which is to start the game at a kick off, to stop the game and to signal for a penalty kick to be taken. A signal / whistle is not required at any other time although advised when it is good practise to do so.
As none of the above was required in your situation then the goal was good.
A common misconception is that at a free kick in a scoring position the restart is on the whistle. That is incorrect. A whistle is only advised when a referee has intervened to take control of the restart to begin to move players back the required distance. In those instances the referee tells the kicking team that it is on the whistle with some referees even pointing to the whistle. The referee may also advise the defending team that it is on the whistle and to start to move back players. That is what is called a "ceremonial" restart.
In this instance the kicking team decided that it did not need the 10 yards and had the kicker missed or hit an opponent the outcome would have to be accepted.
In your situation I would suspect that the referee did not intervene to make the kick ceremonial or explain anything yet rather the defending team was questioning the call.

Have a look at this video
Lille protested the goal and threatened to walk off at the time. They did finish out the game and protested the decision to UEFA. This is what UEFA said at the time
"Having examined the official referee's report, the television evidence at hand as well as the Laws of the Game, the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body decided to reject the protest, as there was no proof of a technical error. As a result, the body declared that the goal was perfectly valid. Furthermore, the Control and Disciplinary Body decided to instigate proceedings against Lille for the improper behaviour of their players immediately after the goal."

Now what has happened over the years is that many referees decided that it is not worth the hassle of players being "extremely confused" to use your term which results in dissent and protest so referees make most of the scoring kicks ceremonial which in my opinion can favour the team that committed the offence which should not be the case
In respect of the whistle not being used have a look at this video
There was both a caution and a substitution in that scenario
The kick was taken a split second before the signal and the referee decided that as everything was in place that he was entitled to allow the goal. The captain protested the decision after getting a caution for the original foul and he was sent off.
Probably a peep of the whistle a millisecond before the kick would have prevented all the furore that went on afterwards. As the referee did not make a technical error there was no hope of a protest and the goal / result stood. I ask the question as to whether the peep would have changed anything? Was the wall set, was the goalkeeper in position, was the referee in place? Was the scorer challenged after the kick. It was really about trying to get a goal chalked off rather than being

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Lucas,
appreciate the question and that you consider our thoughts to be of help.

Whether you agree or not even if it was a soft call, you FORGOT the most basic fundamental of defending which is NOT to switch off just because play is halted, time is not suspended nor is the match over.

A referee with integrity sees what he sees and makes the call in real-time & whether it be good, bad or indifferent, the fact is, the game is still being played. The opposition realized it while your team forgot. Based solely on your explanation & description of what occurred, in my opinion, your team has no legs to stand on, you have ZERO rights on an opposing free-kick.

The FACTS are

the referee awarded a free-kick to your opponents

The ONLY thing required from your team was that they withdraw 10 yds.

You have no right to surround the referee & dissenting the call is generally going to end badly. A referee is fully capable of applying advantage and allowing a quickly taken free-kick immediately as long as it is done correctly.

ANY free kick can be taken UNLESS that referee has SPECIFICALLY stated with NO ambiguity & has proclaimed verbally and by signaling to hold up pointing to the whistle it WILL be a ceremonial restart with a whistle!

YOUR team addressed the referee during an ongoing live match to protest a call! It is ALWAYS a bad idea because when in all your playing time has a referee said, gee whiz guys I am sorry let's forgot all about it?

You can approach a referee at a suitable moment and likely be able to pose or ask about a specific call in a reasonable manner at a reasonable time but TRUST me my good fellow this is not that moment!

In my opinion, unless there is more to this story. The opposition had every right to restart and take advantage of your confusion because all of it was your own fault.

Now a referee should not be engaged in explanations or allowing themselves to be distracted but it is not their responsibility to ensure you are defending, that is on you, my friend. You can back off to the 10 yards and you can likely call out to the referee, "What kind of a call was that ref he took a dive?" But the MAIN and in my view only thing you should be doing is defending against the free kick 100% of the time!

I hold the opinion, even if you heard from the attackers, hey ref we want ten yards, even if a card is shown, even if the referee says "ten yards gentlemen" or does something to ensure the 10 yards like set a wall in place UNLESS the referee has specifically stated, " WE are NOT going to restart until I signal with a whistle, you should expect the free-kick at any time!

A signal to restart can be a yes, go ahead, a nod or a wave of the hand, or simple acceptance of the restart by the referee, who up until then, has not, verbally indicated or clearly displayed publically by getting eye contact, telling the attackers not to go, pointing to the whistle whilst holding it aloft you ARE going to get a whistle, then you might not! Your opponents took advantage of your emotional reaction to a call you did not like, they were NOT told by the referee they could not go thus you got burned by putting your concentration in dissenting rather than defending. My suggestion is always to be prepared for the ball to be put back into play at any moment UNLESS you hear/see a CLEAR concise command by the referee stating otherwise! Even then remember, a bit of bad mechanics by the official is not enough to change a result.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Lucas,
Teams always have the right to a quick free kick unless the referee needs to intervene for some reason. However, around the Penalty Area, it's rarely used - so a lot of teams forget about it.

As Ref Dawson states, your players forgot to defend - the decided that arguing with (I doubt it was simply 'asking the ref') the referee was more important than being in position and defending.

If your players chose not to defend, then why shouldn't the opposing team take advantage of that?

If the referee is getting engaged in a prolonged explanation or if they're pulled a player away then it should probably become ceremonial, but if they're just briefly responding to comments, then there's nothing wrong with that. I've seen a few times on my game where defenders have come out to argue with me and the attackers have capitalised on the defender's poor choice.

Worry about the defending. The decision has been made - and you know why the decision was made the moment it was, even if you disagree with it. So, what can you possibly achieve by arguing?

Sounds like the referee has done both the correct and fair thing.

Remember - the free kick is about restoring the advantage to the attacking team the perception of a requirement to allow a previously unprepared defence to now prepare themselves negates this. Good refereeing and good attacking.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Lucas,
The basic answer is that ultimately, this goal was legitimate. As the passages from the laws given by ref McHugh show, unless the free kick meets certain pre-defined criteria or the referee has specifically instructed the players to wait for one, a whistle is not required. Since none of that applied here, the non-offending team was entitled to proceed with the free kick.

When a free kick is awarded against them, the offending team has no rights (other than arguably, the right not to be misled by the referee) but does have a duty to withdraw the ten yards specified in the laws. While it is relatively common for free kicks near the edge of the penalty area to be ceremonial, it is not universally so, nor is it required by law.

As my colleagues have indicated, instead of doing what they should have done, your team decided to forsake defending in favour of pursuing a futile attempt to query the decision. So I'm afraid that in the end, they only have themselves to blame for things going wrong for them.

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