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Question Number: 34218

Law 13 - Free Kicks 5/13/2021

RE: U17 boys ECNL Under 18

Mark K of Rocklin, CA US asks...

This question is a follow up to question 34205

two questions

1-how important are CR mechanics in these free kicks? The reason I say this is that I was at this game(you know you're reading too much AsktheRef when this happens...)

I agree with you that, indeed, the goal counted. The ref did not signal to wait, and no whistle was blown.

But, the free kick "felt" ceremonial. What I mean by that is that it was not an instant quick kick. Offensive team milling around, setting up. Defensive team milling around, trying to organize a wall. Ref starts walking towards the wall (as if to move the wall back) but player does not ask for 10, rather, sees that keeper isn't fully engaged, pokes it in. After it happened, I knew it was good, but it "felt" ceremonial. And I thought the mechanics of the ref weren't as good as they should be. Once he started walking towards the wall, shouldn't he have gave instruction? I could see why parents and players were confused. Yes, technically he didn't have to, but he also perhaps then, shouldn't have been walking towards the wall...?

Goal is indeed good. Ultimately team should have been paying more attention, especially at this level, but ref's mechanics implied "ceremonial."

2- So other parents on the sidelines complain to the AR, "was that good?" and AR says yes, "your team should have jumped right in front of the ball to prevent that" So, I thought that preventing this type of defensive response to thwart quick kicks was a point of emphasis a while back. Now AR's are giving teams this advice. There seems to be no remedy to stepping 1 yard in front of the ball to prevent a quick resumption of play. It's been over three years of ECNL/USSDA/NPL and HS games since I've seen a caution for this behavior. Is the future just continued quick lateral kicks because there is no solution?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Mark,
for those that know me, I use a phrase over and over when I talk about the duties and responsibilities of the referee! ( YOUR match! Your decision! Your Reputation!) In essence, we make our own version of scrambled eggs.

The mechanics of HOW we as referees SHOULD address the teams during a match are essentially taught the same worldwide in the belief that any 3 officials getting together can achieve a measure of consistency to the LOTG the players, coaches, and fans can come to expect.

We are told it is best to NOT interfere UNLESS we must!

I use the pregame inspection talk to remind players that it is mandatory to withdraw 10 yds & that to delay or cause an issue could be costly. Failure to make haste or move away, kicking the ball away, jumping in front of the ball or kneeling to tie shoes or lying about the ground slowly stretching to get up or walking back in such a way as to cut across or into the possible flight path of a quickly taken attempt to kick.

MOVE ! or face the fact you COULD be cautioned shown a yellow card! for blatantly preventing the free-kick from occurring.

If you are within a wall or distanced away appropriately but you choose to rush in before the kick occurs trying to prevent the kick from succeeding again you could be shown a yellow card & cautioned for failure to respect the distance.

If I blow a whistle and say out loud (10 yds now!) to create a space so the free kick can occur unmolested' technically the powers that be does not even approve of that as a distraction. We are to wait, watch and see what transpires and then react to any blatant actons preventing the free-kick from occurring.

Even if we take our cue from what the attackers want even they must follow with normal play continuing actions. If they request ten yds, I say wait for a whistle or a signal, they do not, chances are the attacking kicker is cautioned. I give the signal or blow the whistle and they fart around forever, again the kicker could be shown a yellow card & cautioned needlessly delaying the restart?

I understand the confusion because when things occur that are different they tend to catch us by surprise!

Yet as you pointed out! The ref did not signal to wait, and no whistle was blown.

TIMING to take a free-kick is at the leisure of the attackers with the permission of the referee.

A FACT that defenders SHOULD be aware of is, they have absolutely NO SAY in the matter.

They can cry or whine, lollygagging about, bemoaning the unfairness of the universe, dissenting the referee's decision while heaping slights on their official's ancestral heritage, and the referee may be inclined to remain silent & unobtrusive or he might not.

You mention the stoppage had a ceremonial feel in that the free-kick was in fact NOT taken ASAP and the positioning/actions of the referee hinted he -might- be so inclined! While defenders have no say, there is ONE thing the defenders should expect on a free-kick from the referee is for that referee not to distract them from their defending duties. Yet if the referee does so inadvertantly or changes the routine it does NOT automatically prevent the attackers from choosing to go ahead with the free-kick UNLESS specifically told NOT to by the referee.

You made a reference to the AR telling the defenders to jump in front of the ball, in my match that would be a BAD idea because my decision as a CR would be to show the idiot player who does so a yellow card and caution them for delaying the restart or failure to respect the distance which is and always was 10 yds! You are right, the AR is a neutral observer and the fact this AR is breaking the neutrality protocols with lousy advice has no place in the match. You are likely to be correct that a short sideway release pass on quick free kicks is the option most available because the defenders will drag out the movement away from the ball 100% of the time.

The remedy is VERY simple!

Apply the LOTG when it's a blatant delay or no yards given, it will cure the rest!

Bark hard, once possibly at any hesitation, but a firm bite on an obvious delay sets a tone, sends a message. I recall a woman's match, Canada versus Brazil at the Edmonton stadium the referee was horrific in her free-kick mechanics and she wound up screaming in frustration at the Brazilan players while we watched stunned at the numerous delays at the taking of free kicks RATHER than her deal with it as the LOTG permit. It was so bad that they (tournament FIFA powers) OBVIOUSLY had a post-game meltdown because the very next match Brazil played Germany. The referee in that game GOT the message, out comes the yellow card at the very first incident and you know that what? That was the ONLY card and every free-kick went just fine after that.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mark
Thanks for the questions.
From what you describe here the referees mechanics were poor and as the referee moved forward to move the defending players back he in effect made the free kick "ceremonial" in which case it should have been on the whistle. The referee has placed himself in front of the ball and in the way of defending players plus by his actions of taking control of player positioning he has implied to everyone that it is on the whistle.
Now the Laws of the Game makes no reference to the use of a whistle at free kicks so technically the goal was good yet in equity it was unfair to the defending team. He has created a line of sight problem for some players plus he has placed himself in the way of play.

We all know that the game has created this problem of players placing themselves in front of free kick to stop these very events happening and as a result it has almost become accepted practise that happens at both ends of the field of play. Accordingly most referees make such free kicks ceremonial as invariably referees have to intervene in the set up of the kick. There is nothing wrong with a situation where the kicking team see an opportunity to restart almost immediately before a referee has taken "charge" of the restart. There is no need for any request for 10 yards at free kicks yet when that is required the referee should inform everyone that the restart is on his signal.

In the Premier League Referee Lee Mason created a controversy on a free kick in the recent game between West Brom and Brighton. It was clear that it was going to be on the whistle and the referee when he saw the wall was back the required distance he whistled for the kick to take place. A West Brom player noticed that the goalkeeper was still organising the defensive wall at a post and he took the free kick and scored. However the referee realising that the goalkeeper was not ready whistled for the kick to be stopped yet the ball was on its way. VAR correctly saw that the ball had not crossed the line before the second whistle so the goal was disallowed and the kick retaken. In my opinion Referee Mason should not have tried to stop the kick as he signalled for the kick to be taken when the wall was back the required 10 yards. It was not up to the referee to ensure the Brighton goalkeeper and defenders were ready for the restart. Without the 2nd whistle the goal would have stood which was the decision that Referee Mason initially made yet VAR showed that the ball had not crossed the line before the second whistle.

This tactic has been a blight on the game for many years now and in a way referees have perpetuated the problem by not dealing with it in every situation. In the scoring kick zone most teams do not want to take the quick free kick so they wait for the referee to arrive at the location. The advent of vanishing foam at these restarts have added to the problem as now the ball location is marked plus the line that the defending team must not encroach beyond. That makes it all ceremonial so in many ways the outliers have to be dealt with equitably. I always made a point of dealing with opponents preventing the quick free kick in every other part of the field of play with first an admonishment and then secondly with the use of cautions.

At the lower levels of the game teams generally do not want the QFK in attacking positions as it affords the kicking team the opportunity to get a shot on goal or the ball into the penalty area and to get players forward. Most QFKs that are taken elsewhere are generally sideways or backwards.

I think this issue is going to be around for many years to come and all referees can do is to deal with the egregious interventions by opponents who do it to thwart promising attacks.

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