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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34478

Law 13 - Free Kicks 1/17/2022

RE: Adult

Archie of Glasgow , Glasgow Scotland asks...

When taking a short free kick does the ball have to travel it’s circumference before another player touches it?
In Manchester Utd’s game against Aston Villa on 16th January 2022 Bruno Fernandez’s first goal came from a quickly taken short free kick where the ball was rolled to him but it didn’t travel it’s circumference before he took a touch then shot and scored. Should the goal have been allowed?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Archie,
No, the ball does not have to travel the distance of its own circumference before another player touches it. That has not been part of the law since 1997. At that time the Law was changed from requiring the ball to travel that far to simply saying that the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves. The the law was further changed in 2016 and currently states that at a free kick, the ball:

"is in play when it is kicked and clearly moves"

According to the explanation given when this last change was brought in, it was done in order:

"to stop the practice of a player just touching the ball and then unsportingly pretending the kick has not been taken"

So in case you are referring to, so long as when the free kick was taken, the ball clearly moved, then the goal was good.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Archie,
Thanks for the question.
Older referees will recall the *circumference* rule yet as Referee Grove points out it has not been part of the Law since the great rewrite of the Laws in 1997.

The debate back then was determining circumference roll and most agreed that if the ball was seen to be kicked and rolled any distance the ball was in play hence the change at that time.

A further debate rose with the practice of just tapping the ball and sometimes it was difficult to discern if a ball moved or not plus players pretending the ball was not in play, a tactic used in ruse corner kicks, free kicks. In 2016 the word *clearly* was added to moved which basically was alerting referees to the fact that the ball should be seen to clearly move by the referee and by the players as part if the restart.

So in the incident you refer to as shown in the video above once the ball was tapped and clearly moved then it was in play and available to be played by Fernandez. I have looked at the replay of the incident a few times and without doubt the ball was kicked and clearly moved. The commentary suggested the kick was subtle and yes it was but the ball is clearly seen to move after the back heel by the United player who ran over the ball and played it first. The Villa defender in the wall reacted to the kick by initially moving to his left but then moves towards the ball. No question in his mind that the ball was kicked and moved.

Now have a look at this incident
The ball was not put into play by White #25 so White #8 was guilty of a double touch infringement.
The restart should have been an IDFK for the conceding team at the location of the double touch which is what caused all the furore. Obviously the officials missed that the ball was not put into play by #25 by not kicking the ball in any way. The ball was not touched and it did not move and it was hotly contested by the conceding team. In the Villa incident the only protest was about a possible offside which was not the case.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Archie as my colleagues have noted the change over from the wording of, rolling its circumference to clearly kicked and moved is basically implying the same thing in a slightly different way!

The sole stomp, a traditional run over the ball and basic INDFK ball 1st touch causes the ball to wiggle more than roll and in the past one might technically say that was NOT putting the ball into play.

There was also the ball placement whereby the hands might pick up the ball first or the ball dribbled into the restart location, then a subsequent touch or roll of the ball with the foot as a repositioning! Even with whistled or non-whistled restarts this was an issue! Some would cleverly claim it was put into play so another player might suddenly dribble it away but if a defender tried to intervene, the attacker claimed it was not in play only repositioned. A referee who, if NOT paying strict attention, might then card or warn a defender for failure to respect distance or delay the restart.

I remind all referees the phrase is "clearly moved" and if both teams engage on the INDFK or on a DFK no 2-touch dribble away special play even if you are not happy its likely not an issue, play can continue but IF intervention is required, a simple shake of the head perhaps a whistle stop let's try that again!

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