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Question Number: 34737

Mechanics 10/12/2022

RE: Competitive

Donn Milton of Vienna, VA United States asks...

I had this situation a few years ago, and still don't know the best way to handle it:

This was a competitive U16 Division 2 boys match, the last match of the season with implications for promotion to Division 1. Team A is leading 2-1, with 1 minute left to play. Team B is attacking, and player B1 is fouled (undisputed) about 20 yards out, a few yards past the corner of the penalty area. I blow the whistle, and B1 correctly postions the ball and clearly wants to take a quick free kick. The Team A defenders in front of B1 move back appropriately without a word from me. But then, player A2 who had been positioned behind B1, slowly strolls in front of B1 toward the goal, effectively delaying the quick restart. B1's frustration is obvious. I knew that if I blew the whistle again to issue a caution, A2 would have happily accepted the card as his team would then have had plenty of time to position themselves to defend the free kick. What I did was to sharply say "Move Back!" to A2, and one second later B1 launched a perfect kick into the upper far corner of the net. The game ended shortly thereafter in a tie, and the Team A coach approached me for a polite discussion. He was of the opinion that if I said anything at all, I had to make the restart ceremonial (i.e., on my whistle) anything else was an unfair distraction to the defense. Team A filed a protest, which they lost, but the protest committee still had much sympathy for the coach's point of view. Is there a better (and fairer) way to handle such situations? Or did I really have no choice but to let Team A force a ceremonial restart?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Donn,

I think you handled it well. I think you're approach was good game management and well within both the letter and spirit of the game.

I've heard the same from some referees - that the moment you say anything, it's ceremonial. I don't think this is supported in either the letter or spirit of the law.
Sure - if you're continuing to talk to them and putting attention on yourself, then I'd say you're intervening at that point - eg if you're at the spot of the ball and you're talking them back 10 yards.

But just a quick '10 yards thank you!' or 'back away!', I think is perfectly fine as a way to try prevent an offence from occurring but still allowing the quick kick.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Donn,

A referee is a neutral observer who enforces the LOTG at the same time while trying to let the spirit of the game flow as to what can be tolerated or acceptable.
It is best to not do anything except watch and let the teams sort it out but as you noted they upheld the goal because under the LOTG it was correct, even if they believe you should not have voiced a command.

The appearance of impropriety based on expectations in soccer is well documented. I often used the shout out of "10 yards please gentlemen/ladies " or "no funny business" or "bad idea " or *stop it" or if my patience is being tried "TEN YARDS NOW!" on fouls where a free kick could or would be happening and defenders were reluctant to peel away, it was often not only to allow the restart to begin but also to not hand out silly cautions for delaying restarts

I have engaged in numerous discussions about ceremonial and what rights do we afford to the defending team

In fact the defending team has no rights, except to immediately withdraw ten yards.

The optimal word in free kick is FREE!
That is free from opposing team using intervention hassle or delaying antics

This imaginary referee interference that distracts them is based on the premise that we as neutral officials once engaged in a verbal communication have effectively intervened in a possible outcome of play. You are essentially trying to be proactive, yet the opposition see it as reactive! It is also a matter of consistency & thus expectations based on how you previously dealt with similar circumstances, do you intervene in similar fashion? Yet when I cry out hands down, nothing there, keep going, you're in the book, or use the cry of advantage to avoid stoppages that is considered effective communication!

It is recommended not to engage but if the attacker says, "Can I go?" and I say or indicate "Yes!" is that ceremonial communication?

As to opinions, this is mine, if you did not BLATANTLY say STOP or CLEARLY indicated with body language, like running into lines of sight , blocking players , escalating with the arms, holding a whistle aloft, pointing to it CLEARLY indicating NOT to go then, as far as I can see, under the LOTG the team that could, can go ahead with the free kick as long as they place the ball on or near the ground at the point of the foul ,stationary and then kick and move it.

It is indeed irritating when trailing opponents who are 5 yards up field or more of the foul suddenly like to wander straight up into the foul location CLAIMING to be retreating to ten yards in the direction of their goal when they just ran, jogged, stumbled, actually walked in 5 + yards closer to shut it down a possible quick kick!

I am very upfront with teams on certain aspects of the game, Aside from the fact my ARs are 100% off limits to any abuse or confrontation I am also extremely clear I expect free kicks to be free! Play the whistle ALL of the time! If a whistle stops play be aware a whistle is NOT required to restart play, As a player, as a defender you ALWAYS are on guard. As a player and attacker you ALWAYS attack !

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Donn
Perhaps one way to answer is given in the advice in the Laws of the game. It states and I quote

""Restart play 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 ""

As the appropriate distance was not required by the kicking team then it is not ceremonial or on the whistle.
In your instance had the kick sailed over the bar or hit an opponent then the team had to accept that outcome unless of course a defender came towards the ball to stop the kick.

As to making free kicks ceremonial unfortunately the Pro game has mostly made all free kicks in a scoring situation ceremonial and as a result all levels believe that is the case. However the Laws of the Game does not say that and there is no mention of a whistle in Law 13 so the protest in your situation had to fail. Sympathy does not come into it.
In our 2013 National Cup final there was controversy when a ceremonial free kick was taken without a whistle
The commentators got it wrong in that a whistle is not part of Law 13. It is only in the advice section so the decision to allow the goal was not protestable. By all intent and purposes the conditions for the free kick where in place and would a peep of the whistle have made any difference? Not to the free kick in my opinion as the wall was in place, the defenders were watching the ball as was the goalkeeper. It would have prevented the afters which resulted in cards including a red card. That is the reason for the advice which is to prevent such situations arising.
Here is another one
To me the commentator is wrong to say that the referee has to allow the defending team to get set up. To me this one was difficult as the referee was in the way of the ball and the free kick was not taken from the location of the foul which was close to the penalty arc. Anyway the goal stood and that is all that mattered.

I have allowed many Quick Free Kicks in front of goal and I can recall three that resulted in goals. The others would have gone wide or saved or hit players. The goals I can remember as they all resulted in complaints from the conceding team that there was no whistle yet they were simply QFKs. The conceding teams knew that and while they protested at the time there was nothing wrong in Law or for that matter in procedure.

So in your situation saying "Move Back" does not make the free kick ceremonial nor was 10 yards requested or required. The game unfortunately has lost the meaning of FREE in kick in that the offending team can impugn on the restart without sanction such as running in front of the ball, not moving away etc. Most referees then make it ceremonial so the kicking team has to wait until the defending team is ready to defend.

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