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Question Number: 14420

Law 13 - Free Kicks 11/12/2006

RE: Select Under 19

Cheryl of Sacramento, CA USA asks...

The opposing team was given an indirect kick. Our team then made a wall and one of our players stood in front of the player about to take the kick. She was probably 6 feet from the girl. Our player was then issued a yellow card for not immediately giving the other player 10 yards. The other player never asked for her 10 yards. After the yellow card, the ref changed the kick to a direct kick for delay and the other player then asked for 15 yards and the referee gave it to her without walking out the distance. Doesn't the ref have to wait until the player taking the kick asks for 10 yards before he makes the defensive team move back? And can he change a kick like that? And is making a wall move back 15 yards legal?

Answer provided by Referee Chuck Fleischer

The referee started out correct in cautioning the player for failing to respect the required distance at the taking of a corner kick a free kick or a throw-in. Correct in all respects. Your side doesn't have any rights at all after you give a foul, you have no right to form a wall, to delay the taking of a free kick or to get behind the ball and defend better.

After that it appeared to you the referee changed the type of kick from indirect to direct. This is possible because the referee may have erred in using the indirect signal when, in fact, he gave a direct free kick. Further, it is possible for an experienced referee to establish a distance of ten yards "by eye" and be within one foot of the correct number. There is no requirement for the referee to measure the distance because ten yards in exactly where the referee says it is. The distance said to be ten yards may be seven or twenty one and you, a player from a side just cautioned for failing to respect that distance are well served to accept what he says as the proper distance at that instant in time for it does no good to be cautioned again, does it?


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Answer provided by Referee Ben Mueller

Players must retire 10 yards immediately. It was in this referee's right to caution this player for not respecting the required distance on a free kick or throw-in. The referee chose to take action here. In general, referees do not intervene until the kicking team asks for the 10 or it is clear that their is interference by the defender not backing off. It is the players responsibility to know 10 yds and to yield it everytime. The referee can not change the restart though as he did here. Once a restart has been established that exact restart must occur. Here he called IFK so the IFK must occur. He was making up Laws when he changeds it to dfk and was out of his mind when he made your team back up 15.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Lots of things going on her. First, the team that committed the offense is REQUIRED to give the 10 yards and to do so immediately without being asked. If the kicking team asks for the 10 yards the referee will set the wall and tell everyone to wait for his whistle. The yellow card and caution was within law as someone setting up 6 feet from the ball clearly is not giving the 10 yards. If the restart was indeed an indirect free kick, the referee may not change it to a direct. If he changed his mind and decided the restart should have been direct, he can change his mind as play hasn't restarted.

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Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher


According to the LOTG, opponents MUST GIVE at LEAST10 yards on all restarts (with the exception of 2 yards for a throw in and of course, dropped ball requires no distance...except when I think I'm gonna get kicked if they are too close to me when I drop the ball).
Law 13 from FIFA Laws of the Game:
Indirect free kick to the attacking team:

* all opponents are AT LEAST 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball until it is in play, unless they are on their own goal line between the goalposts.

* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves.

* an indirect free kick awarded inside the goal area is taken from that part of the goal area line which runs parallel to the goal line, at the point nearest to where the infringement occurred.

Free Kick Outside the Penalty Area

* all opponents are AT LEAST 9.15 m (10 yds) from the ball until it is in play.

* the ball is in play when it is kicked and moves.

* the free kick is taken from the place where the infringement occurred.

Did you notice, Cheryl, that nowhere in the LOTG does it mention that the opponents have to be asked to move 10 yards? The opponent is required to do so.

In Law12 (Fouls and Misconducts): the Misconduct of Failing to Respect the REQUIRED (emphasis mine) Distance exists and it is indeed a cautionable offense.

Law 1: the Field of Play - from the get go, the markings on the field emphasize and support the 10-yard minimum distance requirement. (Go check out the diagrams....there's a Penalty arc (10 yards from the Penalty spot), the diameter of the Center Circle is 10 yards (10 yards from the center spot) the are optional hash marks off the field of play to be set 10 yards from the corner arc...etc.... as you can see, the LOTG support and demand, even in its field markings, that 10 yards be maintained

Additionally, in USSF's ATR (Advice to Referees, 2006) the following allows for "quick kick options" for the benefit of the offended team, while maintaining the minimum "10-yard" requirement:

Law 13 -- Free Kicks
This restart is called a ?free kick? because it may be taken ?freely? by the team to which it has been awarded ? without interference, hindrance, or delay?.
All opponents must be AT LEAST ten yards away in all directions from the location of the free kick?.
The referee should move quickly out of the way after indicating the approximate area of the restart and should do nothing to interfere with the kicking team?s right to an immediate free kick. At competitive levels of play [for youth play, this would include but not be limited to: high level youth, e.g. Super Y, American Youth Club, ODP, elimination rounds for State Cup ? usually at least U17 or higher] referees should not automatically ?manage the wall,? but should allow the ball to be put back into play as quickly as possible, unless the kicking team request help in dealing with opponents infringing on the MINIMUM distance.
If the referee decides to delay the restart and to enforce there required MINIMUM [emphasis mine] distance, the referee must quickly and emphatically indicate to the attackers that they may not now restart play until given a clear signal to do so [Note: does not have to be a whistle, but is traditionally considered a ?ceremonial restart.?]?.

What these official interpretations by USSF on the LOTG are saying is: 1) The kicking team has the right to take their free kick as quickly as possible and should not be further offended by interference, etc. from their opponents; 2) That the kicking team may request help from the referee. However, just because the kicking team may request this help does not in any way imply that the defending team is allowed to wait until it is asked to move before giving the REQUIRED MINIMUM distance;3) That the referee has discretion whether or not to enforce the required distance; 4) That failing to respect the required distance is a cautionable offense. No warning is necessary and can be given to any defending player who has not retreated the minimum required distance.

You also ask ?is making the wall move back 15 yards legal?? ABSOLUTELY. Notice that the LOTG (Laws of the Game) specifically state ?at least 10 yards.? That means that the minimum distance. There is no maximum. The referee is well within their power to set the wall beyond the 10 yards.

What I would ask that you do is the following:
Go to your local high school American football field and stand on a marked yard line (the 50 is the easiest.) Then march your way to the 40?..that?s two marked yard lines away. I believe you will discover that 10 yards may SEEM like 15 yards?. 10 yards is 30 feet?.it is much further than you think. I've been refereeing long enough to know what 10 yards looks like and can get to it within a few inches of it (without "marching" it off) when challenged with a 30-foot rope. Many "seasoned" referees can do this as well. There are referees who do step off 10 yards, but it is not required.

As to the referee?s restart?..If play was indeed stopped by the referee to award an IFK, then unfortunately, that is where this referee may have gotten it wrong. The correct restart would be the original restart (IFK) ? even after the caution (yellow card). Apparantly the referee stopped play to award an IFK; and that is the only way play can be restarted. HOWEVER, if the referee had in their mind to stop play for a DFK offense, but incorrectly/mistakenly (we are human after all and are subject to brain cramps once in awhile) raised their arm to award an IFK, the restart is still the DFK and the referee, before play is restarted can correct/change their decision.

I know this is a lot of the same time, there's been a huge amount of misinformation bantied about (thank you Marcelo Balboa and company) and we here at Ask the Ref appreciate the fact that you come to us with your question. Go to the Laws of the Game and read them for yourself. You can find the Advice to Referees manual for 2006 at (Cal North's site). It's available to download but only read online. You can't print it or edit it.

Good luck to you on the rest of your season. Heck, I might even be your next referee!

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 14420
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