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Question Number: 21660

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 7/17/2009

tony of Sydney, NSW Australia asks...

I am having difficulty with a legal charge not in playing distance of the ball.

In the ATR it says this is an indirect free kick.

However when I speak to assessors they say that this is very old and the laws changed in 97/98. The concept of a legal charge not in playing distance of the ball no longer applies.

'There is no such thing anymore as penalising by awarding an indirect free kick for a FAIR CHARGE. It is either a foul or it is not a foul.

The award of an Indirect Free Kick for a 'Fair Charge' challenge was taken out of the Laws of Associated Football during the 1997/98 season. Prior to this, the Referee could award an indirect free kick and the wording in Law 12 was as follows;

'Charging fairly, i.e. with the shoulder, when the ball is not within playing distance of the players concerned and they are definitely not trying to play it.'

The award of an 'Indirect Free Kick' for any sort of shoulder charge no longer applies in today's game - charging an opponent is an offence and should be penalised by the award of a direct free kick/penalty kick against the offending player if deemed careless. If reckless or committed with excessive force, the appropriate disciplinary sanction will also be required.

Whether the ball is not within playing distance or not, is no longer a criteria for awarding a foul (or for not awarding a foul).'

This is a reply I have quoted from Julian's website in the UK and I hope he does not mind. Of course it is in his opinion but I include it so you can see the logic.

In the laws all it says is on page 113 'If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent' Presumably if not within playing distance this is an offence but it does not say what the restart will be.

On page 29 of the 2006 Q&A question 24 - it becomes much clearer.

'A player is charged when the ball is not within playing distance. What
action should the referee take?

If the referee considers the charge on the opponent to be careless, a
direct free kick * or a penalty kick will be awarded.'

Either in the US you see it differently (would not be the first time) or this is an error in the ATR? In 2007 it is section 12.22

Appreciate your thoughts - as this does happen on a regular basis and I have been awarding indirect free kicks based on the fact that this is very clearly spelt out in the ATR. But on closer inspection does not seem to be supported in Law. Now I think I have to change to a DFK if I want to pass inspections?

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

tony - you're certainly to be commended for your thorough research on the topic!

While the ATR is brilliant in some ways in that it tries to encode a lot of the 'what ifs' into a clear document to ensure consistency across referees, one thing to remember is that some of the 'interpretations' (I would consider the parts of the ATR that go above and beyond the laws of the game to be a sort of national interpretation) may not be applicable in Australia - over the years I've noticed a handful of things come up where the ATR says one thing, but general interpretation or application in Australia would suggest another. I wouldn't say that one solution is wrong and the other is right, merely that the game is played a little differently, and some of the grey areas are interpreted a little differently, across the globe. Most are pretty consistent, but there are a few differences that come up - and they are things any referee needs to be aware of when engaging in education from a foreign source.

As such, while the ATR is still a fantastic document for any Australian - or other - official to read over, it is no substitute for knowing the laws of the game, any national, state or regional directives and general consensus of application of the laws of the game. All of those will have greater credence in Australia than any document written in the US.

The laws of the game say that any charge committed in a careless, reckless or excessive fashion is a direct free kick offence. While the later part of the laws say that you can have a charge take place as part of a fair contest when the ball is in playing distance, presumably this would suggest that no fair charge can occur when the ball is not in playing distance (take the ball out of the equation and you start playing the player, because you certainly can't be playing the ball!). As there is nowhere in the laws to permit an indirect free kick for being awarded for an off-the-ball charge (it can't be impeding as contact is made), the only logical solution is that the direct free kick offence of charging in a careless manner is the only applicable foul.

The fact that it was laid out in the 2006 Q&A naturally makes it quite clear.

The laws of the game will be the most important thing to you in Australia, and those laws - as well as their supplementary document, the Q&A, clearly state what to do in this situation.

When the laws of the game or your national interpretations/directives contradict with a foreign document, the former must be the one that's followed.

In short, you definitely must switch to a direct free kick for this offence.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

Tony, an excellent question and one that perplexes many referees. The Advice to Referees 2008 says:

A player who charges an opponent in an otherwise legal manner (i.e., not carelessly, recklessly, or with excessive force) but with the ball not within playing distance has infringed the Law. Such an 'off the ball' charge is considered a form of impeding the progress of an opponent (even though contact has occurred) and is thus penalized with an indirect free kick restart for the opposing team. If the referee considers the charge to be careless, reckless, or involving excessive force, the restart is a direct free kick (or penalty kick).

This gives the referee some choices - if the charge was away from the ball and was significant enough for the referee to feel for game management purposes it should be called, then the least that can be done (besides a voice reprimand) is a call for impeding, carrying the IDFK restart.

The 2009/2010 LOTG Interpretations say:

Charging an opponent
The act of charging is a challenge for space using physical contact within playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows.
It is an offence to charge an opponent:
? in a careless manner
? in a reckless manner
? using excessive force

You'll note the DFK offense of charging is stated as requiring being within playing distance of the ball. This leaves the referee in no man's land when trying to deal with a charge off the ball.

Your assessors need to watch their wording - you'll note the LOTG define the DFK offense of charging as physical contact within playing distance of the ball which is careless, reckless or violent. If the challenge/charge is NOT at least careless, then it is not an offense, period. Voila, the fair charge.

Your quote from the Q&A simply backs this up. If the charge you wish to punish with an IDFK is not a careless charge, and thus a DFK offense, but it is something less than fair, you can go with the IDFK.

If passing an inspection (called assessment here) requires you to decide that every charge is either careless, reckless, etc. then do what you have to do to pass. There is so much discretion on the part of the referee in this area in determining what to do that you could hardly be faulted in either direction, so go the direction that nets the most tweet for the whistle.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

It comes from the 1996 version of the Laws:

'2. charging fairly, i.e. with the shoulder, when the ball is not within playing distance of the players concerned and they are definitely not trying to play it;'

Advice to Referees was first written in 1997 to document things that were taken out in the Great Rewrite and Condensation of the Laws. The 1997 version is much clearer and shorter; for one thing many of the IFAB Decisions were written into the new text. But several things got removed because 'everybody knows' them. Unfortunately in the US not 'everybody knows', so USSF put out Advice.

When the 1997 version of the Laws was introduced by IFAB, there was a note that unless something was specifically changed as an amendment to the Laws, it was to be considered still in effect even though the text may have been condensed out. Another example of this is the old interpretation that a goalkeeper cannot handle the ball a second time until it is touched by an opponent, or touched by a teammate *outside* the penalty area. The 'outside PA' restriction was left out of the text of the Laws in 1997, but USSF included it in Advice for several more years until there was some clarification by IFAB that it no longer applied. Perhaps the 'fair charge off the ball' IFK will someday go away in the same manner.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

We talk about this notion a lot. The USSF publishes a lot of information for its referees, at all levels. Sometimes, it is correctly publishing interpretations before FIFA has published anything; sometimes is is correctly publishing interpretations but IFAB/FIFA suddenly changes the interpretation (politiely referred to as 'evolving interpretations'), and sometimes USSF is still publishing information that is behind FIFA's interpretations. The online edition of the USSF Advice is from 2007, and some things have been corrected in the 2008 printed editions, and some things still need to be corrected. One of the advantages of the USSF Advice to Referees is that it is one place where soccer traditions are written down. (Mr. Carosi's website is another.)

Mr. Carosi's answer to you that the an IFK for a charge not within playing distance of the ball 'no longer' applies is a hint at the reason. The USSF still publishes the traditional interpretation, which predates the IFK offense of obstruction (now impeding), for an IFK restart for a charge that would be lawful if done within playing distance of the ball. It is a wonderful tool between DFK and nothing for the referees to deal with what would now might be considered impeding (but with contact) that would not be charging if the ball were closer. Some might note that if contact to the shoulder gets the same restart as contact to the middle of the back, a defender won't use the shoulder. The IFK restart is an additional tool for referees under the USSF interpretation. (If forced to answer an assessor, it would not be a 'fair charge' because the ball was within playing distance; the foul would be impeding with the shoulder to shoulder contact deemed trifling.)

While FIFA's Interpretations and Guidelines are binding on everyone, each association is remarkably free to follow its interpretations of the 17 laws. In this interconnected world, with internet and video access to everything anyone opines, this top down distribution system may not last. But, until then, USSF interpretations are binding only on USSF referees. Other associations can adopt those interpretations that are helpful, and disregard those that are not.

All for the good of the game.

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Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

I will add to this discussion from a practical sense.

If you feel that a player is charging an opponent from distance but is not being careless, reckless, or excessive in the use of force... then an offense here is certainly doubtful. When something is this doubtful, do you really want to blow the whistle? Probably not, better to let the game flow on.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

All excellent answers. I would just add that the official USSF guideline is found in advice 12.22 so US referees are supposed to give an IDFK. You being an Aussie are not bound by Advice. The LOTG seem to still accept this view but the wording is confusing in that they only talk about charging when the ball is playable. The quote you reference:

In the laws all it says is on page 113 'If the ball is within playing distance, the player may be fairly charged by an opponent'

to me, and possibly USSF, is important. This quote may be read to say if the ball is NOT within playing distance, then the player may NOT be fairly charged by an opponent.

Also, nowhere in LOTG does ii state that impeding the progress of an opponent may be called ONLY if there is no contact. ATR states that "normally" there is no contact but does not preclude contact. Taking what LOTG and ATR have to say concerning impeding, it's reasonable to assume SOME contact may occur and we could still have impeding.

With all due respect to Mr. Carosi who is far more knowledgeable than I, I'm not sure (and apparently neither is USSF) that his answers are entirely accurate. I think it IS accurate to say that when it comes to this subject we are, indeed, in a no man's land when it comes to a fair charge off the ball. As Ref Wickham says, given the information we have from both ATR and LOTG we have the use of an IFK for punishment for a charge off the ball that while would be considered fair were the ball within playing distance we deem unfair and a form of impeding if it occurs off the ball

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