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Question Number: 22114

Law 13 - Free Kicks 9/30/2009

RE: select Other

Sarah K of San Antonio, TX USA asks...

Was pondering whether the following would be allowed within letter/spirit of the Law:
An IDFK is awarded in the Penalty Area, within 10 yards of the goal, to the attacking team. Confusion ensues and the ref indicates there will be a ceremonial restart. Two attackers immediately claim spots on the goal line between the posts, and defenders essentially fill the rest of the goal line. Prior to the kick, several more attackers essentially make another 'wall' from where the ball is to where the attackers are on the goal line. Now, when the ball is kicked, the only way for the defenders to get close to the ball and attempt to prevent the goal would be to push the attackers out of the way (fouling them in the process).
I can't be the first one to think of this, yet I've never seen it, and it would seem to just about guarantee a goal. Legal?

Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

Players are entitled to the 'real estate' upon which they stand. Defenders MUST retire at LEAST 10 yards from the restart (with the exception of the restart being on their own goal area line that runs parallel to the goal line). Attacking team was offended and they get their due justice. The caveat would be that they don't impede the progress of their opponent, or, from an offside position interfere with their opponent, the play or gain an advantage from their offiside position.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

Like teams that want to do a Flying Wedge formation ala hockey movies, the Laws do have provisions for this kind of an attacking wall formation. Somewhere along the line, someone is going to be either impeding or holding the defending opponents. The referee just has to find out who.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

The impeding and holding are likely by the attackers

Quote Fifa page 114 Impeding the progress of an opponent
Interpretation of the laws of the game and guidelines for referees
Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.
All players have a right to their position on the field of play, being in the way of an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent. end quote

The issue is impeding as the ball at first is NOT within playable distance upon the free kick!
Quote FIFA Note the page 113
Interpretation of the laws of the game and guidelines for referees
Offences committed against goalkeepers

? It is an offence to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e.g. at the taking of a corner kick
end quote
by direct association an INDFK between 6 to 10 yards likely applies

Interpretation of the laws of the game and guidelines for referees
Holding an opponent
Holding an opponent includes the act of preventing him from moving past or around using the hands, the arms or the body.
Referees are reminded to make an early intervention and to deal firmly with holding offences especially inside the penalty area at corner kicks and free kicks.
To deal with these situations:
? the referee must warn any player holding an opponent before the ball is in play
? caution the player if the holding continues before the ball is in play
? award a direct free kick or penalty kick and caution the player if it happens once the ball is in play'end quote

The pushing and charging likely by the defenders!
No one said the referees job was easy! ;o)
Watch for the confrontational aspects to flare before the ball is in play. Demand they settle and verbally go after any who want to make this linger on with cautioning as a last resort. Have the AR cheat and get in slightly closer like on a PK and be a presense in commanding the situation! As a coach the best way to tactically deal with an indfk from 6 yards away backheel the ball to a running team mate and have him hammer it top shelf from the PK spot!
You are corret you are not the first one to think of this, I have seen it, and it would seem to just about guarantee a FOUL. Is it legal well to stand the ground it might be but in my opinion somebody gonna foul somebody 99.9% of the time and the misconduct before we get underway is liable to create even greater issues

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Sarah K
'Impeding the progress of an opponent' means moving on the field so as to obstruct, interfere with, or block the path of an opponent.
Impeding occurs when a player intentionally obstructs an opponent by forming a block between the opponent and the ball. Impeding is punished when a blocking player has no intention of playing the ball, or the ball is not within playing distance of a blocking player. An impeding player achieves this by placing himself between an opponent and the ball, or by using any part of his body to purposely obstruct an opponent - with the aim of denying the opponent access to the ball in playing situations.
So when the free kick is taken if any attacker impedes the progress of defenders towards the ball and it is a certainty that they will, the referee will penalise the attack with an IDFK for no physical contact with defenders and a direct free kick for contact.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Football isn't 'no contact' - I would probably allow the defenders to push through this 'wall', as long as their focus is on moving through and not deliberately charging the attackers. If the attacking team then moves to block these players, then they're guilty of impeding or charging - or holding if they use their arms.

Of course, the defence would have to slot between the attackers (and of course, some contact here is unavoidable); I'm certainly not going to allow one to commit a blatant charge from behind to charge an attacker out of the way.

The spirit of the laws will allow some incidental contact as the defenders push through this wall and between the players; it will not allow the attackers to move to block the defenders once the players start moving, so the defence aren't really being overly disadvantaged and the attackers are standing in a position where they probably can't do too much.

As Ref Dawson points out, such positioning will often lead to a bit of pushing and shoving before the ball is kicked; the referee needs to step in and stop this before it gets too aggressive - if the referee points out that the last thing the defence want is a penalty kick, and the last thing the attack wants is to have a goal disallowed, then this should calm them down, otherwise we can turn to the cards if the players won't settle.

Ultimately the attackers have a right to stand in front of the defence - they just can't puch themselves into the wall, or block the defence from advancing after the kick.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

While I agree with what my fellow panelists say, I would say that at the moment the ball was kicked, it sounds like the attackers along with numerous defenders were all on the goal line. If this is the case, then the attackers are even with at least two opponents, so no offside position exists. If the attackers are ON the goal line and behind the defenders, we could consider offside for interfering with an opponent or interfering with play if they touch the ball

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