Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 22830

Law 13 - Free Kicks 2/17/2010

RE: Any Adult

Paul of Roseville, CA USA asks...

On a restart who has to allow for the proper clearance of defensive players, the referee or the offense? Of course, unless the offense wants to try a quick restart. I had a player that later told me he was a grade 7 referee tell me that the offensive player has to ask for the defense to be moved back for proper distance from the place of the restart. He told me that it is written (in some book) that the referee does not determine if the proper distance has to be inforced, but that the offensive player MUST ask for the distance FIRST. Can you tell me how this is supposed to be handled?

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The player was wrong. It is a myth.

The USSF has an excellent paper on Free Kick and Restart Management at

The attacking team is entitled to take a quick free kick, and the referee ordinarily should not interfere with this right unless necessary for match control (to caution or sendoff for misconduct, deal with serious injury, etc.) The attacking team is also entitled to ten yards. Note: the attacking team is entitled to both rights: a quick kick and ten yards.

The defense has no rights on a free kick, except not to be misled by something the referee says or does. Thus, a defender may be cautioned for interfering with the quick free kick even if the attacking team says nothing.

The referee should watch the attacking team, particularly the kicker. Are they bringing up their free kick specialist or are they moving to restart play? The referee should not interfere if the attacking team is looking to restart quickly. If the kicker puts the ball into play even though a defender is less than ten yards away, the attacking team ordinarily cannot complain about the distance unless the defender does something to further reduce the distance or interfere with the kick. The referee should punish the defender who stands or kneels in front of the ball to prevent the quick kick.

Particularly early in the match, the referee should be proactive about the distance - - shout the early defenders back. Make it clear that they have a referee who is serious about respecting the distance. I like to add the word 'play' at the end of a statement so that it is clear that I have not converted the case to a ceremonial kick - one that requires a whistle. Thus, I like to shout 'Move back, red. Play!'

If the attacking team asks the referee for ten yards, however, the referee should make it clear with a verbal and visible signal that the kick may not be taken until the whistle.

Read other questions answered by Referee Dennis Wickham

View Referee Dennis Wickham profile

Answer provided by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

Ohhhh Lordy....The spirit of my dear friend and colleague is, I'm sure, very upset with this. In Advice to Referees 13.3 (which was written primarily by Chuck), the theme of this section is all about what the referee is choosing to allow, or disallow based on many factors (only ONE of them involves the offended team to 'ask for 10.') The myth of 'they must ask for it...' has been perpetuated by ignorant commentators, players and coaches and further by referees who haven't learned differently.

The whole reason for the free kick restart was because one team offended the other by committing some infraction of the LOTG. The offending team cannot further add insult to injury by interfering with the offended team's ability to put the ball in play in a way from which they will benefit most.

Read other questions answered by Referee Debbie Hoelscher

View Referee Debbie Hoelscher profile

Answer provided by Referee Steve Montanino

The 'referee' who was a player in your question is wrong.

The laws state that the defending team shall retire 10 yards. That's pretty simple.

This myth has become something that is widely accepted as true, but it's wrong. One reason is because referees at the highest level have been instructed not to immediately interfere with free-kick distance, if the referee does this and physically distracts the defending team, then the match should be restarted with a ceremonial free kick. So, staying out of the way allows the attacking team to maintain their right to have a quick free kick.

The referee may still use their voice to encourage the defenders to do the right thing.

If the defenders refuse to move back and they are preventing the opposing team the opportunity to restart in a timely fashion, they could be cautioned for delaying the restart of play. If the defender moves in the direction of the ball after it has been placed for the free kick and prevents the kick from being taken, or interferes with the flight of the ball after it has been put in to play, that defender may be cautioned for failing to respect the required distance at the taking of a free kick.

But no matter what, the attackers are not required to 'ask' for it.

Read other questions answered by Referee Steve Montanino

View Referee Steve Montanino profile

Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

The next time you have a player tell you they are a referee and blah, blah, blah - especially anyone above a grade 8, ask them if they remember reading the referee code of ethics. That should shut them up - then ignore what they say - if you have questions, ask a trusted adviser later - we're glad you wrote in!

Free kick means free from interference from defenders - they must be, and must move without being asked, at least 10 yards from the ball. Failure to do so can result in a caution (not required if your presence and voice and the needs of the game don't need it). Defenders who interfere with a free kick run the risk that the kick will be retaken - in effect giving their opponent two bites at the apple.

Free from interference means the kicking team shouldn't have to ask for help from the referee and means the defense doesn't have any right to delay the FREE kick to set a wall.

Good referee mechanics mean you are in the general vicinity of the kick, and are watching and listening to the attacking team to determine if they are intending a quick kick, or if they have a set play they want to run. If a quick kick, be watching the defenders carefully to make sure they do not interfere, and be prepared to deal with interference early in a game. Letting it go early on means extra problems later.

If the team clearly wants a set play restart, step in and hold up your whistle and point to it - the universal sign that the kick starts now on your whistle. Make sure the ball is properly set (do not turn your back on it - it walks when unobserved) and move to where you want the wall, using your voice and body language to convince defenders to move. Remember the defense will use the time to set up a wall as time to gather their team back to help, and the longer it takes you to set the wall, the better for them. Move to where you can see the wall, the kicker, and where the ball is headed (still without turning your back on any of this) and blow your whistle at the earliest possible moment. Delay works to the defense's advantage, and takes away the advantage of the free kick.

For emphasis: the attacking team is NOT required to ask for ten yards - the LOTG give them the right to 10 yards without asking. The only ones with any requirements to meet at a free kick are the defenders.

Read other questions answered by Referee Michelle Maloney

View Referee Michelle Maloney profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 22830
Read other Q & A regarding Law 13 - Free Kicks

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.