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Question Number: 22898

Law 13 - Free Kicks 3/4/2010

RE: Competitive High School

Matt Niswander of Lawrenceburg, TN USA asks...

On a restart of a free kick in the field, if the defending team is not 10 yards in away from the ball when it is set how does the ref deal with that? Does the ref have to step 10 yards off for the attacking team? Does the ref let the play continue if the team isn't 10 yards away if the attacking team doesn't ask for 10 yards? Does the attacking team have to ask for 10 yards to get it? The reason I ask is because a ref gave my player a yellow card for not being 10 yards away from the set ball. My player asked for the ref to show him where 10 yards was and he told my player he didn't have to step it off. The attacking player didn't ask for 10 yards, and since my player didn't move the ref gave him a yellow because he was too close. He was probably 8 yards away and not 10 yards to be honest. Is this right?

Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

First, the attacking team does not need to ask for ten. The laws require the defenders to retreat. The attacking team is entitled to BOTH ten yards and a quick free kick.

Second, the referee has many ways to enforce ten yards. He is not required to 'step off' ten, and few referees do that. If the referee asks a defender to move back, and the defender fails to do so, a caution may result. Many referees, however, find it quicker to move to the spot that is ten yards and indicate where the defenders should be. We call that 'becoming the first brick.'

Third, the referee usually starts enforcing ten yards at the earliest opportunities, urging players to move back or give ten. The referee also watches the attacking team. If the attacking team appears to be ready to do a quick free kick, even though defenders have not retreated, the referee will usually do nothing to interfere.

When the attacking team asks for ten, the referee will hold up the free kick, enforce the distance, and whistle for the restart. But, the attacking team doesn't and shouldn't have to ask.

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Answer provided by Referee Gene Nagy

Coach Matt, enforcing the 10 yard requirement varies widely in soccer. An experienced referee can convey the requirement with relative ease at higher level games while the inexperienced referee working with inexperienced soccer players usually has a harder time.

The referee can deal with this in a variety of ways. One way is to step it off and inform the defenders where the 10 yards is. Another way is to stand at the ball and estimate how far 10 yards is. Yet another way, when the referee is not nearby is to advise the players to retreat further because they are not 10 yards away. Suffice it to say that when the ref asks to move further away from the ball, that player MUST move back and must to do it fairly quickly.

Now in your game, you say your man was 8 yards away so basically he was too close even by your own admission. If the referee uses any method mentioned or not mentioned above and the player does not move further back as requested, he will be cautioned. Whether the attackers asked for 10 yards or not it makes no difference. The Laws oblige defenders to move 10 yards away from the ball (unless they are on their own goal line between the posts).

To answer your questions in order:
1. There are many ways to deal with the 10 yard requirement.
2. The referee does not have to pace off 10 yards and if a defender asks specifically for me as the ref to pace it off, he is begging for a caution and a yellow card.
3. Play may be allowed to continue even if the defenders are not 10 yards away. The idea is they have a FREE kick and if it is advantageous to them to take it quickly they should be allowed to do it.
4. The attacking does not have to ask for 10 yards and in fact the defenders should automatically begin to move away from the ball.
5. Yes, the referee was right. Your man did not move the required distance and he was probably snotty in asking for pacing off the 10 yards so the caution was well deserved.

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Answer provided by Referee Michelle Maloney

What the referee doesn't want to do in such situations is add insult to the injury suffered by the team with the kick. If he steps in without being asked or without an indication by the kicking team that they wish his help, he has taken away their right to a quick free kick.

Sometimes, the referee has no choice, especially if there is a defender or defenders standing idly near the ball, leisurely directing the formation of a wall for their team, or running in front of the kicker/ball to delay the kick or standing just far enough away to create distraction or other such unsporting behaviors. In these situations, like with your defender, the referee is advised to issue the caution, with the hope of educating the defenses for both teams - since if both teams see how he is handling such cheating play, chances are it won't be repeated by either. Of course, some players are slow learners.

I would also note the referee is a match condition, just like the field and the weather. Testing the referee in such circumstances can have unpleasant results.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Coach Matt
The only time I pace off 10 yards is on a ceremonial free kick in a goal scoring opportunity. In that case if the attackers look for 10 yards I will ask them to wait for the whistle and pace off 10 yards. If the attacking team proceeds without the 10 yards then they accept the outcome.
In all other situation I expect defenders to repect the attackers right to 10 yards. Also for me it depends how the player got there in front of the ball. Many team allocate a player to run to prevent the QFK. If that player prevents the taking of the FK it is a caution. Many times I will look at the distance and ask the player to retreat or indeed the taker will complain about the distance and I will intervene by asking the player to retreat. I will also ask the player not to run in front of the ball again.

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Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 22898
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