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Question Number: 31417

Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play 4/2/2017

RE: Rec Under 10

Mike of Greenville, TX USA asks...

I know with the rule change in 2016 now allows the kickoff to move in any direction. With that being said, I know the kickoff can go backwards now and not have to move forward first. I can only find in the rules that states all players must be on their side for the kickoff. I have seen several games lately where the person kicking off stands on the other side of the center line and kicks it backwards. How is this legal? Or is it?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Mike
Your question has been asked of the Law making body IFAB by some referees recently and it has now stated following its AGM (in a recent circular for soccer bodies) that the kicker can stand in the opponents’ half at the kick-off. That modification will appear in the new law book in June 2017.
Now without that formal confirmation many referees had already adopted common sense in the matter. To kick the ball backwards required some part of the player to be over the line so it made no sense to insist on the strict interpretation of not allowing that to happen when the law allowed for a backward kick. The change only applies to the kicker so as before all other players must be in their own half.
This change is indicative of the reintroduction of the spirit of the game into the Laws. The 2016 Law changes stated that decisions will be made to the best of the referee’s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’ and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game. Allowing the player to be in the other half was as such an appropriate framework action and IFAB has now spelled it out just in case there are some who want to enforce literal interpretations based on the fact that it is not written down anywhere.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Mike,
Ref McHugh has given a pretty comprehensive response already. Perhaps the only other thing I would mention is that given everything he has quite correctly pointed out about this issue, especially the fact that the IFAB has more or less admitted to a mistake in not specifically allowing for this as soon as the kick off amendment was brought in (by stating that this will be changed as soon as possible) it would strike me as being slightly uncharitable for a referee to actually penalise a player in this scenario.

In case you're interested, the actual explanation of the change given by the IFAB is:

''The 'new' kick-off (ball played backwards) is popular but often the kicker has to step into the opponents' half to take the kick; the new wording allows this.''

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