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Question Number: 31473

Law 13 - Free Kicks 4/22/2017

RE: Competitive Under 18

Israel Maciel of South Gate, California United States asks...

Lately I have seen referees not requiring the defensive team players to move 20 yards away from the ball. Referees argue that if the team taking the free kick doesn't ask for the distancia, he doesn't have to ask defensive players to respect that distance. As far as I know it is the responsibility of the referee to ensure that the distance is respected without the attacking team having to ask. Has the rule changed recently?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Israel,
I'm assuming you mean 10 yards not 20. It's actually the responsibility of the defending team to retreat 10 yards (without being asked) and since it is part of the referee's job to make sure the Laws of the Game are followed, the ref can choose to intervene in order to enforce the required distance if necessary. Personally, I have never heard a referee claim that the attacking team has to request the 10 yards but if any referee did, they would be wrong. There is nothing in the Laws to suggest this and the law in this regard has not changed for as long as I can remember.

However, although the referee doesn't need to be requested to enforce the required distance, they don't necessarily have to enforce it either. For instance if the team taking the free kick wants to take it quickly, the referee can allow that, even though the opponents have not yet retreated the full distance.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Israel
It is up to the defending team to respect the required distance which is 10 yards. There will be times when the kicking team want to get on with play quickly and the referee will allow that even with defending players within yards of the kick.
Now the referee has powers to enforce the distance by moving the ­efenders back. When that happens the kick is then ceremonial in that the restart is on the whistle. The referee can also go with a retake when the distance is not respected and he can also caution players for failing to respect the required distance at a restart.
Now the experience is that the kicker when he is not happy can and does request the 10 yards to be enforced by the referee who duly obliges. In addition the referee can take action when the defending team fails to respect the distance by running in front of the ball at a free kick to prevent the kick. That is somewhat different. How that is managed is up to each referee based on the game circumstances.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Israel,
I hope you mean 10 yds. and the 20 was a typo? lol

a referee should interfere as little as possible in any free kick


he has chosen it MUST be ceremonial i.e. show a card or at the attackers' request they want to run a set play.

The attackers are UNDER NO OBLIGATION to ask for anything or wait!
If there is free kick to be taken, most often they can just go ahead and do so.

The DEFENCE on the other hand MUST according to the LOTG withdraw from the point of the restart a MINIMUM of 10 yards distance. On ANY restart the opposition has the ability to be guilty of delaying the restart or failure to respect the distance by churlish antics.

The ONLY distinction is: IF a team with the free kick decides to take it quickly as long as defenders are withdrawing in a reasonable fashion there is NO infraction for being TOO close or REACTING once the kick occurs. An intercepted ball is play on!

What the referee MUST be wary of though is do the defenders seek to react BEFORE the kick or place themselves in the way by stepping into the path or just remaining in front of the ball without making a REASONABLE effort to move away! Here the kick if successful could be allowed but if a retake a caution should be administered to the obtuse defenders.

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