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Question Number: 32135

Law 13 - Free Kicks 1/2/2018

RE: Professional Other

Dave Rahilly of Borehamwood , England asks...

Why do professional referees take 10'steps to position the wall. 10 steps is not 10 yds. A 39 inch step is not a normal gait. To anyone viewing on tv can see that generally the pitch cutting is done in 6 yard widths i.e.: 3 in penalty area. The 3rd official only needs to advise visa ear piece if he had access to monitor.

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Dave,
I'm not 100% sure that all professional referees do take exactly ten steps to pace out the distance that defenders have to be away from the ball on free kicks but I'm sure that those who do, have practised it so that each of their steps is exactly a yard (which incidentally, is 36 inches not 39). While it may not be everybody's natural stride length, it's easy to adjust your gait so that it is. I (in common, I imagine with many referees) used to practice pacing out pre-marked distances until I was confident that my paces were the correct length.

I agree that strictly speaking, it may not be absolutely necessary and again, I would say that most referees with enough experience are able to pretty much eyeball it but pacing it out is something that can be useful at times and can serve to placate players and spectators alike. Personally, I would sometimes pace out the wall and sometimes I would not, it would just depend on what I thought would be best at the time.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Dave
Thanks for the question
The simple answer is that players have come to accept the 10 steps process of a referee as a close approximation to 10 yards and it only happens in goal scoring areas in front of or close to the penalty area. I see players watching my steps to ensure it is 10 paces. The pacing is done to quell the complaints from both sides that 10 yards is given / taken. It is not meant to be slide rule accurate.
Indeed at a time pacing by referees was not required of referees and it was done by estimation.
If we go back far enough in the Laws yards / metres were not used. It was paces that was the measurement. So the Law makers made laws like ' No player may stand within six paces of the kicker when he is kicking off.'
Obviously as the Laws developed the yard measurement was introduced and the 10 yard law was used and continues to be to this day. It was never meant to be an exacting distances down to inches as that was and is still not possible. The game has to allow flexibility even in the positioning of the ball as close to the location of the foul as possible not the exact blade of grass.
As you say everyone has a different gait and a pace can be anything from 2.5 feet upwards many referees adjust their gait to take account of the distance. I know that my normal step is very close to one yard as if I step off the 6 yard area or penalty mark it will be 6 / 12 paces. Indeed I can at this stage by observation make a very good guess of 10 yards from observation only.
Also the need for it to be exact is not essential and the law makers have been keen to keep the laws the same through all levels including grassroots.
So for what it is worth the 10 pace process is with us, has become an accepted method of distance estimation and I do not really see any change in that in the years ahead. It is not something that is exercising the minds of those in the game as requiring amendment. One of the real dangers facing the game is that it simplicity gets eroded with too much technology and too many changes.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Dave,
Most referees have spent a bit of time comparing their steps to field markings to work out how to most accurately reach 10 yards. And if that means making the steps a little bigger or smaller than normal then that happens. I don't think you need to worry too much about the precise measurements of a normal gait.

As for using the markings - players simply respond better to steps. I taught myself to visually estimate 10 yards, and quite accurately. But it caused a lot of problems.

It's funny. I could take 10 massive steps and make it 13 yards, but players would accept that better than me not stepping out at all!

Also, given that the mowed lines aren't part of the LOTG, the referee doesn't want to presume that any one strip is a particular width. Unlike markings around the penalty area which you can safely use.

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