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Ref Tips: Mechanics on Free Kicks
by Randy Vogt, March 17th, 2011 11:27PM
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TAGS:  referees, youth boys, youth girls


By Randy Vogt

Generally, restarting play will not be challenging on free kicks when the ball is far from the goal. However, you will find certain forwards and midfielders deliberately walk by the ball after a foul is called against their team. They are trying to delay the other team restarting play. Do not let them do this -- verbally warn them that if they persist, they will be cautioned.

Should a player deliberately run up to a stationary ball, preventing a free kick from being taken, that player should be cautioned immediately for failing to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a free kick.

More challenging is restarting play when a free kick is in or near the defensive team’s penalty area. Opponents stand near the ball and prepare to set up a wall. The referee should ask the offensive player(s) by the ball if they want 10 yards. Should they say yes, the referee points to the whistle and says so everyone can hear, “Wait for my whistle.”

You as the referee then back up 10 paces (yards), always watching the ball to make certain that it is not moved. You then call the defensive wall to where you are.

Take your position as soon as possible, glance at the AR to make sure he or she is in the proper position and is not trying to communicate with you, then blow the whistle for the kick to be taken.

Players in the wall can jump up and down but cannot wildly gesticulate. A player doing the latter should be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

It’s always a bit of fun when the attacking team decides to put a player or two in the wall. Defenders do not like them there and pushing often occurs. Attackers sometimes try to back up into and/or push defenders to move the wall back further. Watch out for these actions.

Remember that if the ball was not kicked yet when a push, or worse a punch, occurs, you cannot call a foul but you should caution for unsporting behavior (deliberate push) or send-off for violent conduct (punch). Should this occur after the kick is taken and the ball is in play, feel free to call a foul plus a caution or send-off too.

Where Is the Free Kick Taken?

Except for fouls in the goal area, the proper restart position for a free kick is where the foul was committed. It does not have to be exactly on that same blade of grass (or turf).

The farther you are from the goal that would be attacked, the more leeway you could give the team when placing the ball. So if you called offside near the penalty area and the indirect kick is 80 yards from the goal that would be attacked, you can give a couple of yards of leeway to place the ball. Give less leeway for free kicks 20 yards from goal.

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 7,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at

  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 18, 2011 at 2:52 p.m.
    Generally great advice. If only the professional refs would follow it. I find few things more frustrating than professional referees allowing players to delay a restart by standing in front of the ball, or worse, picking the ball up, or setting a wall two yards in front of the ball. Then the players are like "oh, you mean I have to be 10 yards away? Oh, I didn't know that, I guess I'll do that (now that I've delayed the game as I intended)." Not only does this hurt the game at the professional level, but kids see it and seem to think the defenders do not have to give 10 yards unless they're asked to do so. I wish the professional referees would set the right standard; interfere with the free kick (in any way), get a card. The behavior would stop pretty quickly, and we could get on with the game instead of having the farce that free kicks have become.

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