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Question Number: 35343

Law 13 - Free Kicks 2/4/2024

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

Two questions coming:

First: A question for dealing with pacing off yardage on fields marked out for gridiron football: can't we simply point it out and say, "There's ten, right there?"

I tried that recently in a U-18 boys' match and White asked for ten. I showed the whistle and saw that the ball was on the 30 yard line and pointed and said, "Five, Ten... there's 10," and pointed to the 20 yard line.

Surely, pacing off 10 and coming up short or long would look ridiculous. Right? (Of course, we need to consider diagonals, but this was straight down the middle.)

"Uh... that's not how math works," said one of the White players, politely.

There was some laughter. I grinned and said, "That's exactly how math works." After an agreement was reached, I blew the whistle and a good attempt was made on net.

Later, we encountered the DOWN side of having multiple sports lines on one field. The White keeper was reacting to punt and innocently carried the ball past his YELLOW PA's 18 yard line. I'm guessing he was looking at the white 20 yard line, as he stood at about the 19 mark.

My AR was raising the flag, just as I was raising my whistle.

(I HOPE I wasn't required to caution for this miscue, because I didn't. No one questioned it, even later. Please advise.)

Players were initially questioning for INdirect, but I made it abundantly clear that it would be DIRECT, just as if any player had done handling outside the PA. "Oh yeah..." was, thankfully, the agreement I was hearing. No dispute.

I also advise that it would be ceremonial, and placed the wall at 'about' the 8-yard hash mark.

The kicked work out as fair as it could, with a hard attempt that missed the wall, but also JUST missed the lower inside corner. Goal kick, and a lot of defensive sighs of relief.

It was brilliant, fairly-fought game. Two superb White saves by the keeper late in the game, keeping it a 1-0 Cup win for the home Black team.

In summary: waiting for your advice on dealing with advantages and disadvantages of multi-sport markings. (Certainly, a ref clarifying the markings of the day would be helpful for visiting teams. I acknowledge that I didn't mention that in my pre-game. The visitors DID have a 4-member coaching staff, mind-you. And they were a seasoned U-18 team.)

Thanks as always!

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
Good to hear from you.
Pacing 10 yards is all about mechanics and how it looks rather than being a requirement in Law.
Over many years I had developed good judgement of what 10 yards looked like and I guided players back from a distance rather than pacing ever single time 10 yards was required.
Once though it got to be ceremonial in shooting locations outside the penalty area I always paced the 10 yards so as to limit any dispute from players. Players have got conditioned to the pacing requirements where they expect the *ceremony* and all that entails. Unfortunately I see it used far too often particularly when there is no need to. A simple instruction to move back is enough and that can be easily managed from a distance in situations where there is no possibility of a shot at goal.

I once recall a player questioning my 10 yards instructions in a cross situation. I went across and I told the player it was 10 and then paced it which turned out to be 10. I simply moved away and blew the whistle. I had a bit of a chuckle to myself!

Thankfully multi pitch marking is not an issue in this part of the world. As always anything that requires highlighting or clarifying should be done before kick off. For goalkeepers it would be a good idea to remind both goalkeepers of the line colour and to be mindful of that when handling the ball. It would be worthwhile mentioning it to both coaches of the line colours situation and that clear misjudgments will have to be called. I would be careful about advice on miscues. In your example no caution was required yet there could be situations where a card may be required where the action is deliberate and intentional.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Barry,

It's a good question. When I started refereeing, we were taught that if you can avoid pacing out the 10 yards, then do so as stepping it out looks 'amateurish'. So, I reached a point where I could visually measure 10 yards quite accurately - stand at the ball, move the wall back, everyone is in my view. Win-win, right?

Well, this seemed to upset people. I'd receive a lot of comments from people wanting me to step out 10 yards. It makes no sense - what does taking 10 steps prove? My steps can be longer or shorter depending on fatigue and muscle soreness. My steps can be any lenth I want them to be! But, for some reason, taking 10 steps seemed to yield fewer complaints, so I switched. Even though having the ball at my back introduces the problem of attackers moving the ball (ARs need to watch this!)

As you know, professional refs step out 10 yards too.

As for using field markings - I would do that a fair bit. We don't have all the 10 yard lines in Australia, but I'd use the Penalty Area markings. For instance, FK a yard back from the arc? Then the wall is a yard in front of the penalty mark. This would somehow yield complaints too...though I'd point out 'how far is it from the arc to the penalty spot?'

So, by all means give it a shot, see what works for you - but consider that players aren't rational they don't think through the logic of it all, and if you're doing something a little different to how others do it that might invoke a reaction.

But overall, I think managing it using the field markings can work well for kicks more in the midfield, where we're more used to telling the player to move back from a distance rather than pace it out. No need to spend even more time and energy running over and stepping out the 10 yards so the 1 player moves another 2 steps back, 35 yards out from goal.

As for the GK handling the ball over the line - nothing you can do there when it's clearly over.

I would have that problem sometimes with throw-ins as we may have fields for small-sided games overlapping. If I can see a player is about to use the wrong line and I can prevent them doing it I would (I don't see that as coaching the players - it's just helping to manage a field that isn't really aligned with the LOTG), but if they take the throw too quickly from the wrong line, I have no choice. I'd make sure to remind the players or captains before the game which colour line we're using.

Fortunately, a GK having the ball in their hands and running it out isn't a card.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Barry,
The LOTG use to say a minimum of ten yards! If I was pacing do not be surprised if 12 yards could appear lol . I too, simply became adapt at recognizing ten yards and using visual clues on marked fields, is a great idea . I never bought into the use of foam but I also cautioned those who pushed too hard to creep all of the time! That said the higher the skill level the more precise you need to be.

I will say this, regarding the confusing lines of grid irons and coloured markings. It would not hurt to include in the pregame to your ARs bend a bit on the keeper stepping over but hard on the off or on the FOP. I also think a reminder to the teams about which lines to burn into their memories is not uncalled for! If there is no real harm could you consider it trifling or trivial? A keeper releasing the ball accidently steps out, under no pressure, I could be inclined to say, Hey there watch it. Whereas if he came out to play a ball pursued by attackers I could sigh and blow for the DFK trying to only see it as cautionable not DOGSO. That said pro or certified provincial play tough to bend too much. Interhouse not a big deal. Now did you remember to place the free kick a smidge outside but not on the 18 & not at 19 or 20?? o)

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