Direct Free Kicks- Delaying the Restart




It happens many times in a game, the same sequence over and over again…

But what do we do when the offending team purposely delays the restart?

What is in your tool kit to deal with this situation? Restart management is key to your control of the match.

First off, the team that was fouled has every right to restart play quickly and with little interference as long as the ball is stationary and in the right spot. And when it is stated “little interference” that also includes the referee not interfering with the attacking team’s right to a “quick kick.”

Do not be too quick to move in and start moving the defending players back. Do not be so close that you are in a passing lane – be aware of the players around you.

The referee must be close enough to the play to read the next play. They must be aware of the player’s body language, and to be aware of tactical runs both on and off the ball, being cognizant that a “quick kick” doesn’t necessarily have to be played forward.

Any attempt or action by the team to delay this restart must be dealt with – it cannot be ignored – and it is most important that the very first instance of this type of behavior in a game that you stamp your “line in the sand.” All players are watching you – coaches are making mental notes.

Each game is different – so the method or tactic that you employ (cards, verbal admonishment, etc.) must fit the game you are on and must be consistent throughout the game. The method chosen must fit your personality and within the Laws of the Game.

Every restart is different – is it in the first 5 minutes, or the last 5 minutes? Is the restart in the defensive third, the middle third, or the offensive third? Does the restarting team have a free kick specialist you are aware of? It might be a good idea – to find that out during your pre-game the day or night before and discuss it with the crew.

Sounds complicated – right? It is. Properly managing restarts comes with experience.

When the whistle blows for a foul, the player that committed the foul (and their teammates) are now in the mindset of defense. And defense is taught to stop the ball.

Players stop the ball by many ways, and some more creative than others. But the objective remains the same and that is to prevent the attacking team from exercising its right to restart play quickly.

Some truthfully are amusing – but as the referee we cannot fall into the trap of being a fan. We can look at it later on video and smile – but in the present, you have to act.

The player that committed the foul (or a teammate) may take a position of standing over the ball to prevent a quick kick. This is not an accident, and it may lead to a confrontation as the attacking player may lean down to ensure the ball is not moving and then slightly (or not so slightly) push the defender away. You now will find yourself in a situation that may be more than delaying the restart.

Some may kick the ball away. Maybe only a few feet, but enough to disrupt the quick kick. Or maybe the player will give us an “easy one” and kick the ball into the stands – meaning we now have a card for either dissent or delaying the restart.

If a player is going to “give us” an easy one – an easy card – take it. Everyone knows it is warranted, so why try to talk you way out of it or to brush it off and not act. Remember – everyone is watching and making a mental not of what your “line in the sand” is.

Some players will pick up the ball and hold it, while the defenders get in position, which may lead to the attacking player trying to play a quick kick tries to pry the ball out of the other’s hands. This could get messy.

Others may pick up the ball and toss it in the air like a jump ball in basketball. See above, this could be an “easy one” also.

Still others may pick it up and simply walk away from the spot of the restart and drop it. Maybe not too far, but enough to delay the restart?

Then there are the players that believe they are “helping” the referee and pick the ball up and hand it to us. And then will ask us to count off 10 yards. The defense asking for 10 yards while holding the ball denies the attacking team of playing a quick kick. The damage has been done.

There are also the very subtle instances of the defender walking just pass the attacker as they prepare to play the ball – usually followed by the “my bad” remark from the defender in an attempt to look innocent. There is nothing innocent about it – this is a practiced tactic to delay the restart.

The result of the foul may have the defender on the ground and they scoop the ball up and underneath themselves to prevent a quick kick – or worst the attacker attempts to play the ball kicks or attempt to kick the player to get the ball free.

And all of the above are taught and practiced.

Are you close enough so that your physical and verbal presence is a tool that is immediately available for not only the players – but for you as the referee to control and manage the restart?

Are you going to card on the first instance?

Are you going to make sure that you are fair to both teams with the first instance of delaying the restart?

Is it your practice to give a warning the first time it occurs? But what will you do if the other team now does the same thing? Do they get a warning also? Is there a way to give a warning on the first instance so that both teams understand that they have been warned?

Be careful.

“Come on ref – they did the same thing – and all they got was a warning?”

Reaching for a card after only a verbal warning – could lead to “dissent” from the players and the bench.

“Any player who the referee judges to be delaying the restart of the game to gain an unfair advantage may be cautioned and shown a yellow card.”

The key word is “may.”

As you go through your mental pre-game, and run through the many different scenarios that may occur in your match – “what is your line in the sand?” Be aware that as soon as you blow the whistle – you have approximately 2-3 seconds to read the next play, the player’s body language, the style of play and have a tactical awareness of what is happening around you.

What tools do you have in your “tool kit” to manage the restart?

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