Changes to the Laws That Effect
Youth Matches in NYSWYSA (2007)
Each year, during the summer, FIFA and USSF release changes to the Laws of the Game and interpretations of those laws which affect the way the game of soccer is played both in the United States and (in FIFA’s case) worldwide. Typically these changes fall into three categories; those which are only grammatical in nature offered to give more clarity to the law, those which are actually changes but won’t have any real affect on play, and those which will alter decisions made during many matches. This year the majority of the changes fall into the first two categories. An example of the first was made to Law 12 stating that it is now a cautionable offense to be less than 2 meters (yards) from a throw-in. This change was implied by the change made in 2005 to the distance a defender must be from a throw in but was not specifically stated. An example of the second category came this year in a change to Law 17, the Corner Kick, stating that defenders must now be 10 yards from the corner arc as opposed to the ball. Although this truly is a change in the laws, this is typically the way encroachment on a corner kick has always been enforced. This article will deal with the two changes that fall into the last, most important category.
The first of these two changes was made by FIFA to the special instructions issued to referees which is offered at the end of the Laws book. Added to the list of things a player can be cautioned for is “provoking a confrontation by deliberately touching the ball after the referee has stopped play.” This caution would be for Delaying the Restart of Play. The USSF Advice to Referees further clarifies this ruling by stating that the referee should take all appropriate actions to prevent this tactic from being attempted in the first place by anticipating such behavior and stop it from happening by the use of a well-placed word or gesture. It must be noted that the focus of this change is “provoking a confrontation.” Merely touching the ball is not an offense. The caution is to be reserved for situation where a confrontation is actually provoked or imminent or if a player persists in the behavior despite the referee’s best efforts to prevent it. This has been adopted to try to stem the tide of unsporting acts committed by players after a goal has been scored or when they may disagree with a decision rendered by the referee.
The second change was published by USSF in the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game in August 2006 and applies to all games being played in the United States. Although this interpretation was offered under the interpretation offered to Law 13 (Free Kicks), it implied that it should also be applied to Kick Offs and Corner Kicks as well.
This interpretation is offered to clarify when a ball is in play on a Free Kick. The laws tell us that the ball is in play when it is “kicked and moved” in most circumstances. USSF has offered a definition of the words “kicked” and “moves.” Kicking the ball should be considered accomplished when the kicker has made a pendulum like motion with the leg making momentary contact with the ball with his or her foot. The pendulum like motion need not be large but MUST be distinguished from a simple tapping of the top of the ball with the foot. Likewise, momentary contact means that the initial impact between foot and ball is what causes the ball to move and if a player makes a more continuous contact with the ball (say by rolling the ball with the sole of the foot) it shall not have been kicked. “Moved” is defined as a perceptible change in location of the ball, i.e. the ball must move from one place to another place. A simple quivering or shaking of the ball is not to be considered “moving.” Should a player make continuous contact between the ball and the foot, he shall only have repositioned the ball, not put it into play. As with all of the laws, it is left up to the discretion of the referee to decide whether the ball has actually been put into play properly and what the appropriate restart should be if it is not. As a brief example, say the referee awards a team an indirect free kick because the goalkeeper played with his hands a ball deliberately kicked to him by a teammate on the 6 yard line. Should player A roll the ball with the sole of his foot (as was often common practice on the restart) and then teammate B comes in and kicks the ball into the goal, the referee shall not deem that first rolling contact made by player A to be a “kick.” The referee will now be left with the decision as to what should happen next. If he believes that the ball had not stopped before the touch by player B, he might restart the match with the same indirect free kick under a more controlled environment since the ball was not stationary as it must be on the free kick. If he believes that the ball had come to rest prior to the touch by player B, he would likely restart the match with a goal kick, considering the touch by player B to be the kick that put the ball into play and ignoring the first non-kicking touch as a mere repositioning of the ball.
This change clarifies for referees when contact with the ball in these situations should be considered repositioning and when the ball should be considered to be in play. It also makes it more difficult for a team to score a goal against a team that committed one of the minor, indirect free kick, offenses.