D.C. EMERSON MATHURIN (Canada) is a FIFA Referee Instructor and member of the CONCACAF Referee's Commision.


D.C. Emerson Mathurin
Photo: CONCACAF

In recent years, a number of significant changes have been made to the Laws of the Game by the International Football Association Board, the maker and keeper of these laws. Some of the changes have taken the form of a redaction of particular laws in a simpler, more positive way, some correspond to the general wishes of coaches and players worldwide (for example, the use of three subsititutes in official competitions), whereas others reflect more accurately the needs of the modern game (for example, the extension of the half-time interval to fifteen minutes). Some of the changes have also appeared as diagrams, for example, those illustrating points in connection with off-side, corner kicks, fair and unfair challenges, kicks from the penalty mark, the technical area, and the denial by a player of a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to the opposing team by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick. No matter the reason for these recent changes to the Laws of the Game, the concensus is that they have been progressive and beneficial.


A dropped ball is a way of restarting the match after a temporary stoppage.
Perhaps the changes to the Laws of the Game that have attracted the most attention of referees, assistant referees, referee instructors and referee inspectors are those associated with Stoppages and Restarts. This is not surprising, for there are many who claim, in rather simplistic terms, that Stoppages and Restarts are what refereeing is all about. By that they presumably mean that a referee's main job is to know when to interfere with play (stoppage) and how to restart play in accordance with the Laws of the Game. Little attention is apparently given in the circumstances to everything that a referee does between stopping play and restarting it, even though his activities during that time often describe the manner in which he deals with misconduct and his establishment and maintenance of match control. It still remains true, nevertheless, that when one sees a referee who does not know when to stop play or how to restart it, one is watching a referee whose game is about to or has already come apart at the seams!

There are, of course, only eight methods of starting and restarting play, namely, the kick off, the free kicks (direct and indirect), the penalty kick, the throw in, the goal kick, the corner kick, and the dropped-ball. These methods are described in the accompanying chart, which is a revision of the one that was published in the 1993 edition of the author's book, In Search Of Fair Play, and wherein each method is covered under the specific law that is indicated at the top of the relevant column.



The most significant changes that have been made recently by the International F.A. Board to these specific laws concern the moment the ball is in play after each start or restart, and whether a goal may be scored directly from any of them. In this regard, the seemingly everlasting notion of the ball not deemed to be in play at a kick off, a free kick, a penalty kick, a goal kick or a corner kick until it had travelled "the distance of its own circumference" has been discarded in favour of a more progressive ruling. Now, and conditionally at these starts and restarts, the ball simply has to move after it is kicked. While it is worth emphasizing that only minimal movement is needed to meet this requirement, it is not true to say that only a touch of the ball with the foot constitutes movement. On the other hand, anyone who is able to kick a football into the opponent's goal from a distance of 90 metres (at a goal-kick), or even 45 metres (at a kick-off), is deserving of a goal. And this is the law!

The following are some of the features that are described in the chart:

Two more points need to be made. First, referees would be well-advised to make note of the team which will be kicking-off to start the second half of a match. Where they have not done so, they should remember that this kick is always in the same direction as the opening kick-off.

  1. Of the eight methods of restart, all but one require a player to put the ball in play. In the case of a dropped-ball, it is the referee who puts the ball in play, because no other method is either appropriate or permissible.
  2. Three of the restarts (the free kicks and the penalty kick) are punishments for specific infractions of the Laws of the Game; the others are not.
  3. Four of the eight restarts (the free kicks, the penalty kick and the dropped-ball) result from the referee actively stopping play; the other four result from the ball going out of play over a goal line or a touch line.
  4. A goal may be scored directly from five of the eight restarts, namely, a kick off, a goal kick, a direct free kick, a penalty kick and a corner kick, but only against the opposing team.
  5. At a dropped-ball, play is restarted by the referee dropping (not bouncing) the ball at the place where it was when play was stopped, unless it was within a goal area, in which case it should be dropped on the goal area line that is parallel to the goal line, and at a point nearest to where it was when play was stopped. This is, of course, what is partly meant in the Laws of the Game by the clause "Unless covered by the Special Circumstances listed in Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play."
  6. As a general principle, when a free kick is awarded to the opposing team, the kick is taken from the place where the offence occurred, subject to the overriding conditions outlined in Law 8. We say that as a general rule this is so, for there are occasions when the free kick is instead taken from the place where the offence was initiated, for example, when the offence is perpetrated at a distance. All of this is in accord with a 1967 International F.A. Board Decision.
  7. At a dropped-ball, the restart must be repeated if the ball goes into touch or crosses the goal line immediately after it is in play, providing that no one played it before it went out of play.
  8. Of the restarts, two must be taken from a particular spot - the centre mark for a kick off and the penalty mark for a penalty kick. On each occasion the ball must be kicked in a forward direction; otherwise, the kick must be retaken.
  9. The Laws of the Game do not specify a distance at which opposing players must stand when the play is being restarted by means of a dropped-ball or a throw-in. However, a player would be guilty of misconduct and should be cautioned if he were to prevent his opponent from putting the ball in play at a throw-in, as he would if, at a dropped-ball, he were to persist in playing the ball before it touched the ground. In either case, the player would be guilty of delaying the restart of play, which is a cautionable offence.
  10. There are only two restarts (the free kicks) which may result in an immediate offside. There is no immediate offside at a penalty kick, since all players other than the kicker and the defending goalkeeper are required to be located behind the penalty mark at this restart, and a player can never be in an offside position if he is level with or behind the ball. Furthermore, there is no immediate offside at a dropped-ball, for it is the referee, rather than a player, who touches the ball last before it is in play.
  11. There are three restarts (a goal kick and the free kicks taken by a defending team within its penalty area) where the ball must be kicked directly beyond the penalty area before it is deemed to be in play.
  12. At a goal kick, since the lines on the field of play belong to the areas of which they are boundaries, the outer edge of the ball could extend beyond the goal area and still meet the requirements of Law 16 - Goal Kick . Similarly, at a corner kick, the ball may be placed inside the corner quadrant or on any of the lines that enclose the quadrant. It follows from the foregoing that, at a throw-in, the ball is in play immediately any part of it crosses the vertical plane determined by the outside edge of the touch line.

Finally, there are several conditions which, because of unavailable space, could not be included in the accompanying chart. Referees should refer to the specific laws and even to past International F.A. Board Decisions for details, beginning with the Special Circumstances that are listed in Law 8 - The Start and Restart of Play

NOTE: Mr. Mathurin was a member of the FIFA delegation (Referees' Committee: Panel of Instructors) to the 3rd FIFA Women's World Cup USA'99. The views expressed in the foregoing are his, and not necessarily those of FIFA.


STARTS AND RESTARTS OF PLAY
An Updated Overview

by
D.C. Emerson Mathurin, FIFA Referee Instructor

Penalty Kick
(Law 14)
KICK OFF
(Law 8)
Indirect Free Kick
(Law 13)
Direct Free Kick
(Law 13)
Why is the ball out of play?The referee has not permitted the game to start or a goal has been scoredThe referee has stopped play for a technical infringementThe referee has stopped play for a foulThe referee has stopped play for a foul committed by a player within his penalty area
Where is the start/restart taken?From the centre of the field of playConditionally * , where the offence occurredConditionally * , where the offence occurredFrom the penalty mark
How far must the opponent be from the ball?At least 9.15 metres and in his own half of the fieldAt least 9.15 metres, except when the kick is within 10 yards of his own goalAt least 9.15 metres and conditionally * ouside the penalty areaAt least 9.15 metres, ouside the penalty area (excluding opposing goalkeeper) and behind the penalty mark
When is the ball in play?When it is kicked and moves in a forward directionWhen it is kicked and moves, and conditionally * leaves the penalty areaWhen it is kicked and moves, and conditionally * leaves the penalty areaWhen it is kicked and moves in a forward direction
May a player who receives the ball directly be declared offsides?NoYesYesNo
May a goal be scored directly from the start/restart?Yes, but only against the opposing teamNoYes, but only against the opposing teamYes, but only against the opposing team
When is the start/restart considered over?A penalty kick is considered to be over when the referee has decided whether or not a goal has been scored.
In all other cases, the start/restart is considered to be over when the referee has decided the ball is in play

STARTS AND RESTARTS OF PLAY
An Updated Overview

by
D.C. Emerson Mathurin, FIFA Referee Instructor (Cont.)

Throw In
(Law 15)
Goal Kick
(Law 16)
Corner Kick
(Law 17)
Dropped Ball
(Law 8)
Why is the ball out of play?The ball has passed wholly over a touch lineThe ball has passed wholly over the opponents' goal line, last played by an attackerThe ball has passed wholly over the defending team's goal line, last played by a defenderThe referee has stopped play for a special reason
Where is the start/restart taken?From the point where the ball crossed the touch lineFrom any point within the goal areaFrom the within the corresponding corner quadrantConditionally *, where the ball when play was stopped
How far must the opponent be from the ball?No specified distanceAt least 11 metres and outside the penalty areaAt least 9.15 metresNo specified distance
When is the ball in play?Immeidately it enters the field of playWhen it is kicked directly beyond the penalty areaWhen it is kicked into the field of playWhen it touches the ground and remains in the field of play
May a player who receives the ball directly be declared offsides?NoNoNoNo
May a goal be scored directly from the start/restart?NoYes, but only against the opposing teamYes, but only against the opposing teamNo

* The word "conditionally" is used to indicate that some more-specific requirements apply, hence the phrase"Unless covered by the Special Circumstances in Law 8 - The Star and Restart of Play", which is often referred to in LAWS OF THE GAME