Wednesday, 12 Jun 2024

Indirect Free Kicks in Football

preparing for an indirect free kick
Ronnie Macdonald, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Football is a fascinating sport, but even passionate fans sometimes question referees’ decisions without fully understanding the rules. The confusion is often perpetuated by pundits and commentators who reference outdated rules, causing fans to believe they are still in effect. This lack of clarity extends to indirect free kicks, a rule that is not commonly seen in the game.

What Is an Indirect Free Kick?

An indirect free kick is a method of restarting a football match where the ball cannot be kicked directly into the goal. A goal can only be scored from an indirect free kick if it is touched by a player from either team before crossing the goal line. If a goal is scored without another player touching the ball, the defending team is awarded a goal kick.

When Are Indirect Free Kicks Awarded?

back pass results in an indirect free kick
Driolar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Indirect free kicks are frequently awarded, but they are often in positions on the pitch where fans may not realize their importance. For instance, an offside decision results in an indirect free kick, but it is typically far from the opposition’s goal, making a strike at goal unlikely. When an indirect free kick is awarded, the referee raises their arm above their head until the kick is taken.

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These free kicks are often given for technical infringements of the game, which may not be as obvious as fouls or handballs. The language used to describe these infringements can be vague, such as “playing in a dangerous manner.” Indirect free kicks can also be awarded for impeding the progress of an opponent without any contact.

Additionally, indirect free kicks can be given for offenses like dissent or for committing an offense not mentioned in the Laws of the Game. One common scenario is when a goalkeeper picks up a deliberately passed back ball or holds onto the ball for longer than six seconds.

Taking Indirect Free Kicks

Normally, indirect free kicks are taken from the spot where the offense occurred. However, there are exceptions. If the offense happens inside the opposition’s penalty area, the kick is taken from the nearest point on the goal area line parallel to the goal line. If a player enters or re-enters the field without permission, the kick is taken from where the ball was when play stopped. If an offense occurs after a player has left the pitch, the kick is taken from the boundary line closest to where the offense occurred. It’s important to note that penalties are never awarded for indirect free kick offenses inside the penalty area.

The History of the Indirect Free Kick

When discussing the Laws of the Game, it’s essential to recognize that the early days of football resembled a hybrid between modern football and rugby. The original Laws, drafted by Ebenezer Cobb Morley in 1863, were based on the Cambridge Rules and were adopted by the Football Association. However, not all regions in the country adhered to these rules, resulting in a diverse range of local variations.

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The concept of an indirect free kick can be traced back to the Sheffield Rules, which stated that no goals could be scored from a free kick. Matches between London and Sheffield teams, each playing under their own set of rules, highlighted the need for a unified code. The first mention of an indirect free kick in the Laws of the Game came in 1874, specifically for handballs. Over time, the use of indirect free kicks expanded to include offsides and foul play. Direct free kicks for scoring goals were introduced in 1903, permanently changing the way free kicks are taken.


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Indirect free kicks in football play a crucial role in restarting a match. While less common than direct free kicks, they are awarded for technical infringements and offenses that don’t involve direct contact. Understanding the rules surrounding indirect free kicks adds depth to our appreciation of the game. To learn more about football and stay updated with the latest news, visit Movin993.