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Question Number: 31795

Law 13 - Free Kicks 9/17/2017

RE: Travel Team - Competitive Under 13

Robert Theisen of Gilbertsville, PA United States asks...

I had a semi professional goalie provide instruction to my center midfielder and goalkeeper on establishing a wall for direct free kicks. His instruction was basically for the center midfielder to step to the ball and start marching off a reasonable distance away from the ball while facing the goalie and having him tske instruction for positioning and lineup between the ball and the area of the net the goalie wanted to protect. We would then add one two or even three players depending upon the position of the ball on the field. I've been given mixed reviews by referees regarding the legality of this procedure. Some say that is completely acceptable for my players to set the wall up in this fashion and others indicate that is delay-of-game. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. At no time do they ever stand still in front of the ball they are always walking towards the goal with the assumption that if the other team needs more space they will ask for it or that the referee will march off the 10 yards. It is not being done maliciously but as a function of setting up our wall. Thank you in advance - Rob T

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Robert,

The issue is with the defender initially stepping up to the ball. There's absolutely no need for any defender to walk up to the ball and that could certainly be considered a cautionable offence. The defenders are better off visually estimating what 10 yards is and allow the referee to move them back further if required.
If the restart is slow and it's going to be ceremonial anyway then there's no issue - but the referee will set up the position of the wall anyway.
If the referee perceives that the defender is moving up to the ball in an attempt to block a quick free kick then that player should be cautioned. In fact I'd expect that's precisely the purpose behind this technique - to block a quick free kick under the guise of identifying where 10 yards is.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Robert,
Although you might struggle to find anything in the Laws that specifically prohibits this practice (and so I can see why some refs might say it is legal) I would say it is ill-advised. For one thing, as ref Wright mentions any time a defender moves towards the ball after a free kick has been awarded against their team, they run the risk of the referee seeing this as a deliberate delaying tactic worthy of a caution.

From a coaching point of view, I also find it questionable. One thing I would always try to impress on my players was to never turn their back on the ball. If a player is facing away from the ball trying to organise a wall and the free kick is taken quickly, that player for certain and possibly some of the others will miss what is happening and could get caught unawares.

Overall, the whole idea seems to me, to be redolent of the mindset that the defenders have some kind of right to take their time and organise themselves after conceding a free kick - which is totally false. Here is a list of the rights and privileges accorded to the team conceding a free kick: nothing, zilch, nada, zero ..... I think you get the idea. (OK, there is one exception that is sometimes mentioned - the defenders do have the right not to be misled by the referee but that is something that shouldn't happen and rarely does).

Even if the referee decides to make the kick ceremonial, it means that the ref is now in charge of things and that includes deciding where the defenders need to be. It is not the prerogative of the defenders to decide what distance they should retire to and some referees might even see it as an affront to their authority and at the extreme, even a form of dissent to start pacing out the distance in this way.

Once again, I would agree with ref Wright that the defenders should just set themselves up where they think they should be and leave it to the ref to tell them if they need to adjust their positioning.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Robert
The tactic is ill advised for the one reason that the stepping in front of the ball can be seen as delaying the restart of play. It is also likely to be viewed as the same as the player that runs to stand in front of the ball which is commonly referrred to as the *statue*. In that tactic the players intention is to stop the Quick Free Kick and it has become one of the banes of the modern game. Instead if it is about the wall then the player should start the set up well back from the ball and certainly not in the immediate vicinity of the ball. Referees will be none too bother about a defender who is facing his goalkeeper 7 or so yards from the ball. Another factor is whether the free kick is ceremonial or not. Once it becomes ceremonial the referee will pace the ten yards so the defender pacing is irrelevant.
Okay I can see times when the opponents do not want to take the free kick quickly and they are none too bothered about what the opponents are doing in front of the ball. Referees will not get involved in such situations. If on the other hand the defender gets in the way of the ball on a QFK then it is likely to be a card even if it is unintentional.

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