" Good fences make… good neighbors!!!"
Founder of Ken Aston Referee Society
"Something there that doesn't love
When a free kick is about to take place, very often defenders will line
up in a "wall." The spirit and letter
of the law do not allow the delay of the free kick. (Wall or
defenders lining up shoulder-to-shoulder, 2-3-4-5 players at a time, in
line with expected path of the free kick.) There is no stated
prohibition in the Laws about setting up a "wall." It is not mentioned.
Defenders are expected to surrender the
10 yards or proper distance, in an
Delaying the restart or failure to respect the proper distance is a
caution able, yellow card offense. Serious? How many good free kick
opportunities does a team get? How many chances like that occur in a
Here a team has already been victimized by a foul. Now, if denied proper
distance - denied their freedom - you will have let them be victimized
again! This is misconduct, injustice!
Justice is required! So it is, indeed, serious.
Serious enough, so a golden card may come out of hiding. Sometimes a
yellow card, shown early, will make defenders get religion. (The offense
is unsporting conduct, delay of game by failing to respect the proper
distance on a restart, or encroachment) Next time they'll do the right
thing: give 10.
The offended team, fouled though they were, may want to take the free
kick right away, immediately. As long as ball is not moving; is at spot
designated by referee, they may do so. Even if defense is not the proper
distance away-it is the kicking team's choice.
However, if their perceived shot, pass or surprise, in a quickly taken
kick goes for naught, they cannot ask to have "10 yards." No proper
distance, no second bite at the apple. They cannot take it over. They
had their chance, took their shot. No sweet serendipity? So be it.
A free kick is awarded. Alertly, the referee, in the meantime can tell
the defense to get back; point to where they have to go; use body
language to encourage the surrender of proper yardage. The Referee can
remind the defense proactively. Warn that encroachment is possible
misconduct. Advise that misconduct has consequences.
The referee does not need the kicking team to ask him or her to take
preventive measures. This will help management in other free kicks
situations, later in the game.
In most cases, the kicking team need not wait for another signal from
referee to take their free kick. They are entitled to the quick restart
before the defense can set up.
In the case, when the kicking team indicates a plan to wait, or formally
ask for proper distance, the referee may tell them to please wait for
that second signal. The ceremonial kick ensues. Often the referee will
hold up and point to the whistle- meaning 'wait for my whistle', until
the wall is set at the right distance.
The referees should not pace off the ten yards, but know it from prior
practice. Referees must have established a sense of what 10 yards looks
like, in their mind's eye. Then indicate with sweep of their arm/hand
where the wall should be.
The Key: defenders must surrender proper distance on their own. They
have no rights. They have obligations: to give up 10 yards; cede correct
distance; allow all around acreage-360 degrees.
The referee has ways to help show defenders the path of righteousness:
firm voice, clear gesture (pointing, waving) or being first person,
'brick' in wall- standing alongside where wall must be. When a quick
kick is not indicated, the referees should be careful to face both
defenders and attackers. Be sure the ball is not moved closer, as the
wall gathers form, at its legal distance.
If defenders deduce that they must give the correct distance, which is
good. If defenders know it, at the very first free kick of the day, that
is good. Then most often, this sets a cooperative tone for the rest of
the game. Perhaps a reluctantly realistic defender attitude.
Referees do their duty. Free kicks are... 'free'.
“Yellow cards stay in hiding. Justice
prevails!" That is... best.
"And on a day we meet to walk the line
and set the wall between us as we go....
Good fences make good neighbors."
--From Mending Wall, by Robert Frost