I have a question about a restart off a free kick.
Recently, I was coaching a game and a young referee called a hand ball right outside the penalty area. My players lined up a wall right behind the ball so the other team could not take a quick free kick. The referee was moving back the wall when the other team set the ball and scored while the referee was moving back the wall. I quickly yelled and protested to the referee that a whistle was needed because he was moving the wall. He agreed and a re-kick was ordered and the other team did not score. The opposing coach protested saying a whistle was not needed.
USSF answer (September 4, 2008):
Let’s do a little analysis here on the true state of the situation that concerns you.
First, if your team actually “lined up a wall right behind the ball so the other team could not take a quick free kick,” this is a blatant violation of both the spirit and the letter of the Laws of the Game. The referee should immediately have indicated that the restart could not occur, cautioned one of your players, advised the other players to quickly retreat to the required minimum distance, and then signaled for the restart. There would then have been no question that the kick could not be taken until the referee signaled — your team would have (as it did) successfully prevented a quick restart, but it would have paid at least some price for this obvious misconduct.
Second, assuming the referee failed to understand the need to deal with the misconduct and proceeded to move the wall back, the attacking team was still free to take an quick kick because they had not been ordered by the referee to wait. Clearly, the referee was distracting the opponents but, frankly, this was their own fault. None of this would have happened had they not violated the Law by being closer than the minimum distance. In short, what the referee did was bad mechanics but not a violation of the Laws of the Game.
Lessons to be learned from this:
The defending team has only one right at a restart, not to be distracted by the referee. They have no right to form a wall nor to prevent the opponents from taking a position anywhere on the field. In this case, you are correct about the referee: Because he was pushing your team back, this required a clear indication to the kicking team to wait for his whistle to restart. The referee should have called the kick back and had it retaken, but the referee should have been astute enough to notice that the kicking team wanted to take a quick free kick. That would have solved every problem.
If your team insists on engaging in illegal gamesmanship, they must be prepared to assume the consequences, regardless of whether the referee uses recommended mechanics or not.
Who is correct? What is the correct ruling?