Trying to Slow Down a Restart

Gary, an adult amateur player, asks:

On a free kick can a defender stand in front of the ball till the offense player asks for 10 like a yard or two? Trying to see how to freeze the kick to set up a wall?


An apparently nice, simple question but one which touches the heart of the game.

Briefly, no.   A bit less brief,  the Laws of the Game state explicitly that opponents must retreat to a minimum of 10 yards … and they say it as though these opponents know that this is the requirement and that they are expected to perform this duty without needing to be reminded of it.  Of course, we all know better.  Unless the players are young (say, roughly, below the age of 14) and have had little training or experience, referees do not step in to enforce the 10 yard requirement because the attacking team may well prefer to take a quick kick even with one or more opponents closer than the minimum distance.  In general, the only time we step in to enforce the distance is if (a) there is an opponent obnoxiously close to the restart point and is aching to receive a caution, (b) we are expressly asked to enforce the distance, or (c) it is apparent that neither team is aware of  its responsibility to retreat.

When the referee has to step in, of course, things become a bit more complex and, though this appears to be an opportunity for the defenders to set up “the wall,” it can come with a price and that is what situation (a) is all about.  Except for ignorance (or lack of experience), the mere need to stop the taking of the kick could be the basis for a card.

By the way, there is a difference between a card for delaying the restart of play and a card for failing to respect the required distance – it’s not a huge difference (they are both yellow cards) and delaying the restart of play can be used for other purposes.  An opponent who is delaying the restart of play is usually either standing right next to the ball to actually block the restart or in the way for the attacker who is going to take the kick.  It’s a fine distinction.  Noting your own terminology, however, any “trying to see how to freeze the kick to set up a wall” can be cautioned – defenders on a free kick have no authority under the Law to try to interfere with or delay the restart for any purpose.  Only the referee can hold up a restart and, even then, only for such reasons as a player being injured or giving a card for an act of misconduct whether associated with the stoppage of play or not.

We should add that our approach to the attackers is rather similar regarding the placement of the ball for the restart.  The farther the restart point is from the goal being attacked, the less we care about being specific about where the restart should occur.