Changes loom for defensive wall on free kicks in soccer

ABERDEEN, Scotland (AP) — Defending against a free kick will become a little less disruptive.

A change that can be approved Saturday by soccer lawmakers attempts to stop attacking teams jostling and jumping in defensive walls.

They would not be allowed in the barrier alongside defenders, with the change forcing them to keep a minimum 1-yard distance.

The tactical advantage for the defending team would be enhanced, and goalkeepers likely would get clearer sight of free kicks being taken.

Referees would be freed from focusing on shoving in the wall, which often forces them to intervene.

While defenders would still have to be 10 yards from the free kick, attackers would remain able to form a wall on their own in front. That, though, would further inhibit the space for the free-kicker to bend the ball into the net.

The law change just needs to be rubber-stamped by The International Football Association Board and would be introduced from June.

FIFA has four delegates and the British nations have the other four, with six votes required for a change to the laws.

“I think it would be a good improvement to the laws of the game,” said CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani, one of FIFA’s representatives in Saturday’s meeting as a vice president of the global governing body.

There was a flashpoint of controversy in the World Cup last year when England was preparing to take a free kick as its round-of-16 game against Colombia became more heated. Colombia midfielder Wilmar Barrio was booked for appearing to headbutt England counterpart Jordan Henderson amid the pushing in a defensive wall.

In the future, if the law change is approved, Henderson would have to be a yard away from Barrio.

Also on the agenda in the main annual IFAB meeting is a change to reduce uncertainty on handballs by specifying when an incident is not deliberate.

Delegates will also look to allow players being substituted to leave the field anywhere rather than at the halfway line.


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