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Wall management: 9 steps to do it properly

Wall management at ceremonial free kicks. How to avoid problems with players trying to come closer than 9.15 metres or players to take the ball to fast? Most important advice: always keep an eye on the ball.

Good example where referees could learn from is the situation last weekend in Russion football competition. Referee Eugene Turbin gave a free kick just outside the penalty area to Zenit St. Petersburg in the match against Volga Nizhny Novgorod. The referee showed his whistle to signal that the free kick can be taken after the whistle. Hulk from Zenit was holding the ball and was about to place it on the ground when Turbin walked away to put the wall at 9.15 metres. The referee looked back once and saw Hulk placing the ball. Then he did not look back and saw the ball flying over his head toward the goal.

He must have thought: it was Hulk, and gave him a yellow card. Because he already got one before, Hulk was send of in the 28th minute of the game.

Check below the video what we can learn from this situation about proper wall management.

Formal free kicks require the management of both defending and attacking players. Players are allowed to take free kicks fast, but when a referee does not allow this, because he for example wants to book a player, there will be a so-called “ceremonial free kick”.

The Football Federation of Australia published a guideline on how to handle such situations. Works perfect for proper wall management:

9 steps for your ceremonial free kick routine

  • Place the ball
  • Show players your whistle
  • Tell them not to take the free kick until you signal to do so
  • Move sideways/backwards to the players lining up in the wall – keep eye on the ball
  • Stop at the nearest defender
  • Establish 9.15m whilst still keeping an eye on the ball
  • Use voice and presence to take player back with you into the wall
  • When wall established to your satisfaction move to one side, level with or slightly in front of the wall still keeping an eye on the ball
  • Blow whistle

The guideline was written for junior referees. Could help all referees. Download the pdf with the guide here.

What we could learn from this guideline in the situation above?

Turbin was showing the whistle very clearly to the players. The replay in the video shows that. What cause the problem: The referee should have looked at the ball constantly, to avoid booking the wrong player. The player who puts the ball in place is not always the one who’s going to take the kick.

And did you see Hulk pushing the referee afterwards? How would you deal with that?


  • Ryan Owens

    Hey Jan,

    In this case, the AR should have been able to give advice as well. I wonder why he wouldn’t rely on his AR who WOULD have been looking. In my matches, my pre-game includes the instruction that one AR should watch to ensure the ball is not moved ahead of my whistle, while the other should watch any other hot spots for conflict.

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