What If You Removed “The Wall” in Soccer?

With Euro 2020 in full swing, I had a thought while watching one of the highlights in which a team formed a defensive wall just outside the penalty box that involved a player lying horizontally on the ground at the base of the wall: Is this really necessary?

I’ve played soccer for most of my life, and I loved most of it. The only aspect of soccer that I consistently dreaded was standing in the wall. You’re a human shield for an incoming object that will most likely hit one of you…yeah, it’s simply not fun.

I can only imagine how much worse it is when the person taking the free kick is truly a force of nature. Players put up with it, but I doubt there are any players who enjoy standing in the wall.

So what if professional soccer organizations decided to ban the wall?

Your first reaction may be the same as mine: If you ban the wall, there’s nothing between the kicker and the goal except the goalie! Well, yes. It’s called a penalty kick, except from farther away and a more difficult angle. It would, granted, create more goals…but that’s not a bad thing.

My second reaction to the idea is that while it may discourage fouling outside of the penalty box, it would also encourage flopping and diving. Flopping is already one of the worst aspects of professional soccer, so it presents a clear opportunity to implement harsher penalties for flopping on the offensive side of the field (during and even after the game if real-time VAR isn’t available).

Third, how do you enforce an empty space between the ball and the goal where no players can stand? This stumped me for a bit, but some basic geometry solves it: The referee can use their foam to spray one line between the ball and the left post, and another between the ball and the right post. No one except the keeper is allowed within that triangle until the ball is kicked. This would only be an option on the offensive side of the pitch.

While I’d miss the creativity of seeing players bend penalty shots around, under, and over walls, I think this method would be even more exciting (and lucrative) than current in-the-box penalty kicks, especially given the variety of ranges and angles that would be available.

What do you think? Would you enjoy soccer without defensive walls?

11 thoughts on “What If You Removed “The Wall” in Soccer?”

  1. The goal keeper in our household disagrees with your assessment of the defensive wall and it’s necessity. 🙂

    But on a serious note, it would just give the refs too much control over the outcome of the game because a large portion of those opportunities would score. In such a low scoring sport, it would completely change the game. In his opinion in a very not good way. He said that it could be fine as an experiment in a very amateur game just to see what happened but he thought it wouldn’t work for professional sports.

  2. How far apart would players have to stand from each other, and how far away (directionally) would they have to be in order not to be considered “a wall” is one player (other than the keeper) a wall?

    This evening we’ve been bouncing around a change to “in play” penalties.
    In penalty shootouts as soon as the kick has been taken, the ball becomes effectively a dead ball, it’s either in the net (goal), passed the net (dead) or in the keepers hands. The final state is rebounds (either off the keeper or the woodwork) and here the ball is dead, the penalty taker can no longer kick the ball.

    So why isn’t this same rule applied to in game penalties? In game the rule is slightly different. After the kick has been taken the ball isn’t considered dead, yes it can still be dead in the net, or dead off the pitch, but as long as the ball stays on the pitch, after the penalty taker has kicked the ball, any player but the penalty taker may be the NEXT person to touch the ball. This means that if it hits the woodwork, any player except the taker, can kick the ball. But if the goalie succeeds in blocking the ball from going in the net (his one job), if he doesn’t parry the ball of the pitch, or catch the ball directly, then he (and his team) can immediately be penalised by a goal scored from a rebound. Given that they have just “stopped the punishment”, allowing rebound goals seems harsh. Especially given the penalty shootout rules.

    What do you think?

    • Maybe 2 meters away?

      That’s an interesting point about the dead ball rule, and I agree about rebound goals.

  3. Interesting thoughts, I’ve had similar feelings but had a different solution. Instead of outlawing the wall, what if we made every free-kick indirect (except penalties) and the team had to designate the kicker (no trick plays where the kicker changes)? I think that disincentivizes the wall and I believe that the creativity it removes (trick plays on the kick) is made up for in the creativity it creates by forcing teamwork (indirect free kicks) instead of individual efforts (shots on goal).

    • Brad: So it makes free kicks a lot more like corner kicks (corner kicks are technically direct kicks, for they’re essentially indirect for any scoring purpose)? I like that a lot.

  4. A number of new rules will be trialed by FIFA at the up coming youth competition called “The Future Of Football”.
    These rules are:
    – 30 minutes per half
    – the clock will stop when the ball goes out of play
    – unlimited substitutes
    – Throw-ins will become Kick-ins
    – Yellow cards will result in a 5 minute suspension.

    Basically these rules will make football more like other sports such as handball.

    If the trials are successful they will then be brought before the governing board that decide what the current rules are across major competitions.

    I can see the idea behind some of these changes, but I think there are other current rules that they should actually be focusing on adjusting.


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