Issues with Corner Kicks

At all levels of the game corner kicks create issues for the referee.  Upon signaling that a corner kick will be used to restart the match, referees must be aware of all the activities that will take place both before and during the taking of the kick.

Even before the ball is put into play, players will work to give themselves an advantage.  They will jostle for position, they will hold, push and grab to secure the best position they can to gain control of the ball.

While referees are usually focusing on the activities taking place directly in front of the goal they must also be aware of any assistant referee’s signals prior to the kick and while the ball is in flight.  Having to divide his/her attention in two directions at such a tense moment of the match occurs at every corner kick.

 What can happen?

When kicked, the ball while in the air may bend over the goal line (leaving the field) and returning to the field.  The only official who can judge whether the ball clearly and entirely left the field is the assistant referee who is standing behind the corner flag.  The flag may go up immediately and because the referee’s attention is in front of the goal, the signal may be missed.

If a goal is scored and the flag signal is missed the referee will have to deal with two issues.  One being embarrassment, the second being complaints from the players and both can lead to game control.

Upon realizing that he/she missed the flag signal the referee must disallow the goal and restart with a goal kick.  An unpopular decision, probably, but the correct one.  Because of the delay in making the call, the referee may have to deal with dissent and may have to issue cautions.

Another more awkward situation will surface if the ball has left the field on its flight to the goal area, returns to the field and play continues while the raised flag signal is not noticed.  During a counterattack, with the referee now running away from the assistant with the flag up, stopping play way up the field once the flag signal is finally recognized will undoubtedly be very unpopular, lead to more dissent and create some game control issues for the referee.

Overlooking the missed call or waving the flag down (as can be legally done in other situations) is not an option in these cases.   Once the ball has legally left the field, it is out of play.  The only and proper way to handle the situation is to stop play and restart with a goal kick.

 To avoid these situations:

Discuss possible corner kick scenarios with the assistants during the pregame.  Be aware of and prepared for what can happen during corner kicks.  Select the best position that will give you the best line of sight and allow you to simultaneously watch the players and your assistant.  Be quick on the whistle when the flag goes up in these situations.