Reffing corner kicks: Don't ignore the grabbing and holding

By Randy Vogt

Soccer’s last rule, Law 17, is on corner kicks. The corner kick must be placed inside the corner area (formerly called “corner arc”) nearest to the point the ball crossed the goal line. Which is interesting as the goal kick can be kicked from either side of the goal area, no matter which side of the goal that the ball crossed the goal line, but the ball on a corner kick must be kicked from the corner on the side that the ball went over the goal line.

A reason for the discrepancy is the placement of the ball becomes more precise the closer the ball is to the goal being attacked. So on goal kicks, the ball is far from that goal. The ball could go past one side of the goal but the ball kid is on the other side. The kid throws the ball onto the field and rather than it having to be moved to the other half of the goal area, as the rules once stated, the ball can be played from anywhere in the goal area.

Corner kicks are obviously closer to the goal being attacked. And if a team could take the kick from either corner, you would have players running 70 yards by the goal line to take the kick, either to waste time or to get the service from the preferred corner, such as in-swinger vs. out-swinger.

Some people mistakenly believe that the mark outside the field for opponents to stand behind is 10 yards from the corner flag. This is incorrect as it’s 10 yards from the 1-yard corner area, therefore 11 yards from the corner flag, as the opponent must be positioned at least 10 yards from the corner kick.

When I started officiating soccer, refereeing the corner kick was not a big issue. But it has become much more challenging during the past decade or so as officials in pro games have allowed way too much contact to occur before and during corner kicks in front of the goal that they would not allow to occur at midfield. And all the grappling and holding on corner kicks has filtered to the other levels of play.

At an English Premier League game that I was a spectator at a decade ago (2007: Sheffield United-Newcastle United), my seat was behind one of the goals and there was so much grabbing that I thought I was watching Wrestlemania rather than a soccer game. Certainly, ref Mark Halsey had as clear a view as me sitting behind the Newcastle goal of the two hands grabbing a Sheffield attacker’s jersey, preventing him from jumping to head the ball off a corner a few yards from goal. Yet no whistle was coming and the players knew it. Not meaning to single out just one ref as this high level of contact has been allowed on corner kicks in way too many games.

Easy for me to write as I am not refereeing in front of tens of thousands at the stadium and millions more watching at home. Yet all we would need is some fouls to be whistled, especially against the defense resulting in a penalty kick, and the contact would go way down on corner kicks. And when the contact goes down, the number of goals and clear opportunities off corner kicks will go up as it’s challenging to get a header on goal with all the physicality.

Players trying to circumvent the rules on corner kicks do not stop with what’s going on in front of the goal. Now it’s also a matter of where the ball is placed. For years in my games, the kicker automatically placed the ball inside the corner area and the kick was taken.

Pro players certainly know where the ball must be placed. But when players are taking the corner kick from the flag on the left wing, they now sometimes try and place the ball slightly outside the corner area and hope that the ref standing 20-25 yards away does not spot this. Once again, poor behavior has filtered to the other levels of play, including in my games. I’ve had to approach the corner area on many occasions recently to make sure that the ball was being properly placed.

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at

11 comments about "Reffing corner kicks: Don't ignore the grabbing and holding".
  1. ROBERT BOND, April 6, 2017 at 9:15 a.m.

    may send a vid of a keeper jumping over our field player, who was just standing there, and the ball came out of the keep's hands off the shoulder of a defender standing in front of our kid, and he was called for the foul!

  2. Mark Zylker, April 6, 2017 at 9:34 a.m.

    AMEN Randy!!!!!
    No one likes a lot of penalties but they will be cut down considerably when the defender realizes his grabbing etc will result in one. 99 out of 100 times the referee calls the foul on the offensive player which shows the fear of affecting the game. Less grabbing and jostling will lead to more beautiful goals.

  3. Ed M, April 6, 2017 at 9:35 a.m.

    The first 4 paragraphs have nothing to do with grabbing and holding on corner kicks. The placement of the corner kick is not a discrepancy, it is a fact of the drawing of the field itself. The corners are in the corners, the goal area is in the middle of the end of the field. You say players are circumventing the rules. Circumventing means finding a way to go around the rules by trying something you think may be allowed. Infringing the rules, which is what you are talking about, is breaking the rules by doing something not allowed. So, what are some things Referees should be watching for and how should a Referee manage these things? That is what the article is about, no?

  4. Bob Ashpole, April 6, 2017 at 11:20 a.m.

    Great article. +1 on eliminating the holding and pushing.

  5. beautiful game, April 6, 2017 at 5:03 p.m.

    Good article. The scrums on corner & free kicks on goal is a cancer to the competitive nature of the game and the referees are the prime enablers of this huge problem. Show enough cautions & PKs and this will end in no time. How this scrum was permitted to evolve and take over the game shows the incompetence & dereliction to duty by the officials responsible for the enforcement of TLOG.

  6. Nick Daverese, April 7, 2017 at 7:01 a.m.

    Yes, but our game is a physical game. when you start calling every play that is physical a foul like some make calls in the youth game it is no longer our game.

    I see corner kicks differently then most. If we get a lot of corners against an opponent I see it as we are forcing our opponent into making mistakes. What is a corner we forced the opponent into having to give up a corner rather then letting a goal be scored against them. We are putting them under a lot of pressure. I think the first run on a corner should always be the near post run. So our player can see the ball with no defender in the way. If he can see the balll he can score a goal on that near post. It also forces the keeper to move in that direction. If the ball goes further back makes it easier for someone else to score. Then the delayed run to the far post another scoring chance. Donthem all. You have a good chance to score if the players really want to finish the chance or half chance. Not ever player wants to finish a chance. You see a player stick his head where it really does not belong and get the ball with his ear and scores. That player really wants to score.

  7. Fajkus Rules replied, April 7, 2017 at 10:28 a.m.

    So, when an attacker is poised to make an attempt at goal via header or volley and gets pushed, pulled, charged or otherwise prevented from having a fair attempt to play the ball, by an opponent physically playing his body and not the ball, why should there be any question or doubt about the call? To the extent that the referee fails to make any such call, it thus becomes activity that he/she condones. Most of the bad activity in soccer could be wiped out in 3 weeks by consistent and uniform application of standards by officials. NO ONE tunes into a soccer match hoping to see attackers grabbed and thrown to the ground in the penalty area, or is looking forward to seeing every quick restart opportunity turned into a ceremonial restart by morons standing 1 yard from a free kick restart location.

  8. frank schoon, April 7, 2017 at 12:53 p.m.

    Very simple..It is up to FIFA to make the call stating we want fouls during corners to be called. You see a foul call it, it's that simple. As soon as there a couple penalties called they'll begin to wise up. It is just like a ref who's known to give yellow as soon as a player argues, those players will begin to restrain themselves knowing what the consequences are...

  9. Doug Broadie, April 7, 2017 at 2:19 p.m.

    I have a very low opinion of professional referees. It appears that they are there as part of the entertainment industry as much as a WWE referee. The grabbing of the jerseys and shorts in the box are just one example. How about the defense standing in front of a free kick. (After one yellow card, I didn't have that problem anymore). I do like that the MLS is trying to cut that down as long as they do that the entire season. As Phil Shane has said on many, the last obstruction call made in the professional game was in 1998. I have seen at least 20 PK's given when it was obviously an obstruction call. I think an indirect kick in the penalty box is one of the most exciting events at a soccer game.

  10. Nick Daverese, April 8, 2017 at 2:03 a.m.


    Old post I made on this to shep Messing

    old post I made to Shep Messing

    This question is for Shep Messing.

    2 weeks ago when the Metrostars played Dallas. Mathis scored on the indirect free kick in the area.

    What did you think about the way Dallas set up to defend that IFK?

    Ball in the center of the goal, and the keeper on a post?

    That can't be correct.

    I thought the keeper should be in the middle facing the ball. Divide Dallas players 5 on a post keeper protects the open middle. On first touch he comes out, and plays Dallas second touch. Keeper has a chance playing the ball on either side on the goal starting from the middle.

    If he plays one post like the Dallas keeper played, he has no chance of playing a struck ball on the other side the far post.

    I think if keeper plays in the middle he has a chance to save the ball, better then let it deflect off wall and a Metro puts the rebound.

    Why make a protective wall, if on the second touch it breaks down when they all rush the ball. Why should all the Dallas defenders rush the ball?

    I have been arguing this point with people for a couple of weeks now.

    Did the Dallas keeper, and coach make a mistake defensively or am I wrong?

    To me my way makes more sense. How did you do it?


    Very good analysis on the defensive wall set up by Dallas on the Mathis, indirect free kick goal.

    Your points are very well taken. While most teams do prepare for all set piece situations, it looked to me as if the youngster, DJ Countess took it upon himself to position the wall and station himself by the post. That made no sense, as the two attacking options are a touch and a ball driven low through legs, or a touch and a ball roofed towards the upper part of the goal. In either case, the wall is best set up as you described, with a space dead center for the keeper to have full vision (the attacking team will then put their player in the wall in that space to shield the keeper)

    The keeper is then positioned centrally, with the best chance to at least react to a clean shot or a deflected one. More importantly, the wall on an indirect free kick in the box must be disciplined and hold their ground, which Dallas failed to do. Only one player designated from the wall should have the assignment of rushing out upon the first touch of the ball. It defeats the purpose by having the entire wall break down upon the first touch.

    Mathis did a good job in organization and in driving the ball low with velocity. Dallas failed miserably!

    Good comments!!

    Best regards,

    Shep Messing

  11. Nick Daverese, April 9, 2017 at 5:12 a.m.

    A lot of players don't really know on how to jump up on corners to head them in. With the new ban on heading for younger kids I doubt if they will ever know. I really think when they get older we will not be good at that skill.

    How high up you go depends on the force you use to push off the field when you jump.. The harder you push, the higher you go, and the longer you can stay in the air.

    Watch the flight of the ball jump straight up from a moving position and "stand still" in the air. While using your body head cocked back then at the right moment eyes open and neck stiff attack the ball with the forehead.

    Your body seems like you are staying in the air longer. Your actually are getting the ball on the way down from the top of your jump so the higher you get the longer you can hang. You bring your legs up as you jump so your thighs are pulled up on the jump.

    Good way to practice this is with a partner.

    He holds the ball with 2 hands and bended knees he tosses the ball high underhand in the air. You are facing him prone on the field on your stomach.As you see his hands start to toss the ball get up in a hurry and jump starting with with bended knees jump in the air and hang in the air to the ball is struck both legs up off the ground. Head cocked back then at the right moment eyes open and neck stiff attack the ball with the forehead back to the serverer and back on the ground you go in a hurry and then repeat

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