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 www.preventiveofficiating.com)