© 1998 jointly in the following individuals: Jim Geissman, David Graham, Jim MacQueen, Connie Matthies, Jim Meinhold, Chris Mohr, Gary Rue, Ken Smith, Dave Teetz, Ron Tremper, who are together known pseudonymously as the SOCCER-COACH-L LOTG COLLECTIVE

Law 17 - The Corner Kick

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A corner kick is essentially a direct free kick taken by the attacking team from the corner of the field in the attacking end.


Because of the similarity between corner kicks and direct free kicks, much of the Q&A on Law 13 applies here, too. The only "special" feature in the law is that a player receiving a CK cannot be offside, but considering where the ball is placed, offside would be unlikely anyway. There is frequently jostling for position among attackers, defenders and the goalkeeper, which can be a concern for the referee. Defenders have to be 10 yards from the ball until it is kicked, just as with free kicks.

Questions on Law 17

17.01 The law says a corner kick is awarded when a defender last touches the ball before it goes out over his own goal line. That's easy -- but it also mentions some other circumstances. What are those?

The situations referred to are when a team puts the ball in its own goal directly from one of the restarts where you can't score against yourself. (Directly means without anyone touching the ball along the way.) These cases are treated just as if the ball had missed the goal.

On a throw in you can't score directly against either team. On a free kick, corner kick or goal kick, you can't score directly against yourself (although you can score against the opponents, with the exception of the indirect free kick). If you put any of these into your own goal directly, the restart is a corner kick for the other team.

17.02 What was the change regarding ball position for corner kicks in this year's Laws?

In 1997 the law was changed to be almost consistent with all the others. Now, a ball is within the corner arc if part of it is, and that includes being partly outside but hanging over one of the lines as long as the bottom of the ball touches the line. Before the change, the ball was supposed to be completely inside the outer edge of the lines, although many referees didn't bother about it in detail.

17.03 When we have a corner kick, I would like locate some players so as to make it harder for the goalkeeper to reach it. Is there something we can do legally to make it harder for him to reach the ball?

Players are entitled to stand anywhere that they want to on the field. With that said, if the attackers station several players around the goalkeeper and the referee determines that their sole purpose is to obstruct the keeper rather than play the ball, he will likely award a free kick to the defenders. Be aware that in most of these instances, the benefit of the doubt is given to the keeper. A player doesn't have to "do" anything to obstruct; he merely has to "be" in a position (deliberately, in most cases) where his only effect on play is to impede an opponent.

If the goalmouth becomes very congested, the likelihood of fouling is increased, while at the same time the referee's ability to see exactly what is happening is lessened. Many referees tend to err on the side of protecting the defense and goalkeeper and award free kicks going out when there seems to be excessive contact but it's unclear just what's going on. This is usually easier to "sell" than having to call back a goal after a slow whistle.

17.04 The other team is stationing two or three attackers right in front of our goalkeeper, and they are making it hard for him to get to high balls just a few yards off the goal line. Is this legal?

This is the other side of the previous question. If the attackers are starting right in front of the keeper, but move and participate in the play when the kick is made, then they're okay, and the keeper will just have to thread his way through them. Locating some extra defenders in this position, who leave when the ball is kicked, is a way of legally denying the attackers this space.

17.05 What about all the pushing and shoving that goes on just before a corner kick? Why doesn't the referee stop it?

When the ball is being placed for a corner kick and the players are taking up their positions, the ball is out of play. That means that the referee can't call a foul; he can only call misconduct (yellow or red card). Usually this pushing and shoving isn't serious enough for a card, although if it continues nonstop for the whole match, a referee may give a caution to get the players' attention. Another approach is for the referee to warn the players to stop, and then station himself ostentatiously near the goal, and maybe rattle his whistle as a further reminder of his presence. You will usually be able to tell if he senses possible fouls and is watching the players especially closely.

If the pushing-shoving-obstruction is being done mostly by the attackers, and persists after the actual kick, many referees will immediately award a free kick -- the ball is now in play and a foul can be called. If the pushing and shoving is being done mostly by the defense, the referee will be more inclined to let it go, in the knowledge he can award a penalty or IFK for obstruction or charging without the ball being within playing distance if it gets out of hand -- so the defenders should not infer from the referee's lack of response that he doesn't see and doesn't care.

If a particular opponent is consistently holding and concealing his action, the players should draw this to the referee's attention. The referee might act like he doesn't appreciate the advice, but he will usually look a little harder, at least for the next few minutes. Check the referee's position. If he takes a new position on the next corner kick, then he may be responding to the tip. If he always takes the same position on every corner kick, this may suggest he doesn't sense that anything is going on, and it's easier to conceal fouls from him.

17.06 We played a short corner kick, and then passed the ball right back to the original kicker, but the linesman called offside. I thought you couldn't be offside on a corner kick.

The first recipient of a corner kick can't be called for offside. However, at the moment the second attacker touches it, the corner kick is over, "normal play" resumes, and offside position is judged again. Because the CK kicker will be very near the goal line, offside is common in this situation if the defense pulls out just a short distance.

17.07 The corner arc is too small, so the flag is in the way. What can we do?

Whether the arc is the right size or not, you can't remove the corner flag, and you can't hold it out of the way when kicking. That's just the way it is. If you do move the flag, the corner kick is not properly taken, and the referee should require you to retake it. He may also give you a tongue-lashing, or even a yellow card.

The arc is supposed to give you enough room to place the ball out of the way of the flagpost, although it's quite common for it to be too small, and/or to be drawn as a triangle. If this is the case, point it out to the referee or linesman, and he may permit you to place the ball a little outside the line. If he doesn't then your ref is a stickler for minor details, so beware.

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Law 17

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Updated February 26, 1998