Case Study: Referee Takes Position in Goal Area for a Corner Kick

Case Study # 23-2013
Date 10 Sep 2013
Competition CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying
Fixture/Result USA 2 – 0 Mexico
Referee/Badge Courtney Campbell, FIFA (JAM)
At Issue The referee takes up a position inside the goal area for a corner kick

During the Match Day 8 game between USA and Mexico, a corner kick by USA in the 49th minute led to a goal.  Referee Courtney Campbell took an unusual position inside the goal area, and appeared to be ready to whistle for a foul and resulting penalty kick just before the goal was scored.  While this position isn’t often seen, it demonstrates that referees must remain flexible and adaptable when staking out the best positioning for set pieces.

As he had all game long, USA midfielder Jermaine Jones took a position directly in front of MEX goalkeeper Jose for the corner.  And as he had all game long, MEX defender Carlos Salcido marked Jones tightly.  Before the corner was taken, Referee Campbell stepped in and had a word with both Salcido and Jones about the pre-kick jockeying and contact that was taking place.

As the corner kick was delivered, Referee Campbell retreated only as far as the edge of the goal area and kept his eyes fixed on the tussle between Jones and Salcido.  In the freeze frames, the referee can be seen raising his whistle, ostensibly to call a holding foul on Salcido, who had his arm wrapped around Jones’ torso.

Since a goal was scored from the corner, the whistle was unnecessary and Campbell lowered his whistle and pointed towards the center circle to indicate the restart.

As we have seen before, a non-traditional position on a corner kick can pay dividends for the referee, especially when there has been a lot of tussling previously in the match.

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Case Study: Alternative Corner Kick Positioning

If you aren’t familiar with the wonderful book “For The Good of The Game” do yourself a big favor and find a copy.  Unfortunately, this tome on how to referee is now out of print, but diligent searching should be able to find you a copy.  Alternative corner kick positioning by the referee is one of the topics covered.

The authors are former FIFA Referees Ed Bellion and Robert Evans.  They have long been considered the “renegades” of the US Soccer establishment because of their supposed “unorthodox” views on several aspects of refereeing.

One long running debate involves the position of the referee at a corner kick.  USSF (and other national associations) have long held that referees should be roughly at the top of the penalty area, at about the intersection of the penalty arc and penalty area.  Conventional wisdom dictates that this position allows the referee to keep pace with a quick counter-attack by the team defending the corner kick.

Ed and Robert have long advocated that the best position for a referee at a corner is on the goal line, near the goal post.  They argue that this position allows the referee the best view of the action in front of goal, positions the referee perfectly for any tight calls on the goal line, and discourages shirt-pulling and other nonsense because of the proximity of the referee to the players.

Imagine how warm their hearts must have been, then, when they saw referee Mike Dean take up their recommended position in a recent Premier League match between Swansea and Reading.

I think this position makes a lot of sense, and, in fact, this was the recommended corner kick positioning long ago.  Have you witnessed referees taking this position on a corner?  What is your opinion on corner kick positioning?

Case Study: When Is A Trick Not Trickery?

As Fall season wraps up, I’m left to reflect on what I’ve seen over the past few months, from a refereeing perspective.  For the most part, I see an improving standard of refereeing at the youth level in my state, and that’s encouraging.

There is one small “trend” that I want to make sure we stamp out, and quickly.

At increasingly younger ages, youth teams are starting to incorporate the old “trick corner” into their games.  In the example below, note that Howard Webb and crew disallow this corner.  I can’t say for sure why this was done, but it could be that the Assistant Referee believed that the ball was never “still”. (Apologies for the poor quality of the video.)

This play may or may not involve verbal or non-verbal communication between Red A and B, as in “you come take it.”

On two different occasions this season, I have seen referees whistle this play dead and caution Red A for unsporting behavior.  Their position, both referees have said, is backed up by the ban on “trickery” in the LOTG.

Let’s be perfectly clear: both referees were dead wrong.

To start, let’s examine the exact wording from official publications about “trickery.”

Neither the word “trick” nor “trickery” appear the LOTG proper.  We must look to the “Interpretations of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees” document to find two occurrences of the word “trick”, both on page 119 of the printed version (121 of the PDF).  The references are located in the section on Law 12, Fouls and Misconduct, under the sub-heading “Cautions for unsporting behavior”.  The references are:

[box style=”info”]There are different circumstances when a player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour, e.g. if a player:

  • uses a deliberate trick while the ball is in play to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper with his head, chest, knee, etc. in order to circumvent the Law, irrespective of whether the goalkeeper touches the ball with his hands or not. The offence is committed by the player in attempting to circumvent both the letter and the spirit of Law 12 and play is restarted with an indirect free kick
  • uses a deliberate trick to pass the ball to his own goalkeeper to circumvent the Law while he is taking a free kick (after the player is cautioned, the free kick must be retaken)[/box]

There are no other references to “trick” contained in either the LOTG or the Interpretations.

We must conclude, therefore, that “trick/trickery” applies only to this very specific situation.  We should keep in mind that these changes came in to the LOTG in an effort to keep players from circumventing the then-new changes to the Laws that prevented a goalkeeper from handling a ball played back to them by a member of their team.  (For our younger readers, it was once legal for goalkeepers to handle a ball played to them by a teammate.)

Using this part of the Interpretations to punish a “trick” corner kick has no basis in the Laws and is in fact, contrary to the spirit of the game.  Players attempt to deceive opponents through skillful and deceptive play for 90 minutes every match; this is the very essence of the game.  What is contrary to the spirit of the laws is using “tricks” to attempt to deceive the referee and contravene the Laws.

Let’s be alert for the possibility of these types of plays, and importantly, understand they are legal.

Still unconvinced?  Jim Allen also weighs in on the subject, and so does USSF.