Recently, I was an AR at a match held on an artificial turf field, which are becoming quite common here where I live. The field was equipped with corner flags, each made of a thin fiberglass rod attached to a 4″ X 4″ metal plate base.
The conditions were very windy that day, so that the corner flags were leaning over to the extent that the tip of the corner flag was about 1 to 2 feet off the ground.
During the taking of a corner kick (at my corner), the kicker complained that the wind was blowing the flag into the field of play and would interfere with her kick. Since I had already seen another flag completely blown over, with the base of the corner flag in a vertical position, I decided it would be best to set the flag away from the field and continue without a corner flag at that corner. Immediately, the CR told me that the corner flag must stay on the corner regardless of any of the existing circumstances/conditions. Not wanting to make a scene, I put the flag back and we continued the game without incident.
My question is, should we allow the use of said flags under such windy conditions? Also, should the referee ever assist the kicker in holding a leaning flag(being bent by the wind) out of the way?
Thank you for your valued service to American soccer.
USSF answer (December 10, 2007):
Safety of the players must be the referee’s first concern. While the corner flags are indeed compulsory, they must meet the requirements of Law 1. If the flags do not stand at least five feet tall, then they may not be used and must be removed because they are dangerous.
The following excerpt from the Advice to Referees is applicable here:
1.6 NO PLAYER MODIFICATIONS TO THE FIELD
Goalkeepers or other players may not make unauthorized marks on the field of play. The player who makes such marks or alterations on the field to gain an unfair advantage may be cautioned for unsporting behavior. Players may return bent or leaning corner flags to the upright position, but they may not bend or lean them away from the upright position to take a corner kick, nor may the corner flag be removed for any reason.
If returning the flag to an upright position is not a viable solution (because of wind or poorly-made equipment), then removal of the flag — with the permission of the referee — is permitted because the flag does not meet the requirement of being at least 1.5 m (5 ft) high. If a flexible flag consistently or constantly bends below that height, then it does not meet the requirement and is dangerous to the players and other participants. This would include a flag that bent outside the field with the wind, as the kicker might be placed in danger.
A player may not bend the flag away from the upright position to take a corner kick or to play the ball that has run into the corner.