At my daughter’s game a player on her team was setting up to take a corner kick. As she approached the ball she lost her balance. She made the kick but her momentum actually carried her sideways and she brushed into the flag as she was making the kick.

The referee stopped play and stated she was not allowed to touch the flag. He then awarded the other team an indirect kick from corner area. The only ruling I could find regarding touching flag deals with players adjusting a flag TO a vertical position or FROM a vertical position prior to the kick. The referee was extremely professional, had perfect mechanics, and was obviously extremely competent. I know I was wearing my parent hat for this game, not my badge, but the ruling on touching the flag puzzled me. Is there a law, or directive that I have overlooked?

USSF answer (November 11, 2009):
The referee may have been “extremely professional,” but he was also EXTREMELY PETTY.

The corner flags are not to be moved, but not in the sense for which the referee punished the player on your daughter’s team. We instruct our referees (and anyone else who cares to read the document cited below) that this sort of movement of the flag is not against the Law; such movement must be corrected, but not punished.

This statement is included in the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

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.

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