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Assistant Referee Techniques


Basic Principles
The assistant referee is an assistant to the referees, as such the assistant referee offers an opinion to the referee, the assistant referee does not give decisions. As a assistant referee you are there to assist, you are not there to command.

The assistant referee must be capable of total concentration for the whole game. Whether the ball is in play or out of play, in the assistant referee's half or not, the assistant referee must be allocating full concentration to the game.


Always in Line
The assistant referee must always be in line with the second last defender or the ball. This is the only way to do the job effectively. No matter where the play is the better assistant referee is always in position.

Always follow the ball through to the goal line even in the most obvious circumstances

The flag
The flag is the primary means of communication between the assistant referee and the referees. As such, it must always be available. This means the assistant referee will carry the flag on the side of the body closest to the referee. The flag should always be unfurled and not held against the pole.

When running with the flag, the arm carrying the flag should remain pointed at the ground. If the flag is moving with the arm there is always the danger that the referee sill see the flag move and stop play, believing that the assistant referee has indicated that an offence has occurred.

The assistant referee should spend as much time as possible facing the field, adjusting their position by moving sideways ups and down the line. This will ensure that the assistant referee is always in the correct position to adjudicate on their major area of responsibility - off-side. It is essential that assistant referees position themselves at a right angle to the field.

When the assistant referee has to run quickly, the best way to ensure that the right angle is maintained is to lock the chin to the shoulder.

If you cannot ensure your right angle, you cannot guarantee that your decision will be correct.

Optimising your position optimises your chances of getting your decision correct.

After a goal-kick is awarded, the assistant referee should stand level with the edge of the goal-area line until the ball is correctly placed. Once the ball is in the required position the assistant referee should align himself or herself with the second last defender.

If the ball is not correctly placed the assistant referee should not move from their position but should raise their flag to indicate the problem.

The referee should arrange for the ball to be placed in the correct position.

The assistant referee should stand behind the corner flag when a corner-kick is to be taken regardless of which side of the field the kick is to be taken from.

When the kick is to be taken from their side of the field, the assistant referee should discretely nod to the referee once the ball is correctly placed.

When the game is in the other half of the field and the second last defender has moved up to half-way the assistant referee should be conscious of the image that is portrayed. Lounging around does not convey an image of involvement or interest in the game.

If the second-last defender pushes into the opponent's half, the assistant referee should not follow the player, but should remain at half-way and pick-up the second last defender as they come back.

The signals dealt with in this section do not replace those shown in Soccer Rules. They should be considered as additional techniques that will enhance performance.

The assistant referee should never interfere in the referee's running of the game. In fact, the assistant referee should only draw the referee's attention to incidents that the referee has been unable to see clearly.

If a foul occurs that the referee does not deal with (i.e. free-kick or play-on), the assistant referee should look to see where the referee is. If the referee has a clear view of the incident then the assistant referee should not signal. If the referee is unsighted, then the assistant referee should indicate to the referee that an offence has occurred.

Before giving an indication, the assistant referee should attempt to make eye contact with the referee. This technique will minimise the risk of conflicting signals being given. The maxim should be: "Confer, then decide."

One-part signals
The technique of raising the flag to indicate the ball out of play, before signaling direction, should be discontinued unless the decision is a "close call". It is ludicrous to convey to the players and spectators that the only person at the ground, whose eyesight is so poor that they cannot see that ball is on the road, is the referee.

When the ball goes clearly out of play the assistant referee should simply signal for the appropriate re-start (i.e. throw-in, goal-kick, corner-kick).

Use of the Arm
In this section, we will be refereeing to a game in which the referee is running a conventional diagonal (i.e. left wings).

If, during a game, it becomes necessary for the assistant referee to indicate an offence, the assistant referee should raise the flag in the air with the arm that would indicate the direction the free-kick should go. In other words, if the free-kick is to the defense the flag should be held in the left hand.

This means that, should an advantage situation eventuate for the defense, the referee can safely play-on, secured in the knowledge that the offending team has not been advantaged.

When the flag is raised to indicate an offence it should not be shaken or waved from side to side.

Similarly, a corner-kick should be signaled with the flag in the right hand.

The signals by the assistant referee for off-side and where the ball should be placed are clearly set out in the Soccer Rules.

The superior assistant referee will continue to hold their flag, indicating the position of the ball, until the ball is correctly placed.


If an obvious goal has been scored, make eye contact with the referee and sprint towards the halfway flag, if you are happy that no infringements have taken place. The referee will look for your initial movement. You do not need to run all the way to halfway.

In circumstances where the ball is just over the line and the referee seeks confirmation of a goal:

Raise the flag to indicate ball over line. When the referee makes eye contact bring the flag down and sprint towards halfway


Referee has seen the offence, but wants to confirm whether inside or outside penalty area:

If an offence occurs in the penalty area that would result in penalty-kick being awarded, the assistant referee should look to see where the referee is and, if the referee is unsighted sprint to the corner-flag. The assistant referee should stand at attention with the flag in the right hand, pointing to the ground.

If not a penalty he should stand parallel to where the offence happened.


If the referee has not seen the offence, raise the flag to get referees attention then lower flag and hold in front of you pointing to the ground (in a position between your legs).

The assistant referee must keep the referee in sight because, if it becomes obvious that the referee is not awarding the penalty-kick, the assistant referee must revert to their normal duties.  

In the last five minutes of each half, the assistant referees should indicate to the referee how much time they believe remains. This is done by holding the number of fingers corresponding to the number of minutes remaining across their chest. The referee should acknowledge the signal and tell the assistant referee how much longer will be played.

The assistant referees should keep a complete record of the game (goals, substitutions, cautions, send-offs). This will prevent the occasional difficulties that arise with goal scorers and players being cautioned twice.

If the assistant referee wishes to talk to the referee, the assistant referee should indicate this by holding his flag diagonally across his or her chest.

Not off-side/ball not out
Some assistant referees have developed a habit of running with one arm outstretched in front of them to indicate that no one is off-side. This should not be done. If there is no one off-side, no signal is given.

Similarly if the ball is near the goal line or side line no signal should be given if the ball is still in play.

Areas of Decisions

Own Half
The assistant referee should indicate which side is entitled to the throw-in in the half of the field that they are patrolling. This should be done after making eye contact with the referee.

The throw-in decision in the other half of the field is the responsibility of the referee. Assistant referee should assist the referee by indicating subtlety the flag in the hand that indicates their opinion. The subtle signal is to hold the flag about 15 degrees from the side of the body. (this was changed from the original instruction where the flag was raised in the arm that indicates their opinion)

If the ball is in the assistant referee's half and goes out for a throw-in, and the assistant referee is unsure as to which team is entitled to the throw-in the assistant referee should raise the flag in the air. The referee should then make the decision.

Behind the Referee's Back
The assistant referee must be alert to player misconduct that occurs behind the referee's back. The key to this is to keep an eye on any area where players from opposing sides are close together.

If an offence occurs that requires action by the referee the assistant referee should, wait until the referee is facing him, raise the flag in the air and, when the referee has stopped play, give the "talk" signal.

The assistant referee should then report what has happened to the referee. It is not the assistant referee's role to insist on the action the referee should take. The assistant referee should only report what has happened and may be asked for a recommendation.

In cases of serious breaches of the laws the assistant referee may choose to raise his flag even though the referee's back is turned, if they believe this may either alert the other assistant referee so they can inform the referee, or prevent further problems eventuating.

Both assistant referees must be alert to each other's actions for this to be effective.

This also applies to the indication that substitution is required. When the referee is facing the assistant referee on the side of the field, opposite the benches, the assistant referee must be attentive so they can relay the signal that a substitution is requested.

The assistant referee, on the side where the substitution will be made, should expect that the other assistant referee would convey his signal to the referee.

Zone of play
In general, terms the assistant referee should only indicate offences within his or her zone of play (i.e. within 20 metres of where the assistant referee is). However, should a major violation occur the assistant referee must signal incidents that have occurred, even in the other half of the field.

The assistant referee must ask "Am I assisting the referee or am I imposing on his territory?" When making these sorts of difficult decisions.

Image and Presentation
When giving any signal the assistant referee should stop, and give their signal with their body facing the field. The body should be at attention and the arm, when indicating direction, at just under 45 degrees.

The arm and the flag should appear to be one continuous straight line. This is most easily achieved by locking the wrist and pressing the thumb down firmly on the handle.

The assistant referee should remain erect and should not bend over when concentrating on play.

At half-time and, at the conclusion of the game, the assistant referees should sprint to the referee so that they can leave the field as a team.