By Randy Vogt
The teams spend time training and working on teamwork in practice. Their coaches go over tactics before the game. Doesn't it logically follow that the officiating team needs to spend some time before the game discussing how they will work as a team?
The referee should go over what is expected of the assistant referees. I tell them to wait a split second to raise the flag for offside just to be certain that the player in the offside position is involved in the play. A slower flag and correct call is much better than a quick flag and incorrect call.
I also tell them to run all balls down to the goal line.
For good goals, they sprint up the touchline 15 yards or so, watching the players on the field at all times. Should the ball go into the net but the AR spotted a foul or some other problem which the referee did not see (that would nullify the goal), the AR should wait at the corner flag, the referee comes over. They then can briefly discuss what happened and determine whether the goal is valid. This does not include offside, as the AR should have already raised the flag and the referee spotted it, whistling for offside.
If the ball hits the post, goes over the goal line and comes out of the goal in one of those bang-bang plays that happen once or twice a year and it’s a good goal, the AR raises the flag to get the ref’s attention -- as soon as the referee sees the flag, the AR sprints 15 yards upfield.
The referee should also mention that on out-of-bound plays that occur between the ref and AR, if the ref knows which team’s ball it should be, he or she will give a small signal, such as hands on stomach pointing in one direction, so that the AR flags in that direction. After all, the officiating team looks bad when the ref consistently signals the ball one way and the AR has it another way. It’s very important for the referee and ARs to have good eye contact with one another.
On throw-ins, the AR can watch for any infraction with the feet up to the halfway line closest to the AR while the ref watches for any infractions with the upper torso. The signal from the AR for an improperly taken throw-in is a twirl of the flag. Past the halfway line, the referee watches for any infraction. You would not want the AR twirling the flag 60 yards away for a foot completely over the touchline in the corner of the field when the referee is so much closer.
ARs should be told to signal fouls within a 25-yard radius of the AR by using the flag as a whistle and twirling the flag. More than 25 yards away, the AR would twirl the flag only if he or she clearly sees an obvious foul that the referee missed.
ARs are also to be told to watch for off-the-ball fouls behind the referee’s back.
If the referee blows the whistle for a foul near the AR, the assistant should then raise the flag in the direction of the team receiving the free kick. Doing this eliminates the problem of players or coaches saying, “The assistant was right there and did not see a foul but the ref decides to call it from 25 yards away!”
Should there be opposing players within 10 yards of a free kick near the AR, the assistant should come onto the field to pace off the 10 yards rather than the ref. Play is restarted with the referee’s whistle after the opponents are 10 yards from the ball and the AR has returned to the proper position.
One AR has the look, the other one has the book. Meaning that one AR watches for the entire game, not putting numbers of cautions or send-offs in the book (score sheet), while the other AR records all this information. At halftime, the officials discuss any numbers in the book to make certain that there are no discrepancies. At that time, the AR with the look records those numbers. The reason that one AR has the look is so that while the ref and other AR are recording the number of a player being cautioned or sent off, retaliation or any other misconduct is not missed.
ARs can also signal if fouls should be cautions (yellow cards) or send-offs (red cards). The signal for a caution is hand over shirt pocket (where the referee keeps the yellow card) and send-off is hand touching back pocket (where the red card is kept). Although there are other AR signals to alert the referee to caution or send off, these are the most accepted ones.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 7,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/)