By Randy Vogt
The referee's position is called a "diagonal," which he or she runs goes from corner flag to corner flag.
Actually, a referee who strictly adheres to this diagonal will miss seeing a number of fouls. I like to think that the referee’s positioning isn’t a diagonal as much as it is a modified version of a half-open scissor -- corner flag to corner flag and penalty arc to penalty arc. The referee is not a slave to this positioning, but it is a rough guide to follow, especially for the newer referee.
I remember refereeing a good youth tournament played at the Stadio Olimpico in Torino. On a rest day for me, I was able to watch the games from high in the almost empty stadium and saw a young ref, with potential, make the mistake of literally running from corner flag to corner flag, even if the ball was 50 yards away. He missed some fouls that would have been obvious to whistle if only he was closer to the play. You need not understand Italian to know that the coaches were unhappy with him.
Whether you are refereeing a game by yourself or with the use of assistant referees (ARs), use the half-open scissor as a rough guide for positioning.
Many youth referees start out officiating good games without the assistance of ARs. The great majority of my first 1,000 games were matches in which I was the only official assigned.
A coach once said to me, “Referees seem much more confident when they have assistant referees.” Well, of course! Just as the players on his team would be much more confident if they had a full team rather than a depleted squad.
When you are the only official, should many offside decisions need to be made (such as when one or two teams are playing an offside trap), you should stay a bit closer to the touchline than usual, thinking about how the ARs, standing just outside the touchline, signal for offside. The side of the field is the best position for calling offside. Yet if you stay too close to the touchline, you will be in a poor position to call fouls.
Club linesmen, usually the relative or friend of a player, will help you determine when the ball goes over the touchline. Tell them before the game, “Raise the flag only when the entire ball goes over the entire line. Do not give me the direction of the throw as I will determine it.”
They are not to signal direction as this can create a perception that they are cheating for the team they want to win. Make sure that you thank them both before and after the game as they are volunteering their time to help you.
No matter if the club linesmen say that they want to help you even more, even if a club linesman says that he or she is an international referee, the only responsibility of the club linesmen is to signal when the ball went over the touchline -- not to raise the flag for fouls or for offside or when the ball went over the goal line.
Recently, I gave instructions to a club linesman to simply signal when the entire ball was over the entire line and he told me that he knew the rules as “I grew up in Cheshire, England, near Manchester.” And, contrary to what I had instructed, he raised the flag for what he thought was offside -- when the opposing team had attackers in an offside position when the ball was passed but who were not actively involved in the play. I nicely told him to lower the flag, that I would not be using him for offside decisions. I’m glad that he knew the rules so well!
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 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 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/)