The art of refereeing solo

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

1 comment about "The art of refereeing solo ".
  1. Doug Martin, December 12, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.

    When ever a referee writes or talk always go back to the published laws of the game, the article again is and example of someone who says things that are not in accordance with the laws of the game... ( see below ) now if the author is talking about persons who are not assinged to work the game, i.e. official appointments then he is right, and in reality why does he even as the teams to have a person act as an assistant referee its a mugs game to do that.

    If the assistants are " Club linesmen " which of course is a description which does not exist in the current laws of the game, but is interepreted to mean assistant referees assigned by the club to officiate at a home game, i.e. two assitant referees then they should act as assitants under the rules of the game.

    His allusions to a match in Italy are laughable, were there no Assitant referees assigned in such a prestigious tournament ? Or was the young referee put out to control the game on his own, if assitants were in place they do their job, if not the referee assigned did as he was trained, run the diagonal, if coaches get upset shame on them for entering a competition ( tournament ) where the organisers do not provide a proper team of referees, including two properly trainied assitants.

    FIFA laws from the web.

    Two assistant referees may be appointed whose duties, subject to the decision
    of the referee, are to indicate:

    • when the whole of the ball leaves the fi eld of play

    • which team is entitled to a corner kick, goal kick or throw-in

    • when a player may be penalised for being in an offside position

    • when a substitution is requested

    • when misconduct or any other incident occurs out of the view of the

    • when offences have been committed whenever the assistant referees
    have a better view than the referee (this includes, in certain circumstances,
    offences committed in the penalty area)

    • whether, at penalty kicks, the goalkeeper moves off the goal line before the
    ball is kicked and if the ball crosses the line

    The assistant referees also assist the referee in controlling the match in
    accordance with the Laws of the Game. In particular, they may enter the fi eld
    of play to help control the 9.15 m (10 yds) distance.

    In the event of undue interference or improper conduct, the referee will
    relieve an assistant referee of his duties and make a report to the appropriate

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