Entries related to Pregame

Here is an update to Gil Weber’s sample set of pregame instructions.

Gil Weber’s Pregame Instructions
Copyright© 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011

January 2013

These pregame instructions were originally written in 1999, and then were updated in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011 after International Football Association Board decisions and advisories from FIFA and USSF. Here now is the latest revision to include new instructions from FIFA and USSF plus “tweaks” based on my experiences over the past few years.

As I stated in the original preamble, adapt these instructions to your own style and temperament. Don’t try to repeat verbatim what you read here. Instead, think about the points I make, reflect on how I ask my assistant referees to deal with them, and then create your own pre-game spiel to meet the needs of your games and the experience levels of your assistant referees.

This is particularly important when you’re working with very young or inexperienced ARs. In their entirety these pregame instructions will utterly overwhelm a young AR who’s probably still trying to get comfortable switching the flag from hand to hand.

But assuming you’re working with ARs who have some reasonable comfort level on the touchline, this should cover just about everything. And so with that introduction, here goes.

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Categories: Law 5 - Referee, Pregame

Question:
We have three long tenured, hard headed referees sitting around after a match discussing what throw in signaling procedures the R and AR’s should perform and how. All disagree. So here we go:

What takes precedence: Laws of the Game or Guide to Procedures?

LOTG Referee Authority: In Law 5: “Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game ….”

LOTG Assistant Referee Duties: In Law 6 the two “assistant referees … duties (are) subject to the decision of the referee ….”

In Guide to Procedures: THROW-IN

• Referee’s End Of Touch Line: Referee “Signals stoppage of play (whistle only if necessary); Points 45 degrees upward to indicate direction of throw-in”. Assistant Referee “Provides confirming flag signal after referee indicates throw-in decision. If referee makes obvious eye contact to ask for assistance before indicating a decision, uses signal to establish direction which was agreed to in the pre-game conference, and then provides confirming throw-in flag signal after referee indicates decision.”

• Assistant Referee’s End Of Touch Line: Assistant Referee “Signals with flag 45 degrees upward in the direction of the throw-in”. Referee “Points in direction of throw-in only if assistant referee signal needs to be corrected due to unseen contact with the ball”.

May pre-game conference instructions from the Referee overrule the Guide to Procedure procedures?

Discussion points:
• There is a different sequence in Guide to Procedures to signaling throw-ins which is different in the Referee’s and the Assistant Referee’s ends of the field. Must these be strictly adhered to?
• If the Referee during the pre-game conference instructs the Assistant Referees that they must always seek eye contact with the Referee before signaling and:
– The Assistant Referee will always seek eye contact with the Referee before signaling.
– If no eye contact (choice of the Referee), the Assistant Referee should not signal.
-After eye contact, both the Referee and Assistant Referee will indicate their choice of throw-in direction by signaling discretely with the appropriate hand or arm/flag. Then Assistant Referee will signal (and choice of Referee is indicated, that is, by hand signal but not always pointing upward).
– It also appears to be common practice for the Referee to signal throw-in direction on most all throw-ins, that is, in contrast to the above procedure to only signal to correct the Assistant Referee’s signal for Assistant Referee’s End Of Touch Line.

Two of us enjoy the eye contact as an opportunity for teamwork, communication, and camaraderie.

One of us feels his duties as AR are being encroached and inappropriately limited, and wishes to strictly follow the Guide to Procedures.

Please give us your thoughts. The more detail, the better.

USSF answer (March 21, 2012):
The Guide to Procedures is all about, well, procedures (i.e., mechanics) and, as such, is always secondary to the Laws of the Game. The assistant referee should use the procedures and mechanics specified by the referee in the pre-game (and will carefully ask questions to ensure that any instructions which are out of the ordinary are well and truly understood). The Guide is, as it states in the Foreword, the source of officially-approved mechanics. They were developed by officials at the highest competitive levels, tested at all levels, and are assumed to incorporate the “best practices” in the covered situations. Please note the following final statement in the Foreword:
“Alternate signals, procedures, and methods of communication within the officiating team are not authorized for games under the jurisdiction of the United States Soccer Federation using the diagonal system of control.” (emphasis added).

What this means is that, where the Guide does not include a pertinent scenario, the officiating team is free to develop additional mechanics, but they must not (a) conflict with those already established in the Guide, (b) are not intrusive, (c) are not distracting, (d) are limited in number and purpose, and (e) are discussed within the team in advance. However, assistant referee should realize that, if instructed otherwise, they are to follow the referee’s requirements and trust that the discussion between the referee and the assessor after the match will be very interesting.

THE PREGAME CONFERENCE

February 23, 2012

Question:
what do we talk about in our per game? is it just like the signals for calls.

USSF answer (February 23, 2012):
We are not aware of any formal checklist of pregame instructions, although our sponsor Official Sports and some other vendors do carry them. The referee should review the guidance given in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials,” pointing out any additional tasks that need to be done. In turn, the ARs should ask questions to clarify what it is the referee expects in given situations.

As leader of the officiating team, the referee must establish during the pregame conference how the team will work and cooperate. The referee (depending on his or her own level of experience) should tailor the pregame to fit the composition of the refereeing crew, including their likely varying levels of knowledge and fitness; the age, competition, and skill levels of the players; and the particular requirements of the competition itself. It is often useful for the referee to develop a checklist for topics to be covered in the pregame conference. The amount of detail would be tailored to the needs (see above) of the referee, the assistant referees (ARs), and the fourth official. First and foremost, the referee must ensure that the ARs (and a fourth official) are familiar with the guidelines and mechanics laid out in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”

For starters, when working with unfamiliar crew members, the very first task (after introductions) is to ask questions which (gently) elicit information about these issues — e.g., How long officiating? Grade level? Most frequent level of assignment? Club/league/association? Entry class instructor (if within first or second year of experience)? This will help the referee tailor the pregame to the needs of the team.

Ideal topics for the checklist would include the duties of the AR, signals of the AR (including NOT signalling when the referee can clearly see the incident), what to do when AR signals are missed by the referee (such as when and how long to maintain the flag); duties of the fourth official (if one is assigned); differences between the rules of the competition and the Laws of the Game, if any; what the ARs should do in situations that are not covered by the Laws of the Game, such as unofficial signals or when the AR may/should enter the field; duties at a penalty kick; a reminder to communicate at all possible moments (such as a quick look exchanged between the referee and the lead AR on all through balls or at stoppages in play. Likely the most important item is a reminder to the ARs and the fourth to immediately alert the referee to any mistakes in procedure, such as having cautioned a player a second time but failed to send that player off.

Finally, the referee should encourage the ARs (and a possible fourth official) to ask questions during the pregame conference, just to ensure that they have understood what has been discussed and what they are to do.

Question:
This past weekend I was centering a BU14 game with 2 AR’s that I had not worked with in the past.  Our pre-game conference unfortunately, did not cover the situation which unfolded as follows.  During the first half a Blue Attacker struck a volley shot from about 25 yards out.  I was positioned approximately 10 yard from the shot and about 30 yards from the goal line. The shot was driven over the outstretched arms of the opposing keeper and then struck the crossbar, directing it downwards toward the ground.  The ball struck the ground and due to the spin on the ball bounced back out towards the top of the goal area, where it was eventually cleared by the defense.  From my vantage point, I could not tell if the whole of the ball had cross over the goal line and a goal had been scored.  I looked to my AR, who was positioned about 10-12 yards from the goal line (even with the 2nd to the last defender) and clearly in a much better position than me to see if the ball had entirely crossed over the goal line, albeit, not in the optimal position of being on the goal line.  He raised his flag excitedly waiving it, but then put the flag down & waived his free arm at waist level from side to side, in what I believed to be a negative manner.  (Here is where the confusion began)  I called to him to inquire if the ball had crossed the line.  Due to his negative gesture, I believed he was indicating “no goal” and indicated verbally for play to continue.  At no time did I blow my whistle to stop play.  Several minutes later at the stoppage for halftime I went to AR and confer with him at which point he indicated that the ball had in fact crossed the line and was indicating that it was a goal.  At the time I had discovered my error, we did not correct it and the game ended with the Blue team losing 2-1, as opposed to a 2-2 tie.  I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted) The game report was submitted with an description of the error that was made.  Furthermore, league officials were present at the game & I immediately made them aware of the matter as well.

At halftime, I reviewed the AR’s procedures and signals for indicating a goal and getting the center Referee’s attention if a problem arises, but again, the mistake had already occurred.  This will now be part of my pre-game instructions.

I have reviewed the Laws of the Game, specifically Law 5 – The Referee and Law 10 – The method of scoring and cannot find anything specific to this situation.  I also reviewed Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees.  My next thought was to check Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, but then submitted my question here.  Clearly the pre-game could have been a bit more thorough and communication between the myself and my AR should have been better, However, the error was made and I now find myself searching for an answer to address the issue.

Law 5 clearly states “that the decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match are final.  The referee may only change a decision on realizing that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the 4th official, provided he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

Here is my question.  Play was never restarted and continued on as I believed that no goal had been scored.  The match was not terminated and merely ended upon the expiration of regulation time.  I suspect that the answer will be the final determination will be left up the the league.  However, in the future, procedurally, should the error have been corrected at halftime or at the next stoppage in play when the error was discovered or did I handle it correctly in documenting it in the game report & leaving it up to the league to resolve?

USSF answer (December 20, 2011):
Your problem lay in failure to follow standard procedures during the pregame conference and during play. If you had followed them, as we know you will in future, you would have stopped play immediately.

The correct procedure in the case of goals seen by the lead assistant referee is to follow the guidance given on p. 25 of the USSF “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”  If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played and this is not clearly seen by the referee, the AR raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention and then, after the referee stops play, the AR puts the flag straight down and follows the normal procedures for a goal. In turn, the referee should check visually with the assistant referee long enough to see a signal for a goal in cases where the ball is being played close to the goal and may have briefly but fully entered the goal.

In cases of doubt, stop play immediately and check verbally with the AR. If (as would have happened here) you decide that a goal WAS scored, well and good. If it turns out that the AR’s arm waving meant that there was no goal, then ou can always apologize to the players, something referees do not do often enough, and restart with a dropped ball.

We assume that this sentence, “I believe that I incorrectly applied a portion of the law concerning when a goal is scored with too many players on the field and play is restarted, that the goal may not be disallowed. (ie an error may not be corrected after play has been restarted),” refers to whether you might have stopped play upon realizing (somehow) that a goal had been scored. For this, we recommend following the International Football Association Board’s instructions that, when the ball leaves the field and the referee does not see (or does not understand) the AR’s signal, play can be stopped at any time the realization dawns unless “too much play” (including a stoppage and a restart) has gone by. In this case, the ball going into the goal is merely a specific example of the ball having left the field.

NO LECTURES ON HOW TO PLAY!

September 14, 2011

Question:
This week in a U-10 girls’ match, the adult referee told the team before the match that it was, “okay to play with your elbows up as long as they did not go above your shoulder.” The end result was a match that mainly featured players keeping other players away from themselves (and the ball) with their arms bent / elbows up at shoulder height. It also featured players impeding other players’ progress with their arms bent / elbows up at shoulder height in order to maintain an advantageous position and not allow a player to get around them and make a play for the ball. My understanding has always been that the arms need to remain by the player’s side and cannot be used to shield or impede and that players can only be physical “shoulder to shoulder.” Your thoughts on this will be much appreciated.

USSF answer (September 14, 2011):
Coach, one of the things we tell both new and experienced referees is not to lecture players on how to play or on any other aspect of the game during the pregame activities. We referees have enough problems managing the game without also acting as coaches on the field. That is the job of the coach.

The arms should remain in a normal athletic position while playing soccer, used only to maintain balance or to aid in running faster. No elbows up, no pushing, no holding, no tripping.

Question:
red – attacking
blue – defending
U-18 Classic play
one player from both teams were in a hard (FAIR) challenge for the ball in red’s defensive third (where both end up on the ground).
The ball, then was played all the way up to red’s attacking third (60-70 yards), i kept an eye on the players (once on the ground, now up and trotting up field) as long as i could before turning and sprinting to follow the break-away.
The blue defender was beat, red had only the keeper to beat, while ‘juking’ the keeper, blue was able to catch up just enough to put a leg in and trip red just before red scored on an empty net. No question that this was a send-off for DGF on the blue player.

I quickly run over and showed the red card to blue and send him off. I am setting up for a PK when i see my lead AR waiving his flag. As I go to him he points to a player on the ground in red’s defensive third. As I go over to the player my trail AR signals me that he needs to chat. I make sure the trainer and coach know they may ‘take care’ of the injured player, and then proceed to the trail AR. He tells me that as soon as i turned to sprint to follow play, words were spoken between the two players from the original hard challenge and that red, after the exchange of words, punched blue in the face. I asked him if this occurred before the goal or after. He said it occurred well before.

this is what i did… and my questions!!
i went to the coaches and explained that play was dead as soon as the ‘strike’ (VC) occurred; therefore, the blue player that was sent-off no longer was sent off and the card retracted, and that the red player who struck blue would be sent-off. After ‘sending back on’ blue and sending off red i restarted with a DFK for blue at the site of the punch. Even though i don’t think anyone was happy i believe my actions were correct.

Were they, and if not, what are the correct actions. I do know that before a restart a ref can change a caution to a sent off if, in reflection, he deems it necessary, but can he change a red to a yellow or a yellow (AFTER THE CARD HAS BEEN SHOWN, BUT BEFORE THE RESTART) to ‘a nothing’ just a foul?

USSF answer (May 26, 2011)
This response is based on the assumption that the trail AR actually signaled at the moment of the infringement and you agreed with the information. (More on that in the final paragraph.)

As long as there has been no intervening restart of play, the violent conduct committed by the red player takes precedence over what has gone on in the other end of the field. The restart for that foul (and serious misconduct) is a direct free kick from the place where the infringement occurred. That leaves you to deal with the action that occurred while you were unaware of the violent conduct in the other half.

There can be no denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity because the ball was technically out of play (even though you had not called it yet). The blue player is cautioned for unsporting behavior or sent off for violent conduct, according to the nature of the contact. (Yes, if there has been no restart a send-off may be converted to a a caution — or vice versa.)

Restart is as stated above, a direct free kick for blue where the original violent conduct occurred in the other half of the field.

The problem mentioned at the beginning of the answer is that if the trail AR did not in fact signal for an offense not seen by the referee, but simply tells the referee later, this makes it very difficult to rewind the action back to that point. If the AR signals and the referee agrees with the AR’s advice, thus implementing the “sequential fouls” scenario that we talk about in other documents, then all is well.

Question:
The ball is shot, the keeper fumbles it, but vision of the goal line is not clear. I look to my AR to see if the ball crossed the line, and instead the AR gives different flag signals that are confusing(such as pointing to the attacking side and pointing at the goal) (and also she did not give the signal for the goal, which is to run back to the center with flag down). The keeper punted the ball before I could ask my AR what she meant and I waited until the ball went out of play (about 45 seconds) to stop play. Then I ran over to my AR and asked her if the ball crossed the line and she said yes. She confirmed the goal and I counted the goal (also the team that scored was already winning if that plays a part, after the goal it was 2-0).

I know the AR messed up the call but would you stop play right there if the ball is already in play to confirm or wait until it went out of bounds, or would you have continued to allow play to go on and not count the goal and not consult the AR. Also it was for the recreational championship.

USSF answer (May 13, 2011):
Because the ball was never out of play, it is theoretically legitimate to award the goal after so much time has passed; however, this is not something that the referee should allow to become common practice.

One way of doing that is to use the pregame conference to ensure that your ARs know what signals to use to indicate a goal, ball over the line and back into the field, etc. This information is taught in the entry-level course, but many instructors fail to follow up classroom instruction with practical work, so the less-experienced AR may not remember. If you do not know your AR and have never worked with him or her before, make use of the pregame conference to remind both ARs what signals you want to see in such tough situations.

Question:
I have two questions about communication between the AR and the CR. In both cases, I was the AR.

1. U14B, ball is played by the attacking team diagonally toward the CR’s quadrant. An attacker and a defender are chasing it. The ball goes just over the touch line (last touched by the original attacking passer) but is immediately played by the chasing attacker. The ball comes back into play, strikes the defender and then goes way over the touch line. As soon as the ball originally crossed the touch line I (AR) raised my flag, but the CR was focused on the play, as it was deep in his quadrant, and awarded the throw in to the attacking team.

Play continued from there. What should I have done?

2. Men’s competitive match. Long punt from red keeper well past center line. Both a red attacker and a blue defender are facing the punt, and backing toward blue’s goal in anticipation of playing the ball.

When blue feels he is in the right place, he stops backing up and to soften the impending collision with red, shields himself with his hands. When red attacker feels the hands on his back, he throws himself forward and snaps his head back in a flop. The defender’s hands don’t move, that is, he didn’t push. Since CR is in the center of the field, he can’t see the non-push and blows the whistle awarding a DFK to red. From my position on the side, I have a better view of what actually happened. What should I have done?

thanks!

USSF answer (April 17, 2011):
All such situations should be discussed in the pregame conference among the match officials. In general, the referee must in all events acknowledge and process the information presented by the AR (in the form of a flag) who was clearly in a better position then the referee to see how the play developed and what infringement might have occurred before making the final decision. To do otherwise is to risk grievous errors and turn a simple game into a battle. That said, if the referee believes in his or her heart of hearts that the original decision reached without assistance from the AR was absolutely correct, then the AR can do nothing but accept the decision—and then ponder later, after the game, on what a fool the referee is.

These things should have been discussed in the pregame but, since they weren’t, what could you or other ARs do? Given that there was not a discussion in the pregame regarding these matters, the best thing you could have done if you were certain that your intervention was needed would have been to raise your flag straight up (and hope that the other AR would mirror your signal if the referee was not looking in your direction), wait for the referee to look at you and, when this happens, motion the referee over to you as an indication that you had information the referee needed in order not to make a mistake. Doing anything more than this (e. g., calling out to the referee before play could be restarted) would depend on a host of factors we cannot judge–for example, is this the sort of referee who values being right more than facing a temporary embarrassment for having missed something?

In response to several requests, here is a sample set of pregame instructions. These are not necessarily approved by the U. S. Soccer Federation, so are labeled with the “unofficial” box around them. I hope they are helpful.


See the 2013 update to these instructions

Gil Weber’s Pregame Instructions
Copyright© 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009

May 2009

These pregame instructions were originally written in 1999, and then were updated in 2002, 2005, and 2007 after International Football Association Board decisions and advisories from FIFA and USSF. Here now is the latest revision to include new instructions from FIFA and USSF plus “tweaks” based on my experiences over the past few years.

As I stated in the original preamble, adapt these instructions to your own style and temperament. Don’t try to repeat verbatim what you read here. Instead, think about the points I make, reflect on how I ask my assistant referees to deal with them, and then create your own pre-game spiel to meet the needs of your games and the experience levels of your assistant referees.

This is particularly important when you’re working with very young or inexperienced ARs. In their entirety these pregame instructions will utterly overwhelm a young AR who’s probably still trying to get comfortable switching the flag from hand to hand.

But assuming you’re working with ARs who have some reasonable comfort level on the touchline, this should cover just about everything. And so with that introduction, here goes.

———————-

You’ll help me most by focusing your attention inside the lines for the entire 90 minutes (or however long). Please don’t turn around to see who chases the ball when it goes into touch behind you. Don’t watch to see what happens to the ball when it goes behind the goal line. Our game is between the lines, so watch the players and the field at all times.

If you’re the A/R on the bench side the only time you should look outside the touchline is when you need to deal with substitutions, or if you have issues with the conduct of those on the team benches. If you can manage these things quickly without becoming distracted, that’s great. If not, call me over and I will deal with the problem.

If you’re the A/R on the spectator side your only concern outside the touchline should be if those spectators crowd the line and make it hard for you to run or to see past midfield to the far corner flag. If you can deal with the crowd quickly in these cases, that’s great. If they won’t give you a clear view of the entire touchline don’t get into a hassle repeatedly asking them to move back. Call me over and I will deal with it.
Of course both of you should be aware and let me know if spectators migrate behind the goals and create a distraction for the goalkeepers. Otherwise, forget what’s outside the lines and, instead, focus on the players.

The players are smart, and if one of them is going to do anything nasty it will probably happen when he thinks we’re not watching. If you turn to watch the ball behind you, that’s when a player will look, see his chance, and elbow or punch or spit. Then an opponent is lying face down on the field and I look at you with a facial expression asking, “What happened?” If you then look back at me with eyes like a deer caught in headlights, we’re in trouble. We can’t let that happen, we have to be aware, so watch the “hot” areas of the field at all times.

If I whistle for a free kick close to you and I have to come to the spot of the foul to deal with players or position the wall, do NOT watch me! Nothing is happening where I am. Instead, watch the players behind me, directly across from you in the penalty area. That’s where the problems could happen because the players know my attention is away from them, and they will look and see that you’re watching me. Then the nasty stuff starts, so watch the field!!

On dead balls the first thing we must do is make eye contact. If you have something to communicate then try to tell me what’s on your mind with hand signals. For example, pointing to a player and then pointing to your eyes will be enough to tell me to watch him/her. Or patting your badge after I’ve whistled for a foul will tell me that in your opinion a caution is in order.

If it’s a more serious matter that requires discussion, then motion me over. If I don’t see you and it’s really important that we deal with something now, then shout at me. Get my attention!

On each stoppage it’s also important that you look across the field to the other AR. Make eye contact. If there is a flag up behind my back (e.g., for substitution) then mirror it.

If I fail to look over and make eye contact after several stoppages, don’t worry. I’m not intentionally ignoring you. I’ve simply violated my first rule that says we must make regular eye contact. But if I do ignore you don’t let me continue! If I fall asleep on the job, wake me up!

If I don’t look at you several times then give me a shout and point to your own eyes — I’ll get the message to pay attention.

Offside is yours, but please remember that we have specific instructions on what must happen during play before we raise the flag. Please do not raise the flag for a player in an offside position who’s doing nothing other than occupying space. If a player is in an offside position but is not participating, let him be. He can set up a barbeque and roast hotdogs for 30 minutes if he wishes, but he’s not offside until you decide he’s become involved.

So I’ll be depending on you to judge when that player has interfered with play or with an opponent, or has gained an advantage as a result of being in an offside position when the ball was touched or played by a teammate. Wait just a second and see what develops. Remember the new instruction in 2009 that interfering with play requires touching the ball.

Let’s also be careful not to raise the flag too soon for a player in an offside position who has the ball played into his general area, only to have the teammate who last touched the ball run through the defense and collect his own pass. A second or two late and accurate is better than a fast but, ultimately, inaccurate flag.

Now, if you do raise the flag (and it’s not a mistake which you immediately correct) then hold it up forever — until I blow the whistle or wave it down (“Thanks very much”), or if there’s a goal kick, or if I’ve gone completely asleep, until the defense takes the ball and there is no longer a threat of attack.

But if there is an attack in progress then never, never pull the flag down simply because I did not see it. Stand there forever if you have to — like the Statue of Liberty. You’re not the one who looks foolish — I am. And that’s my problem. The defense and their coaches will certainly let me know that your flag is up. (Boy, will they let me know!)

But we cannot allow a goal to be scored if you had the flag up and then brought it down because I did not see it and you decided you had to catch up to the attacking play. Similarly, if the ball goes into touch or over the goal line and then comes back into the field, raise the flag and stand there forever until I blow the whistle or until the attack breaks down and there is no longer a threat on goal.

I’m the one who looks foolish, not you. We cannot allow the ball to go off the field, come back in, and then go into the goal. If you’ve dropped the flag and I never saw it, and if I then award a goal we’ll have big problems. So keep the flag up as long as there’s a threat of attack!

OK, moving on…

If the ball goes into the goal and comes back out, and if I did not realize it and play continues, raise the flag to signal ball out of play and then stand there. You have to get my attention, so do not drop the flag. A goal is a goal, and my falling asleep does not negate that. As a last resort, shout to get my attention — this is a game-altering incident and we have to get it right.

If I’ve turned away from you and headed up field and have not heard your shout, then the AR on the other side of the field should see your flag and should mirror it. (“Hey, dummy. Look behind you!”)

The most important thing is that we get it right. My ego is not more important than the game, so get my attention and tell me I’m wrong if I’m wrong.

Now, if the other AR does not see and mirror your flag, and if the game has had some stoppages and restarts then at that point it’s too late to award the goal. All you can do is tell me at half time or full time and I’ll have to deal with the consequences of my inattentiveness.

If the ball goes in the goal and in your opinion it’s a good goal then follow standard USSF procedures. Do not immediately dash a long way up the line because if I decide it’s not a goal then you have to run all the way back. So make eye contact first! (Remember… eye contact at stoppages!)

If I agree it’s good then trot slowly up the line looking over your right shoulder at the goal line and penalty area to observe for post-goal nastiness, especially fights over the ball in the net. Watch the players!!!

If in your opinion it’s not a good goal then stand there, at attention, per USSF instructions. Raise the flag only if the goal-scorer was offside. I’ll look at you, you can motion me over and tell me “Number 6 clearly impeded the keeper and prevented her from getting to the ball” (or whatever it was). If I agree we’ll cancel the goal and restart for the defense. If I disagree we’ll go with the goal and I’ll keep the defenders away from you. Don’t be offended; it’s not personal.

Now, if in your opinion it’s not a good goal and I fail to make eye contact (instead, I point and run directly to the center circle), then raise the flag behind my back. Again, I hate flags behind my back, but I’ve violated my own rule about making eye contact. Standing at attention won’t do any good at that point.

So you need to get my attention. The other AR must mirror the flag. (“Hey, dummy, look behind you.”)

Next, we know that ARs are now expected to become more involved in managing the game, for example with fouls closer to them, or when the AR has a better line of sight than the referee. Please help, but please also watch me since I tend to use advantage more than most other referees. So early in the game, try to get a feel for my style.

Now, if you’re convinced that I would have called the foul had I seen it then don’t hesitate to raise the flag in the hand that indicates the direction of the restart and then give it a wiggle. And now comes one of your most important duties – making me look good. :o)

Remember that if you’re calling a foul I did not see I won’t know what you saw. And that’s the time the players are sure to ask “What’s the call, referee?” I won’t know, but I can’t let them know that I don’t know.

So please, every time you call a foul, give me a little hand signal – something very subtle (e.g., shirt pull, handling, push, etc.). Remember, I may not have seen the foul, only your flag, and I have to sell the call to the players! If you can help me avoid the deer-in-the-headlights stare when the players ask me, “What was the call, referee?” I’d be most appreciative. :o)

So those are your two most important duties as AR: First is offside, and second is keeping the referee out of trouble. And come to think of it maybe the order of those should be reversed. :o)

Let’s talk for a moment about penalty kicks. Please be cautious flagging for any fouls in the penalty area that would result in a PK. Now understand that’s not saying the penalty area is exclusively mine – it’s not, and we’re a team. But I am supposed to be able to see what’s in front of me, and I’ll take responsibility for that. I’ll also protect you from irate defenders and coaches, so don’t worry about them.

Just be certain before flagging for a PK. If you are certain I would have called it had I seen the foul, then make eye contact, give me a signal with the flag, and after the whistle dash to the corner flag to tell me that it was a penal foul. (And don’t forget the subtle hand signal to tell me what you saw so I can sell the PK to the defense.)

And if I whistle for a direct free kick offense that occurs just at the edge of the penalty area and I give you a look asking for help (inside or outside?), remember to use the new signal — flag held horizontally below the waist — to tell me if the offense was inside and the restart is a PK.

Now there are two exceptions for fouls in the penalty area — times when you should flag for a PK without any hesitation.

1) If a defender does his best Diego Maradona imitation by sticking his hand above his head or away from his body (“makes himself bigger”) and unquestionably, intentionally handles the ball, and if I’m the only person on the planet who did not see it, then raise the flag and give the standard USSF signal for PK. Again, this is not something marginal. This is clearly, unquestionably handling – a game-changing incident — and you’re convinced I was screened or had a huge mental lapse.

2) If I’ve turned to run up the field and a defender clobbers an attacker behind my back in the penalty area then you must raise the flag. Now that flag will be behind my back (and flags behind the CR’s back should be avoided whenever possible) but we’re talking a game-destroying incident if it’s not dealt with promptly. So raise the flag, and the other AR should be observant enough to see it and mirror. (“Hey ref, look behind you. There’s a problem significant enough for me to flag and point past you.”)

If I whistle for a PK then come around the corner and take your position off the field at the intersection of the goal line and penalty area line. Be a goal judge and watch for keeper movement forward from the goal line. If the goalkeeper moves early and that movement makes a difference then show the new signal (flag held horizontally below the waist). In my infinite wisdom (or lack thereof) I may choose to ignore that signal from you. Again, do not be offended; it is not personal.

I’ll watch for encroachment into the penalty area by the field players. If the ball rebounds from the keeper or goal do not try to rejoin play to judge offside. You’ll get caught in no-man’s land and you’re useless to me.

Instead, stay on the goal line and be a goal judge. I’ll watch for offside. Move out to the touchline only when it’s safe — when the play has cleared the penalty area and the ball is going toward the other end of the field.

Now at PK incidents you also have one more opportunity to keep the referee out of trouble. If I whistle for a PK and you’re absolutely convinced
I was fooled by a dive then do not go to the corner flag. Instead, make eye contact, turn and walk a few steps up field, toward the halfway line. That’s your subtle signal to me saying “Hey, ref. You bought that dive? I don’t think so!”

When I look you can give me a little “No!” signal with your head, and a very subtle hand motion to show dive (but I emphasize very subtle).

Now of course these are unofficial signals, but remember that we have to get it right. The defenders will respect the officials a lot more if we get it right even after a short delay than if we force an unfair PK upon them. And if the attackers are honest with themselves they surely will know that their teammate took a dive.

And along those same lines of getting it right, remember that in 2009 we have new instructions on dealing with one-hundred percent misconduct (violent conduct) that has occurred out of the referee’s sight, even if play has restarted. We can now go back and deal with the “crime” after a restart provided you have raised the flag and kept it up through the restart. When I finally do see the flag the perp can be sent-off based on your information.

The restart following this “delayed justice” will be based on whatever reason the ball was out of play when the game was subsequently stopped, not for the original misconduct.

So this is one of the times when you as the AR really need to be involved and insist. But remember that this “delayed justice” is not for everyday, simple misconduct. Rather, it’s reserved for the most egregious of misconduct – something that simply must be dealt with. And it can only happen if you maintain the flag until I stop the game. Failing that, the perp walks unpunished.

Moving on…

Manage the game as best you can when play is nearby. Handle encroachment on free kicks close to you and on corner kicks. Come into the field if you need to. But keep an eye on the attackers and read the game. They may want to take a quick free kick, and if you’re standing next to the wall 10 yards inside the field when they put the ball into play then we all look bad when I have to blow the whistle and hold the restart while you retreat to the touchline. So use common sense here and try to stay at the touchline if you can.

Talk to the players when they’re at the corner arc and you just know one player is going to kick the other player’s ankles. (“Play the ball guys, not the ankles.”) If the player then kicks the ankles you nail him — raise the flag. Talk to the players — politely, respectfully, but we’re in charge. They are not.

If they complain (“Hey linesman, that was offside”) don’t be bothered. Players will complain and disagree. They’re allowed to disagree and vent a little emotion. That’s part of an emotional game. But they’re not allowed to dissent and disrespect you. You must decide when disagreement turns into dissent. When you have had enough, call me over. But don’t be overly sensitive.

Of course if they tell you to stick the flag where the sun doesn’t shine (or something equally colorful) then call me over. Anytime you call me over it has to be for something that you could not manage yourself. So you must be prepared to tell me, “White number 6 spit at blue number 12,” or whatever. Do not call me over to say that green number 5 is complaining about offside. I don’t care about that and you should not be over-reacting to that sort of stuff.

So listen and hear what needs to be heard and ignore what can be ignored. Stay calm and in control.

Work the same way with the coaches, substitutes, and spectators. They’re allowed to disagree as long as they don’t get out of line or become disruptive to the game, or interfere with your running on the line. So try to manage things as best you can — politely but firmly. If you’ve tried but cannot deal with elements outside the touchlines, then call me over. I will take out the trash!
If you see something on or off the field involving players or substitutes or substituted players that in your opinion needs a caution or send-off then in addition to raising your flag to get my attention please give me a subtle, private signal. To recommend a caution put a hand over your badge. For a send-off you can touch your back pocket. If I see either of those signals I’ll know you need to speak with me. Be prepared with jersey numbers and specifics.

All other mechanics are to standard USSF teachings (for corner kicks, throw-ins, goal kicks, substitutions, etc.). Just follow what you were taught and you’ll be fine.

When checking-in the players be certain that the jersey number on the lineup is the same as the number on the shirt. And please look at the photos on the player passes! Does the person standing in front of you bear any resemblance to the photo? If not, hold the pass and show it to me. Do not return it to the player or coach.

One last thing I’d like you to remember. I’m not picky about the exact blade of grass for free kicks far from goal, for offside restarts, etc. If the player is close, let her play. Show the player where to take the throw-in, and if she gets quite close let it go. But if she ignores your direction and goes 5-10 yards away after you pointed to the proper spot, then raise the flag.

In the same vein, I don’t care if the ball is placed a few inches outside the goal area for a goal kick when the nearest opponent is 40 yards away. Who cares? Certainly not the opponents. Please don’t raise the flag and motion with your hand to tell me that the ball has to go back a few inches after it’s been kicked into play!

Or if the keeper is punting the ball and reaches a few inches outside the penalty area just before kicking (clearly handling outside the area) don’t raise the flag if the nearest opponent is many yards away. Who cares? It’s utterly trifling, so let them play.

Be proactive and give a shout. “Keeper, watch your lines when you’re punting the ball.” Then if the keeper persists we have the option to act after we’ve provided a reasonable warning.

On the other hand, if the keeper comes out to challenge and handles outside the area thereby preventing the opponent an opportunity to play the ball, then of course you flag it. That handling is unfair. But let’s not micro-manage trivial offenses that don’t matter in the long run. Let inconsequential stuff go. Being technically correct when it’s not necessary only causes preventable irritation for the players, coaches, and spectators.

Now, any questions on things I covered, or are there things I did not cover that you’d like to discuss?

OK, let’s pluck this turkey. :o)

Gil Weber is a National Referee Emeritus, State Assessor, and Referee Instructor. He is also a contributor to the USSF’s Advice to Referees (all editions), Laws of the Game Made Easy, the Guide for Fourth Officials, the Women’s World Cup ‘99 Fouls and Misconduct video, You Make the Call, and other Federation referee educational programs.

Categories: Pregame

Question:
Your answers to questions frequently illuminate topics that should be discussed in the referee team’s pregame conference. Yet I have a difficult time remembering all of the various topics that should be addressed in pregame. I have searched but have been unsuccessful in finding a quide or outline for the pregame conference.

What are the topics that the referee A) must discuss, B)should discuss, and C) might discuss with his assistants in the pregame conference. I imagine that the topics in categories B and C will likely depend upon the experience of the referee team, age level and competition level of the match, among other factors.

USSF answer (June 5, 2009):
Your imagination is working well. As leader of the officiating team, the referee must establish during the pregame conference how the team will work and cooperate. The referee (depending on his or her own level of experience) should tailor the pregame to fit the composition of the refereeing crew, including their likely varying levels of knowledge and fitness; the age, competition, and skill levels of the players; and the particular requirements of the competition itself. It is often useful for the referee to develop a checklist for topics to be covered in the pregame conference. The amount of detail would be tailored to the needs (see above) of the referee, the assistant referees (ARs), and the fourth official. First and foremost, the referee must ensure that the ARs (and a fourth official) are familiar with the guidelines and mechanics laid out in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”

For starters, when working with unfamiliar crew members, the very first task (after introductions) is to ask questions which (gently) elicit information about these issues — e.g., How long officiating? Grade level? Most frequent level of assignment? Club/league/association? Entry class instructor (if within first or second year of experience)? This will help the referee tailor the pregame to the needs of the team.

Ideal topics for the checklist would include the duties of the AR, signals of the AR (including NOT signaling when the referee can clearly see the incident), what to do when AR signals are missed by the referee (such as when and how long to maintain the flag); duties of the fourth official (if one is assigned); differences between the rules of the competition and the Laws of the Game, if any; what the ARs should do in situations that are not covered by the Laws of the Game, such as unofficial signals or when the AR may/should enter the field; duties at a penalty kick; a reminder to communicate at all possible moments (such as a quick look exchanged between the referee and the lead AR on all through balls or at stoppages in play. Likely the most important item is a reminder to the ARs and the fourth to immediately alert the referee to any mistakes in procedure, such as having cautioned a player a second time but failed to send that player off.

Finally, the referee should encourage the ARs (and a possible fourth official) to ask questions during the pregame conference, just to ensure that they have understood what has been discussed and what they are to do.

AR RESPONSIBILITY ON FOULS

November 4, 2008

Question:
In the three man system, what is the lineman’s responsibility as far as fouls are concerned.

USSF answer (November 4, 2008):
1. Let the referee have the first shot at any foul or misconduct.
2. Flag nothing that the referee can clearly see (or see clearly, take your pick).
3. Flag only what needs to be called in accordance with the referee’s instructions in the pregame conference.
4. Flag only what the referee would stop play for if he or she had seen it.
5. Flag nothing that will get the referee in trouble.
6. Neither say nor give a hand signal for “advantage.”

Question:
Yes, I have been a ref since I was 16. I am 25 now. I have just started to get more serious about being an official. I know that having a good pregame speech is a good indicator of how seriously you take your job as an official. I would like to have a pre-packaged speech before a game to give to both my assistants & the coach/captains. What I am asking is for an example of what to say.?.?

USSF answer (September 15, 2008):
Whoa! The referee should NEVER — let us emphasize it — NEVER, give a speech of any sort to the coaches and captains of the teams whom he or she is refereeing. Doing so only invites later criticism and shouts of anger when the “promises” made in the speech are not kept — not unlike our general run of politicians, who rarely deliver what they promise. Giving a speech to the players and coaches is simply pouring fuel on a fire that might not be extinguishable.

Nor should the referee have a long and fully packaged pregame conference for every occasion. There are too many variables, such as the experience of the referee, the assistant referees, the fourth official (if you are so lucky as to have one), the experience and skill levels of the players, the importance of the game, and many other factors.

In general, the referee should be certain that the ARs are familiar with and ready to practice the information contained in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.” Then the referee should give his/her fellow officials guidance on what is expected of them in field coverage and signals for various special situations.

Examples:
1. Make eye contact with me at every through ball and at every stoppage.
2. Flag only for infringements that I cannot see; do not flag if it is clear that I can see it and have chosen not to call it.
3. Keep your signals simple, using only the signals authorized in the Laws of the Game. If something unusual occurs, for example, (whatever it happens to be), let us agree on this unofficial signal (whatever it happens to be).
4, If I miss your flag, keep it up for only a short time and then drop it. Leave it up only for serious fouls and misconduct.
5. Keep an eye out for signals by the other AR (or the fourth official) and alert me if I am missing something.

Go into great detail only on things that are unique to the particular competition, which may have rules different from the Laws of the Game.

You also need to remember that the pregame is a CONFERENCE, not a speech.  The days when the referee “lectured” the lowly subservient assistants on “the way things are going to be” are long gone — thank goodness.  The pregame is a discussion among equals, of whom the referee is the designated leader, not the dictator.  “Discussion” means that communication is two-way — the referee should be listening for important information from the appointed assistants, one or both of whom might know something the referee does not, may be more experienced, and may have officiated one or both of the teams before.  The participants in this pregame conference need to agree on their respective roles and responsibilities.  Only when there is not agreement does the referee decide what he wants for this specific game — remembering that the roles may be reversed in the next game.