The Officiating Team and Misconduct

Karyn, an adult/pro fan, asks:

If neither the Referee nor either Assistant Referee saw a foul but the fourth official did, can the Referee still give a straight red card?


Yes.  The referee is obliged to take into account any information provided to him or her by a member of the officiating team – including the ARs and the 4th official but not including the reserve assistant referee or a volunteer linesman – and then render a final decision.  The referee is not required to accept the information but is required to listen.  However, the referee’s ability to follow through on the advice and information remains limited by the Laws of the Game.  For example, if at the halftime break, an AR or the 4th official indicates that Blue #14 had used abusive or offensive language in the 20th minute, the only way the referee could issue a red card to Blue #14 is if there had been no stoppages between the 20th minute of the half and the midgame break.  The Law requires that a card to any player, substitute, or substituted player must be given no later than the next stoppage (which includes the end of a period of play).

There are only two exceptions to this mandate.  The first is if the referee realizes or is advised by a member of the officiating team (excluding the reserve assistant referee or a linesman) that the referee had issued a second yellow to a player but had failed to follow through with a red card as prescribed in Law 12.  In this case, the red card can be given whenever the Referee is made aware of the oversight.  The other is a bit more complicated.  The referee can issue a red card to a player, substitute, or substituted player if an assistant referee observes an act of violence (including spitting), raises the flag, and continuously maintains the raised flag until the referee becomes aware of the signal, at which time the red card for violent conduct can be given even if one or more stoppages and restarts have intervened.  Since this particular exception depends entirely on the AR performing in a certain way, it should be covered in the pregame discussion prior to any match in which such behavior might occur.…


May AR1 assume the duties of the 4th official vis a vis managing the technical area? Like most leagues in our area a 4th official is not assigned to the officiating crew. I realize the AR’s main focus lies elsewhere but there are times when the technical area needs to be managed.

USSF answer (May 25, 2010):
It is traditional that the senior assistant referee perform the duties now assigned to the fourth official (when a fourth is assigned). In fact, the position of fourth official was created to relieve the beleaguered senior AR of some of his (or her) burden of duties.

However, all fourth official duties (as with all other duties assigned to the AR in Law 6) take second place to the AR’s responsibility for assisting with offside decisions.…


This question is specifically regarding the powers of the 4th Official. During the recent Atletico – Valencia game, both the referee and assistant referee miss a handling of the ball within the penalty aria. After a few seconds of play the referee stops play and consults the 4th official who informs the referee of the offense.

Subsequently a penalty kick was awarded and the Valencia player was sent off for DOGSO. My question is that even though the LOTG gives the 4th official the power to “assist the referee at all times,” does that include actual fouls that happen on the field within close view of the referee and assistant referees? I believe that the 4th official has this power even though it is not explicitly expressed within the LOTG, however many other officials disagree.

USSF answer (March 10, 2010):
You are correct: The fourth official has the authority to provide any and all information to the referee.…


During a referee meeting we had a lengthy discussion about the right of a coach to address, discuss with and question the head referee during a game.

In the opinion of the referee/coach (one party) the coach should be addressed and “catered” to by the head referee when he has an objection. In his logic the reasoning for this is, that FIFA has “invented” the fourth referee and USSF gives the advice (at the higher levels) that the fourth referee is there to be addressed by the coaches if they have any problems. This serves also avoiding any additional aggravation of the coach, if his objections are not taken serious. If there is no fourth referee than the coach has the right to address the referee, discuss and make his objections known. The referee can – if he does not want to discuss- tell the coach to be silent.

In the opinion of the referee / instructor (the other party) the rules and the administrative handbook is very clear about the fact that the coach does not have the right to address, discuss and question with the head referee (or the AR) his concerns, especially during the game. The danger of intimidation and gamesmanship from the side of the coach is big (and with this the “not re-registering” of a lot of young referees). Therefore the only course of action from a referee toward a coach that is questioning, commenting or trying to discuss can be –if the request is friendly- to answer friendly that his calls are not open for discussion. If it gets to or starts at a harder point of discussion, the points warning, caution and send off are in order towards the coach. No discussion at any time during the game.

The factor starting the discussion was a game on the same day where the referee/coach had a player that in his opinion was fouled by the goalkeeper. The referee saw this different and did not call a foul. The player got injured or injured himself. When the coach attended on the field to the injured player and the referee was standing by, he asked him “How can this not be a foul”.

The referee/instructor sees in this a clear violation of the rules by the coach; the referee/coach sees this as his right, especially as the “referee was one with experience and he can defend himself”.

Can you please comment? Thank you very much.

USSF answer (June 23, 2009):
Ah, coaches. Some of them are a pleasure to deal with (the ones who read our Q&As), while others are less aware of what their rights are. The answer? The coach has only two rights once the game begins: (1) to stand in his/her technical area (or team area) and offer advice to his/her team and (2) to set an example of sporting behavior for the players of both teams. And the right to do even those things must be exercised responsibly or the coach will be expelled from the area of the field. The coach has no right to speak to the referee, the assistant referees, or, if there is one, the fourth official, unless invited to do so by the individual concerned.

Referees do not have to defend their decisions to coaches. If the coach has complaints he or she should put them into a report and submit it to the league (or whatever authority governs the competition in which the game is played).

If you want further information on what the fourth official can do, please review to US Soccer’s 2009 directive on managing the technical area. It covers many issues regarding the handling of coaches including “ask, tell, remove.” You will find all the 2009 directives at…


A fourth official observes an offense worthy of a send-off during play, but it is not seen by either the referee or ARs. What can the fourth official do?

USSF answer (June 4, 2008):
We know from the Laws of the Game that the fourth official “assists the referee at all times.” The fourth official must also “indicate to the referee when the wrong player is cautioned because of mistaken identity or when a player is not sent off having been seen to be given a second caution or when violent conduct occurs out of the view of the referee and assistant referees” and also “has the authority to inform the referee of irresponsible behavior by any occupant of the technical area.” So it is clear that the fourth official has the authority to advise the referee in matters of game management and player control.

This is reinforced in the Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials, where we learn that the fourth official “Notifies the referee as quickly as possible if a player or substitute has . . . committed violent conduct out of the view of the referee and assistant referees.”

The answer is analogous to the situation of the assistant referee who observes serious misconduct and begins to flag it before the ball next goes out of play; even though the game may have restarted before the referee sees the flag, the AR must keep the flag up (and call out, if necessary) to gain the referee’s attention.

In the situation you cite, the fourth official must do whatever is necessary and possible to gain the referee’s attention as quickly and expediently as possible. Depending on where each of the members of the officiating team is at the moment, it might be best for the fourth official to call to the referee directly, if he or she is nearby, or, if the senior AR is nearby, to use the AR’s means of communication to get the referee’s attention. Allowing too much time to pass while being polite and circumspect in notifying the referee would only worsen the inevitable tension between the players and lead to loss of control by the referee.…