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.…


The ball kicked by the attacking team over the defending team goal line for a goal kick the referee thought went of the defending team and award CK for the attacking team and they score of the CK than the referee saw the AR standing behind the Corner flag went to talk to him the AR advice the referee he gave the wrong restart, at this point can the referee disallowed the goal and award GK to the defending team?

thank you

USSF answer (January 18, 2011):
Rather than answering your question directly, let us consider some alternatives.

Ordinarily, the referee can correct a mistake in giving the restart to the wrong team (as, for example, might be the case if the referee announced a free kick for the Blue team but then realized, just as the Blue team is kicking the ball, that the free kick should really have been given to the Red team). The argument in favor of this correction even though someone had already taken the kick is that (a) the language in Law 5 that a decision cannot be changed once play has been restarted was historically intended to apply specifically to goals and cards becoming official and unchangeable, (b) the restart was actually illegal because (although the referee announced “Blue”) the referee’s intention was that Red be given the restart and it is the referee’s intention that counts, and (c) making the correction is clearly fair.

However, in this regard there are several additional factors that must be considered.

One is that considerably more time passed before the mistake was realized.

If the referee in this case had seen the AR’s signal and realized his error just before or as the corner kick was being taken and had whistled a stoppage, the decision to correct the corner kick to a goal kick would have been much easier to “sell” (it would not have mattered whether the ball went into the net or not). Furthermore, in this case (as described), it was not the referee who initially realized his mistake in awarding the wrong restart, it was the AR and it took a discussion between the referee and the AR to sort the matter out.

In order to “sell” a decision to recall, cancel, and retake a restart because the referee made a mistake in giving it to the wrong team, the action must have been taken quickly and it must have been on the referee’s own initiative. With so much time having elapsed and with the resolution having required consultations with one or both ARs (or fourth official), the correction to a goal kick might in fact raise more of a controversy than simply letting the corner kick stand. You would have to “take the temperature” of the match in order to decide to make the correction. The apparent scoring of a goal on that apparently incorrect corner kick adds complexity to the issue — allowing the corner kick to stand means necessarily allowing the goal to stand and that might be too significant a punishment for a team to suffer for the referee’s error.

All of this, of course, would have been avoided if the referee had been vigilant in maintaining eye contact with the AR in the first place. The error would have been corrected before the incorrect restart had even occurred or, at worst, the intention to correct would have been announced before the ball went into the net.…


What is the AR-Referee procedure?

AR observes an attacker impedes the progress of the the goalkeeper. This prevents the goalkeeper from moving into position to stop the ball from entering the goal. What is the AR’s procedure in this situation to communicate to the Referee that the goal should not be allowed.

2nd part. What is the AR procedure if it is the goal scorer who commits a foul (like intentionally handling the ball into the goal)?

USSF answer (January 18, 2011):
First, before considering signaling for any possible offense, the AR should be certain that the referee could not see the action in question. If that is not a factor, then the AR should follow the instructions regarding a goal to be disallowed, as given on p. 27 of the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials” for specific situations, including the situations you asked about:
– If the scorer was offside at the moment the ball was passed to him or her, signals offside
– If there was a foul by an attacker, stands at attention with the flag held straight down at the side
– If a player other than the scorer was in an offside position and, in the opinion of the assistant referee, was interfering with play or with an opponent, stands at attention with the flag held straight down at the side
– Assumes the proper position for the restart indicated by the referee
• Is prepared to signal referee in accordance with pregame discussion if further information needs to be given to assist in making the correct decision

You can download the Guide to Procedures and other publications at this URL:…


I have had several discussions with referees about the proper procedure for an AR when a throw-in is either illegal or improper (never enters the field of play).

A player for the attacking team was taking a throw-in and stepped on the field. I immediately raised the flag straight up in my left hand and waited for the referee’s acknowledgment. Once the whistle blew, I pointed for a throw-in for the defending team. The center referee told me that I should have waved the flag. I argued that if I waved the flag, that I would be providing information that I observed a foul. I could not find this specific issue in the Guide to Procedures, but I reasoned that it should be treated similarly to a ball that leaves the field and immediately returns and is still being played.

If a throw-in never enters the field of play, I normally signal for a throw-in for the same team. When I am the referee, I normally tell my ARs to follow this procedure.

Thanks for your help.

USSF answer (October 12, 2010):
The Guide to Procedures is clear: The assistant referee “Supervises throw-in elements per pre-game conference” (p. 18).

That means that the AR should keep the referee informed if the ball is not thrown in accordance with the procedure outlined in Law 15 or never enters the field. This, however, should be discussed in the pregame conference and the AR should not signal at all if the referee has a clear view of the situation.

Note that any AR involvement in signaling problems with a throw-in should be ONLY within the terms of what the referee wants done, as discussed in the pregame. If the referee does not make clear what, if anything, the AR should do in the case of any illegality in performing the throw-in, ASK.

And, assuming the referee has directed the AR to signal certain violations of Law 15, the correct signal is for the AR to raise the flag straight up, make eye contact with the referee, and then signal the correct restart (e.g., for an illegal throw-in by Red, give the throw-in signal in favor of Blue).…


I have understood that an AR (in a standard diagonal) should carry the flag in his or her left hand to be closer to and more visible to the referee, then transferring it below the waist to make one of the many right-handed signals. (With the exception that when running towards mid-field while not side-stepping, the flag should be in the right hand, again so it is more visible to the referee.)

I have heard rumblings of a limited change to that procedure by which the AR would carry the flag in the right hand when moving side to side alongside the penalty area. The rationale, I understand, being that more signals are made with the right hand so the signal can be made more quickly.

So my question is which the current proper procedure is — or is either one acceptable?

Thank you.

USSF answer (October 4, 2010):
There is no directive requiring the method you suggest. However, we can offer some advice on the matter.

First, if the referee directs the AR to follow this mechanic, then do it because it is just a mechanic and therefore an assessor, asking the AR why he was doing this, would (reluctantly) accept the “Nuremburg defense” (i. e., “he told me to do it” — “he” being a person in a position of authority), but then the assessor would proceed to grill the referee.

Second, it is arguably a mechanic which replaces an existing standard procedure and thus is not allowed in the Guide to Procedures (which you can find at this URL:

Third, it is possible that you have misunderstood the emphasis — namely, that several of the flag signals performed by the AR down that close to the goal line are signals for offside, goal kicks, and corner kicks, and they ARE recommended to be performed with the right hand (although so far only the requirements for pro match referees have insisted on using the right hand). In most of the games we do it doesn’t matter that much.

Fourth, the emphasis for the last several years has (rightly) been on “getting it right” and not on “getting it done quickly” so the alleged need for a quick signal is not persuasive.

And finally, this is the sort of thing that needs to be discussed at some length in the pregame conference among the officials on the game.…


I was refereeing a U15 Boys game and I was an Assistant Referee. A situation arose in which “gold” kicked the ball toward “whites” goal. The ball went far to the right, and landed on the goal line still in, but barely. It was on the goal line inside the penalty area and since it was still in bounds, I never signaled goal kick.

However the keeper came over, dribbled the ball back to the 6 yard box, and took what he thought was a goal kick.The keeper kicked it, but it never left the box and gold, the keeper’s opponent, shot the ball into the goal. I tucked my flag an ran up the line to signal a goal, but the referee disallowed it thinking it was a goal kick, even though I never signaled for one. This, to me was a pure case of bad communication but is there any way it could have been handled better?


USSF answer (October 1, 2010):
This was a matter of the referee not paying attention to what you, the AR, were telling him — that the ball was still in play. Two thoughts occur, both proactive in nature:
• You could have told the goalkeeper that the ball was still in play, loudly enough for others to hear it, or
• You could have kept the referee informed that the ball was still in play by using a supplementary signal, such as the unapproved but widely used one-handed “advantage” signal, to show this. This should have been discussed in the pregame conference. (To quote the Guide to Procedures: “Other signals or methods of communication intended to supplement those described here are permitted only if they do not conflict with established procedures and only if they do not intrude on the game, are not distracting, are limited in number and purpose and are carefully discussed within the officiating team prior to the commencement of the match.”)…


At a recent referee meeting the presenter insisted rather forcefully that the AR should give hand signals to indicate that the ball is still in play (when the ball runs on or near the touchline in the AR’s quadrant) or that there is no offside infraction (for example during a fast break).

Such signals are supposed to be given with the hand that does not hold the flag placed palm up and the elbow bent or not, at the AR pleasure.

My recollection is that this style of signalling went the way of the dodo about 10 years ago, but cannot find a document supporting my position. The best I can find is the “guide to procedure” at, which says (if I read right) something along the lines of “the AR signals with the flag” So, let me ask a multiple-choice question.

Hand-signals by the AR are:
1) requested (must be given at all possible opportunities)
2) recommended (should be given but only when absolutely necessary)
3) tolerated (if the AR cannot keep his hands to himself, better signals are a better choice than other unspeakable things)
4) discouraged (please, don’t give hand signals)
5) deprecated (if you give hand signal I will send you back to remedial training)

If you could provide an accessible reference and authority for the reply it will be greatly appreciated.

(BTW: why is the ‘guide to procedure’ available only in Spanish? is it because English-speaking referees are supposed to already know-it-all? let me assure USSF that is not the case, and I speak from direct experience)

USSF answer (September 30, 2010):
We are concerned about your query, as the information provided to you is somewhat false. The Guide to Procedures spells out very clearly what the approved signals are. It also, right at the beginning (where some people don’t read), states that other signals can be used only if they meet several reasonable requirements: (a) they don’t REPLACE any of the mechanics in the Guide, (b) they are not overly demonstrative or attention-grabbing, and (c) they are discussed in the pregame (the presumption is that they are either requested or approved by the referee). This is distinguishable from the issue of non-standard signals given by the referee which, while they must also meet these requirements, are only to be used sparingly as an aid to communication with the players, team officials, and spectators.

The informal and unofficial signal sometimes used by assistant referees to describe a ball that is still in play — a lowered hand waved at the wrist — is tolerated and even encouraged, provided that it meets the criteria in the previous paragraph. This same signal is also used by lazy ARs to show that there was no foul or immediate offside.

The Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials is available in English, and the 2010/2011 edition can be found on the website at:…


In the past couple of months I’ve noticed a trend among some of the ARs I’ve worked with. I was taught that when a goal is scored into the goal on my side of the pitch, as an AR I should sprint briefly along the touchline toward the center circle. This is also how I’ve always seen it done at the professional level. Several of the ARs I’ve worked with recently have, instead, walked or stood still and motioned downward with both hands along the touchline. It’s the motion you’d make if you were insisting that someone go ahead in front of you. Is this an alternate form of this signal or just laziness? I’ll admit it’s been very hot in SoCal these last few months so I understand the desire to conserve energy, and I’m one who usually abhors officiousness for its own sake, but it seems a tad unprofessional. Am I being the over-officious official I’ve always detested on this one or can I, in good conscience, correct ARs working with me who do this?

USSF answer (July 21, 2010):
We are unaware of any changes to the procedure outlined in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials”:

Lead Assistant Referee
• If the ball briefly but fully enters the goal and is continuing to be played, raises the flag vertically to get the referee’s attention, and then after the referee stops play, puts flag straight down and follows the remaining ;procedures for a goal
• If the ball clearly enters the goal without returning to the field, establishes eye contact with the referee and follows the remaining procedures for a goal
• Runs a short distance up the touch line toward the halfway line to affirm that a goal has been scored
• Keeps moving to avoid confrontation if approached
• Observes the resulting player b behavior and the actions in ad around the penalty area
•Takes up the position for a kick-off
• Keeps players under observation at all times
• Records the goal after the trail assistant referee has recorded it.


The Guide to Procedures tells us if a goal is scored during the taking of a penalty kick that the lead assistant referee “follows the normal goal procedure”. Since the assistant referee would not be in a position to “run a short distance along the touch line”, what, if any indication does the assistant referee give to the referee to confirm that a goal has been scored?

USSF answer (June 8, 2010):
In the case of a penalty kick, the lead assistant referee indicates that the goal is good by moving back to the touchline (to take up a position for the next phase of play — i. e., the kick-off) and, if it was not good, by staying where he was with the flag held at waist level parallel to the ground.…


My question is regarding Assistant Referee mechanics and signaling. Particularly for goal and corner kicks.

As an AR I am level with the 2nd to last defender, which is outside of the penalty area. The attacking team takes a hard shot, and I chase the ball down to the goal line. Being that it is a hard shot, it crosses the goal line by the time I am level with the penalty mark.

Where do I make my signal for goal kick? Do I continue to run towards the goal line until I am level with the goal area (6 yards from the goal line) and then signal? Or signal from where I am standing when the ball crosses the goal line?

I have the same question regarding corner kick signals. If the shot deflected off a defender and crosses the goal line when I am level with the penalty mark. Do I continue my run until I am beside the corner flag before signaling?

Great site! I check it every day for new advice. I hope you can give me some good advice for this one.

USSF answer (January 28, 2010):
Thank you. Flattery is always acceptable here. As to your question:

First, make every effort to follow the ball down the field. That said, we all know that a ball can travel faster in the air than most ARs can run along the line.

Therefore …

If you are close to the goal line (e .g., 2-3 yards) or if it is clear that the restart will be a goal kick, continue on down to the goal line and signal for the goal kick. However, if under the circumstances you are caught fairly far away from the goal line when the ball leaves the field OR if there is likely to be controversy about the restart, it is generally better to stop where you are, make eye contact with the referee, and signal so that the referee gets your information quickly. Then, after the referee clearly agrees, proceed to the position on the line which the Guide to Procedures advises you take initially for a goal kick restart.

This advice would be equally true if the ball left the field for a corner kick — except that, if you do go down to the goal line, take a step or two back upfield before signalling so that the flag is not pointing off the field.…