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 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:…


Hello, I have a question related to the priority of the duties of the referee. I have searched US Soccer and the position papers and noticed there is a position paper related to the duties of the Assistant Referee, but nothing as to the referee’s priority. Now I understand that this forum may deal with generally higher level questions, but when you (as a lone referee) are assigned to a match (more typically a low competitive youth match, but not unheard of to reach mid-level youth matches) what is the priority of responsibilities to the teams/players and the game. From my understanding if you are to use “Club Linesmen” then they are limited to only calling the ball in-and-out of touch. This would put the burden of responsibility for “Enforcing the Laws of the Game” solely onto the referee. In a perfect world we, as a referee culture, would like to have 3 USSF Certified Referees on every match and be in 100% perfect position 100% of the time and make 100% perfect calls. However, as a referee of nearly ten years I know that is not always possible, especially when there is only one referee to cover an entire match. One such example would be, when a lone referee has to position themselves close to the penalty area during a corner kick and the ball is cleared up field quickly to an attacker who may, or may not, be in an offside position.

Now since the primary function of the referee is to ensure the safety of the players (through the Safety – Equality – Enjoyment Philosophy) I would believe that direct free kick fouls and misconduct would be the most important duty of the referee, then followed by offside (Law 11 violations) then followed by ball in-and-out of play (Law 9). I understand that offside violations can be game critical decisions, but ultimately no one can be physically harmed by an missed offside violation; whereas, a foul can have lasting physical problems for a player for years to come (ie knee injury).

Thank you for your time.

USSF answer (September 17, 2010):
SAFETY first, but the FAIRNESS and ENJOYMENT of the players are ensured by calling what NEEDS to be called. At any given moment, virtually anything might impinge on fairness or enjoyment, so the referee must be prepared to call ANYTHING. However, a referee can only call what he (or she) sees and the fact that, as a lone official on the field, it is more difficult to see things depending on what is going on doesn’t change this principle. That said, we must add that, after a long enough time doing this game, one begins to “see” things that mere mortals in the exact same position on the field might not. Finally, let us close with the reminder that, according to Law 5, all decisions of the referee regarding matters related to play are final. Period. No argument allowed.…


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.


I know this has been asked before, but having just watched Japan and Parguay go to PKs to determine a winner I need some input.

On almost every kick the keeper from Japan came off the line prior to the ball being kicked which is against the rules. The keeper can move side to side, but can not move forward until the ball has been struck.

With one ref and two linesmen positioned specifically to observe the action I don’t see how this could be missed. Is it just ignored at this level of play? Perhaps the most well documented example of this was Brianna Scurry coming off the line way early against China to make a dramatic save. I believe Scurry later acknowledge bending the rules to the press after the match.

Given the game deciding weight these plays carry, why is this common rule violation tolerated? It seems crazy to play 90 minutes, plus 30 minutes to let it all rest on these kicks when rules are ignored. It brings in to question the intergrity of the game.

If we had all week I move on from this topic to the blatant diving, shin clutching and face holding that seems to accompany any hard contact these days. Here is how it works: Get hit, go down hard, fake a mortal injury, get on the stretcher and then get right up and jog around once they are brought off the field. Really classy.

USSF answer (July 2, 2010):
Yes, the ‘keeper is required to remain on the line until the ball has been kicked. If he (or she) moves forward before the ball is kicked and moved forward (and thus in play), the kick should be retaken. However, if the kicker scores anyway, then the referee disregards the infringement — but should warn the goalkeeper against further violations.

As to why the officials do not act on these infringements and the others you suggest, we cannot comment and must leave the solution to the officials and their assessors.…


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.…


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.…


I am a grade 8 assistant referee with two grade 7 referees, one as the other assistant and the other a center. In the pregame I was given two main instructions, “wait on offside calls, and call what you see,” from the center. I have two questions in regards to this game.

A player from Team A attempts to deliver a ball to a teammate in an offside position around midfield on the far side of the field. A player from team B intercepts it, the player in the offside position begins to approach the player now in possession of the ball and is promptly within 2 yards of the player, and the player in possession wiffs the ball out. This happened within about one second. I kept my flag down, thinking it wasn’t an offense itself to be in an offside position and it isn’t an excuse for the player to wiff the ball out.

The coach disagreed, and so did the center at halftime. Who is right?

My second question is referring to call at the end of the second half.

The center is at the top corner of the 18-yard box about 15 yards away from me. There was, in my opinion, a foul against the defending team and when I looked at the center he might have had his back turned to the play. (Afterwards he said he saw it in the corner of his eye but let it go because it was the end of the half.) I signaled a foul, the flag in the hand in which the direction was going, and the referee blew the whistle. The center seemed to regret the decision, placed the ball at the spot of the called foul, then blew the whistle as the end of the game (by my watch exactly 1 second after full time) instead of letting the attacking team have a chance for the goal. The other AR said that was a bad call on my part, that it was solely the center’s. I said that I saw a foul, I had a reasonable belief that the center couldn’t have seen it because of his position, and if the the center did see it he could have waved off my flag if he didn’t think it was a foul. In my opinion a AR never makes a call, every call is the center’s.

Do you think my call was correct, or at least, close to call?

USSF answer (May 12, 2010):
Please, please, please! Coaches are not entitled to provide input on any decision made by a referee or an assistant referee.

Question 1:
If it is clear that the player from team B has possession of the ball, then there is no offside. This excerpt from the Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game (2009/2010) may be helpful.

The possibility of penalizing a player for being in an offside position must be reevaluated whenever:
1. The ball is again touched or played by a teammate,
2. The ball is played (possessed and controlled, not simply deflected) by an opponent, including the opposing goalkeeper, or
3. The ball goes out of play.

The result of such a reevaluation, of course, may be that the player remains in an offside position based on still being beyond the second-to-last defender, the ball, and the midfield line. Referees must remember that a player cannot simply run to an onside position and become involved in play. The player’s position with relation to the ball and the opponents must change in accordance with the Law.

In the case of the ball leaving the field in favor of the team whose player was in an offside position and actively involved in play (e. g., a corner kick or throw-in for the attackers), it is traditional to call the original offside offense. If the restart would be in favor of the opposing team (e. g., a goal kick or throw-in for the defenders), it is usually preferable to ignore the offside infringement, as the defending team’s restart gives them the possession under circumstances not much different than the indirect free kick for offside-and often with less controversy.

Most likely no offside in this case.

Question 2:
Referees must sometimes act on the advice of the referee when they might otherwise not do so. The rule is that the AR flags for an infringement only if positive that it occurred out of the sight of the referee. From your description of the incident, it does seem that you were correct to flag. The problem appears to us to be that the referee REACTED to your flag and then regretted it (for whatever reason — maybe he did indeed see it out of the corner of his eye or — and here is something for you to think about, as only you can know — perhaps you had previously flagged for offenses that the referee HAD seen and wouldn’t have stopped play for. This might have made him have second thoughts afterwards.

If we are wrong, then please accept our apologies.…