During the game where should the ref observe the game without getting in the way of play?

Answer (July 9, 2012):
You might try something I call The Magic Formula, which works for all situations, in both dynamic play and at restarts. You will have to modify it a bit if you do not have an AR to work with, but it still works.

x = a + b + c
Where x is the proper position in either dynamic play or at a restart and a, b, and c are conditions that must be met (or questions that must be answered by a “yes”).

a = I can see the possible problem area; i.e., where play will go next

b = I can see my assistant referee; i.e., I have play bracketed between me and my AR

c = I am not using space the players need; i.e., I am not blocking the passing lanes or in the way of either runners or players with the ball

That means that you may have to get outside the touchlines (and sometimes the goal lines) to be in the best position. You should also stay slightly behind play, rather than get too far ahead.

“The Magic Formula” was ibtroduced into USSF training materials in the mid-1990s, but even the folks at the English FA love and have “borrowed” it, just as we have borrowed a few things of theirs. However, because fads in training change, you and your colleagues may never have seen this information.…


Quick positional question. If you are AR on a game, where is the best place to line up for judgement of offside? dead even with the last defender,or even with the back heel of the last defender to see across the plane of their back. second, u15 post match the winning team goes back onto the field faces their fans sideline,lines up performs a chant,with or without choreographed movements. unsporting behavior? same question post match in youth games,and parents coming on field post match,and forming a “winners tunnel” for team to run through.

USSF answer (November 29, 2011):
1. The AR should be level with the second-last defender. If you are confused about the status of the goalkeeper, just remember that the ‘keeper is a defender, a member of the same team as the field players. If you are confused about whether to line up with the second-last defender’s back heel versus his torso or kneecap or forehead, you need to review the USSF publication “Guide to Procedure for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials.”

2. The game is over. As long as nothing derogatory is said about the other team, who cares?

3. Such things are rather juvenile, but who cares; the game is over.…


In connection with Memorandum 2009 on Law 11, where should an assistant referee stand in order to judge the offside position if a defending player leaves the field of play over the touch line on the opposite side of the assistant referee (the AR can not know what is the place where the defender left the field)?

USSF answer (August 13, 2009):
Memorandum 2009’s treatment of Law 11 (Offside) has been updated in a position paper published August 12, 2009:


Subject: When Defenders Leave the Field

Date: August 12, 2009

A more definitive interpretation of Law 11 (Offside) was circulated this year by the International Board as part of its annual notice of Law changes and clarifications. This has led to some discussion among referees, players, and coaches regarding how this interpretation should be implemented in different game situations involving a defender leaving the field during play across the goal line or touch line. The following scenarios should be considered:

– During the normal course of play. The critical issue is whether, in the opinion of the referee, the defender’s action was a normal part of play. For example, the defender left briefly to get around an opponent or the defender’s momentum necessarily resulted in crossing the goal line or touchline. In this case, no violation has occurred and the defender is expected to return to the field without undue delay. The permission of the referee is not required.

– Attempting to create an offside situation. If, in the opinion of the referee, the defender left the field with the intention of placing an attacker in an apparent offside position (by changing the determination of which teammates are the last and second to last defenders), this is a violation of the Law and a form of misconduct (leaving the field without the permission of the referee). However, play should normally be allowed to continue but the defender off the field is considered to be on the closest point of the boundary line for purposes of determining an attacker’s offside position. Thus, if the defender on the field closest to the goal line is the goalkeeper standing a few feet from the goal line and the defender left the field across the goal line, that defender is, in effect, considered to be on the goal line as the last defender and the goalkeeper has become the second to last defender.

– Misconduct. When a defender has committed misconduct by leaving the field in an attempt to place an attacker in an offside position, the referee’s normal course of action is to allow play to continue but to caution the defender when the ball goes next out of play. However, it is not necessary to wait for the ball to leave the field. The next stoppage of play could occur in a number of ways – a foul or a serious injury or the expiration of time, for example. The referee could also whistle to stop play solely because the attacking team no longer controls the ball (e.g., a shot on goal by the attacker is saved and held by the goalkeeper). In this case, the stoppage is due solely to misconduct by a player off the field: after showing the yellow card, the restart would be an indirect free kick for the opposing team where the ball was when play was stopped by the referee.

We believe that this position paper will resolve many questions for referees and ARs. As to what the AR should do, we recommend that the assistant referee continue to remain even with the second-to-last defender or the ball, whichever is nearer to the goal.  The only thing that changes when a defender leaves the field is the determination as to WHICH defender is second to last.  If the defender left the field farther away from the goal than the second-to-last defender, then the defender off the field is not taken into account at all, either in determining the second-to-last defender or in where the AR should be.…


I was reading through the May 2009 Archive about the goalkeeper injury. This brought to mind a situation that I witnessed at my son’s High School match. I am a recreational referee, and realize that the high schools here in Texas play under UIL rules, not the LOTG. Nevertheless, the situation seems clear-cut. During the match an attacking forward was 1 v 1 with our goalkeeper. The attacker was playing the ball a yard or two in front of him and as he approached the goal box, the goalkeeper reached down to pick-up the ball. The attacker continued through, while the goalkeeper had his hands on the ball, and kicked or kneed the goalkeeper in the head, causing both players to go down. The contact was sufficiently hard to knock the goalkeeper unconscious and he was totally immobile. A defender was able to clear the ball in touch. The AR was parallel to the incident and had a clear view, but the CR was about a yard out of the center circle (where he spent the majority of the match.) The CR allowed the throw-in and the opposing team finally put the ball in touch so the goalkeeper (who literally had not moved at all the entire time) could be attended to. The CR had never made any made a call, never took any disciplinary action, and never even stopped play to address what was obviously a very seriously injured player, in large part because failed to be in a position to follow the active play.

1. Should this not have been a foul for kicking?
2. Should it not have warranted Sending Off for Serious Foul Play (excessive force), or at least a Caution for Unsporting Behavior (reckless)
3. Should not have play been stopped immediately when it was obvious the goalkeeper was unconscious (he was actually unconscious for well over a minute. When he went to the hospital, had a serious concussion and was out for a month.)

I believe I know the answers, but would like to get your take and how culpable is the CR for not being in position to see and the AR for not making him aware of the situation.

USSF answer (July 1, 2009):
If all was precisely as you describe it, then the following answers apply to your numbered questions.
1. Yes.
2. Yes, serious foul play.
3. Yes.

The referee is expected to cover as much of the field as possible to manage a game properly. Yes, the referee should have been close enough to play to see this incident and deal with it properly. In addition, the AR, given the poor positioning of the referee, should have passed the information to the referee. That point concerns us almost more than the referee’s dereliction of duty.

We recommend that this incident be reported to the authority that governs high school soccer in your area. The report should include date, place, time, teams, and a full description of the incident.…


In a recent game, Blue has a throw-in approximately 6 yards from Yellow’s goal line. Players for both teams are gathered on the 18. The CR is about 28 yards out, watching the players in the middle.

One option for the AR is to be in line with the 2nd to last defender on the 18, watching for offside. Yes, we know you cannot be offside on a throw-in, but there is opportunity for the ball to be thown to the middle of the field and played by someone there to another player who could now be in an offside position.

Another option for the AR is to be positioned between the player making the throw-in and the corner flag. This position allows the AR to keep all players and the ball between the AR and the CR.

1) In the absence of the CR assuming responsibility for the offside calls and instructing the AR to go to the corner, which option would be the best position for the AR?

2) In this particular case, does it make sense for the CR to move to the 18 and cover the offside calls as well as the play, or should the CR stay back in order to have a better angle to watch the play?

USSF answer (March 11, 2009):
You seem to have set up a false dichotomy.  The assistant referee’s position on a throw-in is always “even with the second-to-last defender or the ball, whichever is closer to the goal line.”  In cases where the second-last defender is farther downfield (i .e., farther away from the goal line than the ball), then the rule still applies, but with the proviso that the AR cannot be where the ball is since that is also where the thrower is.  Accordingly, the general rule is modified slightly as “even with the second to last defender or the ball, whichever is closer to the goal line, and also between the thrower and the AR’s goal line.”

What this means in practice is that, if the second-last defender is closer, then the AR is even with that defender which, by necessity, places him between the thrower and the goal line.  If the second-last defender is upfield, the AR is simply between the thrower and the goal line.  In either case, the AR must be prepared to adjust based on movement of the ball and the second-to-last defender as a result of the throw-in.  What the AR must not do in an attempt to be even with the ball is to stand next to the thrower or even with the thrower but way off the touchline — the AR must still be on the touchline.

For examples, see the diagrams in the USSF publication “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials” 2008-2009 edition, pp. 17, 18, 31-34.

The referee should be in a place where he/she can see where play is and where it is going, can see the AR, and is not in space the players need to use.…


I too am sometimes confused by the AR Procedure. Let’s find out.

Should the AR hold his/her position with flag lowered waiting to judge whether the OSP attacker becomes OS, while the ball advances, and then run to catch up to the ball or NTLD if the OS does not develop, or

Run to stay with the ball or NTLD letting play develop, and if then judging the OSP attacker to be OS due to delayed participation, flag it, get Refs attention and then run back to mark the OS position for the IFK?

My personal mechanic has been to hold the position and rush to catch up if the Offside does not develop. Reason being that 95% of the time I will be in the right position when the OSP attacker becomes OS. Or be pretty close and have more time if the Defense takes possession or the ball goes into touch. The other 5% ??? Of those few instances when I see the possibility of an on side attacker coming thru to play the ball, I try to stay with the ball and then only rush back to the original OSP if I judge the OSP attacker to be OS.

Can you provide any references on this.

USSF answer (January 7, 2009):
If your mechanic works for you, that is fine. However, we recommend REMEMBERING where the player was when the ball was played by his or her teammate — a few yards are not going to mean the world falls apart — and staying with play until it is clear that the offside has materialized.

The AR runs down the touch line, maintaining proper position with either the ball or second-last defender, and then raises the flag when the attacker has become actively involved and is thus offside (subject to the decision of the referee). When the referee sees the raised flag and blows the whistle, the AR makes eye contact with the referee and points the flag to the far, middle or near side, whichever is correct. The AR then moves back down the touch line to a point in line with the correct spot for the restart.

Note: There is no specific advice on the matter because it is left to the discretion of the referee to cover the issue in the pregame.  The issue, simply put, is that the AR must continue to maintain proper position during the period of time between when an offside position is noted and when the offside violation is clear enough to be flagged.  The AR’s position must be maintained in this scenario because of the possibility that an offside violation may not occur.  The issue outcome hinges on identifying the correct location of the restart.…


I n response to a question of October 23, with regards to a missed signal for a goal and subsequent confusion, you wrote that “there is no way that dropping the flag and moving up field should be interpreted as an offside decision.”

I’d like some clarification of this opinion with a view to your answer of August 18, when you wrote that in order to properly implement the “wait and see” principle without disadvantaging the defending team on their restart or pulling the AR out of position, the AR should follow play until the offside player is actively involved, then “when the referee sees the raised flag and blows the whistle, the AR makes eye contact with the referee and points the flag to the far, middle or near side, whichever is correct. The AR then moves back down the touch line to a point in line with the correct spot for the restart.”

However, in the conclusion of your Aug 18 ruling, you note “there is no specific advice on the matter because it is left to the discretion of the referee to cover the issue in the pregame. The issue, simply put, is that the AR must continue to maintain proper position during the period of time between when an offside position is noted and when the offside violation is clear enough to be flagged. The AR’s position must be maintained in this scenario because of the possibility that an offside violation may not occur. The issue outcome hinges on identifying the correct location of the restart.”

The obvious difference between the signal for a missed goal vs offside is the AR giving the far/middle/near signal prior to running upfield. The latter procedure is covered in neither the Guide to Procedures, ATR, LOTG, or Q&A (please correct me if I am wrong).

Considering this, it is easy to envision miscommunication resulting from this procedure if the center has exercised his “discretion” in neglecting to cover the issue in pregame, done all too frequently, through levels of play such as PDL where waiting for a touch or impending collision to signal offside is imperative. This site is the only place where I have seen this specific procedure laid out; many referees would contend that the proper procedure is for the AR to hold position until the advantage is clear, then signal or recover.

While not the most frequently used AR routine, the “wait and see” offside is common, and miscommunication could easily have negative effects on man management. If this procedure is recognized as “proper,” should it be included in Guide to Procedures and adopted as a recognized signal? At the very least, it seems that it should be reviewed by instructors sufficiently that confusion does not result.

USSF answer (November 5, 2008):
Although we applaud your faithful attention to the various Q&As published here, the issue you are raising below is based on a false premise — namely, that these two scenarios are connected in any way.  The potential confusion you point to could arise only if the officials involved acted in the way which we clearly stated was incorrect in each case.

In the October 23 scenario, the issue was the referee misunderstanding the AR’s correct procedure for indicating that a goal was scored despite the fact that the ball appeared to have stayed on the field.  We said then, and confirm again, that the referee simply was wrong in believing that the AR had indicated an offside violation and, in that context, said that the AR dropping the flag and running quickly up the touch line could not under any circumstances be considered proper mechanics for indicating an offside violation.  All aspects of this situation are clearly covered in the Guide to Procedures and Advice to Referees.

In the August 18 scenario, we were asked about the proper mechanics for the AR when two attackers are making a play for the ball, one coming from an onside position and the other coming from an offside position.  This is fairly clearly covered in the Guide to Procedures and the Advice to Referees, but we also acknowledged that the subsidiary issue of properly locating the restart (if an offside infringement occurs) does not have a definitive answer in these publications because it is left to the discretion of the referee, who should include the matter in the pregame.  

We said then, and confirm again, that the AR should be maintaining proper positioning for offside even though, if the offense does occur, this might place the AR some distance away from the restart location. If the referee wants assistance from the AR in locating the restart, the AR should move up the field but only after giving the complete signal for the offside offense.  In other words, although it might seem that the AR is merely dropping the flag and moving upfield, this is not what has signaled the offside offense. The offense was signaled in the correct way when the offense occurred (all in accordance with the Guide to Procedures and Advice to Referees) and then, only if this is requested by the referee, the AR could drop the flag and move up field in order to assist in locating the restart.  In the alternative, the referee may decide that he or she needs no help advising players as to the restart location and would prefer that the AR stay back where the offense was signaled since, in all likelihood, this puts the AR closer to where the second last defender is at the time of the restart.…


In a recent Premier League game Manchester City hosted a match and distributed balloons to fans. The balls were behind the City goal most of the time but quite a few blew onto the field in front of the goal when, you guessed it, the ball was sent across the goal mouth on the ground. A defender was positioned to kick the ball away but instead kicked a balloon. An attacker struck the correct round object and scored the goal that won the game. The referee allowed the goal to stand but it is thought that the rule about “outside agency” should be applied instead.

What is correct?

In another recent professional game the ball was kicked high to a player who was dashing along the touchline looking at the descending ball. He had to step over the line to receive the ball but fell as he ran into the unseen AR who was also running tight along the touchline off the field. The player would likely have been able to play the ball as no opponent was anywhere near. The AR could see the play and I expected him to drift wide of the play, which he didn’t do. Possession went straight to the opponents. There was no call; no drop ball restart.

What is correct?

The use of arms to protect the defenders who are formed into a “wall” in front of a goal has been accepted to protect the face, groin area and heart. I expect the arm/hand should be touching the body, or almost so. However it’s a common enough sight on replays to see defender’s arms deliberately reaching out to prevent the ball from striking them. I’ve even seen the ball repelled by an elbow. Consider an arm extended about 14 inches in front of a contorted face (I’m measuring this right now with a ruler) seems to be a deliberate act of directing the ball away to an unthreatening area of the field than would occur if the arm was held protectively close to the body.

What is correct?

USSF answer (February 12, 2008):
1. Balloonacy
Under Law 5 the referee has the powers to protect the safety of the players and to stop, suspend or terminate the game for outside interference of any kind. The only reasons for the referee to stop the play for balloons or other foreign objects being thrown onto the field would be if he or she considered that (a) the state of the ground was hazardous for the participants, (b) the balloons were causing the game to become farcical, or (c) he or she considered them to be outside interference.

If it is at all possible, the referee should act preventively to have foreign objects removed from the field before any incidents occur to mar the game. In these circumstances the game would be suspended until the playing surface had been cleared of the foreign objects.  If play was stopped for this, the restart would be a dropped ball at the place where the ball was when play was stopped. If the referee had the time to act preventively to have the items removed, play would be suspended at an appropriate stoppage in the game and restarted according the reason for the stoppage — throw-in corner kick, etc. However, if there is a great number of foreign objects in one playing area, such as in the penalty area, and this could interfere with both sides enjoying an equal opportunity for a good game, the referee should stop play immediately.

This problem is a difficult one for referees to manage at any level of play, but particularly at the professional level, as the longer the game is suspended to deal with this type of incident, the greater the risk of the spectators continuing to disrupt the game.  In most countries the referee would not hold up the game for such incidents unless the foreign objects were completely covering a large area of the playing surface.

2. Player knocking over the AR (or vice versa)
The assistant referee is considered to be part of the field. If he or she is hit during the course of play by the ball or by a player, there is no infringement, nor is there any need to stop play; the only reason to stop play would be if the ball has left the field. (Let us note that the AR should be well off the field in all cases.)

3. Raising the arm from the body to play the ball
Players are indeed allowed to put their arms across their bodies to protect themselves. However, if, in the opinion of the referee, the player so doing is actually moving the arms or hands to control the ball, that constitutes deliberate handling and must be punished accordingly.…


I recently received an assessment from a national assessor on a U-16 Division 2 game. I had called a foul in the penalty area against the defender, which called for a PK. The assessor said the call was correct; however, he said I was too far from the play to effectively “sell” the call if I had needed to. I was around the 35 yard line and the foul was just inside the penalty area about the 17.

My question is this…what distance should you strive for from the ball (accepting the fact that transitions and other situations sometimes make the ideal distance impossible)?

Answer (September 27, 2007):
We hope that you misunderstood the national assessor’s comment. As you are a first-year referee, he may have been suggesting that being closer to all action would help you sell your calls better.

Positioning is critical when making calls in the attacking third of the field. Position is determined by having the best viewing angle of the challenge. Being between 10 and 15 yards from play without interfering with players space is optimal. In the case of your call, if you were certain that the foul occurred within the penalty area (and your assistant referee did not suggest otherwise), then the decision to award a penalty kick was correct.…