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: