Today’s game: Region 3 Premiere League U-18 Boys between 1st and 2nd place teams. I’m working with an AR I’ve never met before. During the pregame, we discuss offside and waiting to ensure the player in the offside position becomes involved in play.
Early in second half of a 2-1 game, LRFC complains that AR1 delays too long in signaling the offside when KFC player is clearly going after long through ball from near midfield. They’re specific complaint is that AR1 is running with the ball, thereby signaling in their minds that he believes the KFC attacker to be onside. This wasn’t the first delayed call, but it was the one that became the tipping point.
Later in half, another long through ball, AR1 again runs after ball with no indication of offside/onside. KFC attacker gains possession in corner and sends cross that is knocked in by teammate to clinch the game 3-1. LRFC was upset as they believed the attacker was offside and that AR1 was only delaying his signal.
So my request is for suggestions on how to handle this scenario to allow time to ensure offside player is involved while not creating a false routine to which the defense believes the AR intends to call offside but is only delaying.
USSF answer (October 15, 2008):
If you feel it absolutely necessary to calm down the complainers, gently explain to them that the U. S. Soccer Federation and the people who write the Laws, the International F. A. Board, have instructed all assistant referees to delay the flag until they are certain that there is active involvement — a principle used in referee training and called “WAIT and SEE.” The matter has been taken out of the control of the referee and the AR, and this procedure must be followed.
However, there is indeed something wrong with waiting too long. Particularly in a kids’ game, the AR should stop and signal for the offside when it is clear that an attacker from an offside position is pursuing the ball with no teammate coming from onside in competition for control of the ball and with one or more defenders being forced to alter their positions by the attacker’s actions. This is the corollary to “WAIT and SEE” — “Once you’ve SEEN, don’t WAIT.”