In a men’s division 2 game AR 1 is watching a group of attacking and defending players challenging for the ball about ten yards directly in front of the net. The ball is kicked out of the group to an attacking player in an offside position on the far side of the field. The AR’s view of exactly who kicked the ball is blocked.

The referee looks to the AR for a call but in the pregame the referee instructed the AR’s that they had the offside call. The referee allows play to continue. Can the AR signal for offside if he did not see that an attacking player kicked the ball to the player in an offside position?

USSF answer (April 14, 2009):
The rule for the assistant referee in possible offside situations: When in doubt, leave the flag down.

The problem suggests poor pregame instruction, with no donut for the referee.  This is typical of the bad habits referees get into when they don’t THINK about their pregame instructions — the referee ALWAYS has the call, based on information provided by the AR.  The WEIGHT the referee gives to the information depends on (a) the issue (i. e., position or involvement) and (b) the AR’s distance to the event.  The referee might defer to the AR in the case of clear information from the AR and doubt on the part of the referee, but the referee cannot simply turn over to the AR all responsibility for making a potentially game critical decision if the referee has no doubt about what he has seen.

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