Scenario: A three man crew is assigned to the match. Center official notifies the two AR’s by phone that he will be late to the match 15 minutes before scheduled kick off time. AR’s notify both coaches and both coaches want the game to start on time, therefore AR1 is now the center with AR2 on the line and no club AR for the other line. After 20 minutes, the center official show up and takes a flag and becomes the other AR. During a stoppage of play at about 25 minutes, the assigned center trades places with acting center.
Question: Is this approved procedure or should the acting center official remained the center official for the match?
USSF answer (March 8, 2011):
Whoa! Let’s back off here and look at the real problem. Coaches have no say as to who referees their game, at least not in the game played under the Laws of the Game and under the aegis of the U. S. Soccer Federation. Nor can they insist on starting the game immediately if an official is late in arriving, particularly if that official has notified his/her fellow officials and given an arrival time. The game can wait those 15 minutes.
However, if there is some rule of the competition that requires games to start NOW and not a minute later than NOW, the officials may then work precisely as in your scenario.
As to the question itself, the answer is no, this is not an approved procedure in higher-level competitive soccer. Once a referee has begun a game in higher-level play, he or she cannot be “substituted out” for another. However, the procedure might well work in lower-level play.