Reminder on Referee Roles during a Match


My daughter and I both recently had unusual experiences with assistant referees at our games. Each of us has had ARs come out on the field and disrupt play or instructions to players. In one case, I was forced to blow a whistle during an attack in the box when the AR came out onto the field. In my daughter’s case, the AR came all the way from the other end of the field to incorrectly “correct” my daughter on a PK. It may be worth an article to remind about the AR role and how the AR is supposed to signal the Referee and stay off the field during play unless invited on by the Referee.


That is an unusual situation to say the least, but of luckily the Laws of the Game (LOTG) are very clear on the role of the AR.  Law 5 outlines the authority of the referee and states “Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game…”. Law 6 reinforces this with its statement that “The match officials [including the assistant referee] operate under the direction of the referee”. A common phrase to remember is the assistant referee is there to assist not insist.

In terms of signaling, the Laws are less prescriptive. The section in the LOTG called Practical guidelines for match officials states that when direct consultation is required, the AR may advance 2-3 meters (yards) onto the field of play, but does not specify how this is indicated.

How the AR should signal the referee should be reviewed by the referee team in their pre-game. Generally the recommendation is that If the AR needs to speak with the referee during a match they should hold their flag up straight above their head and wait to be recognized. Upon play being stopped and the referee recognizing the AR, the AR should use an agreed upon signal to indicate they wish to talk to the referee.

Unless the AR has a prescribed reason to be on the field of play (e.g. moving into position for a PK, supporting the referee during a mass confrontation etc.) under no circumstances should they enter the field of play without the referee’s permission.