Assistant referee (association football)

Last updated

Assistant referee signalling that an offside offence has occurred Clemens Schuttengruber, Fussballschiedsrichter (03).jpg
Assistant referee signalling that an offside offence has occurred

In association football, an assistant referee (previously known as a linesman or lineswoman) is an official empowered with assisting the referee in enforcing the Laws of the Game during a match. Although assistants are not required under the Laws, at most organised levels of football the match officiating crew consists of the referee and at least two assistant referees. The responsibilities of the various assistant referees are listed in Law 6, "The Other Match Officials". In the current Laws the term "assistant referee" technically refers only to the two officials who generally patrol the touchlines, with the wider range of assistants to the referee given other titles.


The assistant referees' duties generally consist of judging when the ball has left the field of play – including which team is entitled to return the ball to play, judging when an offside offence has occurred, and advising the referee when an infringement of the Laws has occurred out of his or her view. These two officials are typically positioned on opposite touchlines, and each stay beside different halves of the pitch.

At higher levels of play the referee is also assisted by a fourth official. The fourth official's duties are usually administrative in nature, such as supervising the substitution procedures. The fourth official will generally spend the game in the vicinity of the teams' technical areas.

Competition rules will mandate procedures for replacing officials who are unable to continue. Often, the fourth official will replace the referee or one of the assistant referees if they are unable to continue. The Laws also allow for designated reserve assistant referees who have no other responsibilities unless called upon to replace a member of the officiating team who is unable to continue. [1]

At very high-level games there may be further assistant referees. Additional assistant referees are positioned to observe incidents near the two goals. Video assistant referees view footage of the game and can advise the referee to review decisions that may have been incorrect. [1]

The referee is the sole arbiter of the Laws during the match. Assistants' calls and judgements are considered to be advisory and can be overruled by the referee. [1]

General duties

As outlined in Law 6 of the Laws of the Game, the officiating team works together to enforce the Laws during a game, though the referee remains the final decision maker in all matters. The assistant referees (including additional assistant referees if present) and the fourth official are expected to advise the referee if they have a clearer view of any particular incident. [1] At the highest levels of play, particularly in matches held in large stadiums, the entire officiating crew may be equipped with wireless microphones and earpieces to facilitate vocal communication across long distances or through loud stadium noise.

Having a team of assistants allows for the replacement of officials if one or more are unable to continue. The system of who replaces who is a matter for the organising competition. [1]

All officials wear uniforms that match that of the referee, though the fourth official will often wear a tracksuit over the kit in colder weather.


Assistant referee

The diagonal system of control. In this the two assistant referees (AR) stay on opposite touchlines in opposite halves. Diagonal System of Control.svg
The diagonal system of control. In this the two assistant referees (AR) stay on opposite touchlines in opposite halves.
An assistant referee (front, in black) officiates a match between Partick Thistle and Dundee United Linesman officiates match.jpg
An assistant referee (front, in black) officiates a match between Partick Thistle and Dundee United

Law 6 of the Laws of the Game specifies that "two assistant referees may be appointed". [1] The assistant referees move along the touchlines, each covering their own half of the field of play.

In general, assistant referees are responsible for assisting the referee with:

All decisions by the assistant referees are only advisory to the referee; their decisions are not binding and the referee is allowed to overrule an assistant. An assistant referee may also be called upon by the referee to provide an opinion regarding matters which the referee requires clarification on. Occasionally the assistant referee will assist in player management during free kicks, as well as provide visual assistance during penalty kicks. The assistant referees also usually assist the referee with preparatory and administrative functions.

Assistant referees carry brightly coloured flags (usually red, yellow, or some pattern involving those colours) which are used to indicate their decisions to the referee, players, and spectators. During the game each assistant referee oversees one touch-line and one end of the field utilising the diagonal system of control. The more senior of the two assistants will normally occupy the side of the field containing the technical areas, to help oversee substitutions. At higher levels of play, the assistant referees' flags may be equipped with buttons that the assistant referee may press to send an audible signal to the referee in order to get the referee's attention.

Assistant referees were formerly called linesmen. In 1996, the name was changed, primarily to better reflect the modern role of these officials, and secondarily to become non-gender specific, though the term is still in widespread unofficial use. They are also sometimes incorrectly referred to as "referee's assistants".

Fourth official

The fourth official (also known as the reserve referee, replacement referee, or simply RR) assists the referee in a variety of tasks, and may be called upon to replace another match official. The practice of having a named replacement referee was introduced in 1966 by English referee and administrator Ken Aston, but the International Football Association Board (IFAB) did not officially create the position until 1991, and listed only areas of responsibility. The fourth official is simply instructed to assist the referee at all times, and their duties are largely at the discretion of the referee.

The fourth official typically has a table a short distance from the touchline between the two teams' technical areas, however their positioning is not defined by the Laws of the Game.

In general, fourth officials are responsible for assisting the referee with:

In practice, the fourth official becomes a key member of the officiating team, who can watch the field and players and advise the referee on situations that are going on out of their sight. The fourth official keeps an extra set of records, and helps make sure the referee does not make a serious error such as cautioning the wrong player, or giving two cautions to the same player and forgetting to send off the player. [2]

Where the fourth official is a junior member of the officiating team, they are generally expected to replace an assistant referee where they are unable to continue to perform their duties (either due to injury or replacing the main referee). However, in most high-level competitions, the fourth official is a designated referee (as opposed to assistant) and therefore replaces the referee in cases where they are unable to continue.

Additional assistant referee

An additional referee for the goal line (in black) Arbitre de surface Lille - Everton.JPG
An additional referee for the goal line (in black)

The additional assistant referee (AAR) is an official that assists the referee behind the goal line to assist the referee in observing any incident that may occur near the penalty area. Recent trials, for example at the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League group stage, have been started to make place for an additional two assistant referees to be added to the game, positioned behind the goal lines, to "ensure that the Laws of the Game are upheld, informing the referee of incidents of any kind that they may otherwise have missed, particularly in key areas of the field like the penalty area and its surroundings," but only informing the referee of their observations through a wireless communication system. Their positioning also gives a good view to assist the referee in "ghost goal"-type incidents. The trial was evaluated by International Football Association Board (IFAB) technical experts. [3]

This trial was later extended to the 2011–12 UEFA Champions League and qualifying games and the final tournament for the UEFA Euro 2012. Their reception has been mixed. [4] Following a two-year experiment in the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2012, as well as the AFC President's Cup and competitions in Brazil, France, Italy, Morocco and Qatar, the use of additional assistant referees was approved by the IFAB in July 2012. [5] Additional assistant referees were used in the 2013 Scottish Cup Final, the first time they had been utilised in a domestic match in Scottish football. [6]

Video assistant referee

The video assistant referee (VAR) is an official, who will also have assistants themselves, that reviews decisions made with the use of video footage and a headset for communication with the on-field referee. Their use by competitions is optional.

Fifth official and reserve assistant referee

The fifth official was an official meant to serve as a replacement for either of the assistant referees in the unlikely event of an injury or incident that would prevent the assistant from continuing the game. For matches in the 2006 World Cup, FIFA assigned five officials. The role of the fifth official was to assist the fourth official in a variety of tasks, and potentially be called upon to replace another match official if necessary, for example in the case of injury. [7] If an assistant referee could not carry on their duties, the fifth official was to be the primary replacement, whereas the fourth official was the referee's primary replacement.[ citation needed ] This distinction was made to reflect the fact that assistant referees and referees perform different tasks.[ citation needed ]

The fifth official had access to television coverage of the match, but was not permitted to advise the on-field referees of any incidents they had missed. [8] Speaking after the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final, Italy coach Marcello Lippi claimed that the referee had sent off France player Zinedine Zidane after receiving advice from "the fourth and fifth officials looking at the video at the edge of the pitch". [9] These claims were subsequently denied by FIFA. [8]

In the current Laws of the Game the role of the fifth official has been reduced to that of the reserve assistant referee (RAR, also known as the reserve official). They have no duties other than to replace an assistant referee or fourth official who is unable to continue. [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Association football</span> Team sport played with a spherical ball

Association football, more commonly known as simply football or soccer, is a team sport played between two teams of 11 players who primarily use their feet to propel the ball around a rectangular field called a pitch. The objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposition by moving the ball beyond the goal line into the opposing side's rectangular framed goal. Traditionally, the game has been played over two 45 minute halves, for a total match time of 90 minutes. With an estimated 250 million players active in over 200 countries, it is considered the world's most popular sport.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Referee</span> Official in a variety of sports

A referee is an official, in a variety of sports and competition, responsible for enforcing the rules of the sport, including sportsmanship decisions such as ejection. The official tasked with this job may be known by a variety of other titles depending on the sport, including umpire, judge, arbiter (chess), commissaire, or technical official. Referees may be assisted by umpires, linesmen, timekeepers, or touch judges.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Referee (association football)</span> Game administrator in association football

In association football, the referee is the person responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Laws of the Game during a match. The referee is the final decision-making authority on all facts connected with play, and is the match official with the authority to start and stop play and impose disciplinary action against players and coaches during a match.

The Laws of the Game are the codified rules of association football. The laws mention the number of players a team should have, the game length, the size of the field and ball, the type and nature of fouls that referees may penalize, the offside law, and many other laws that define the sport. During a match, it is the task of the referee to interpret and enforce the Laws of the Game.

In various sports, a professional foul is a deliberate act of foul play intended to bring about an advantage for the perpetrator's team. Professional fouls are usually committed to prevent an opponent from scoring.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Substitute (association football)</span> Type of player in association football

In association football, a substitute is a player who is brought on to the pitch during a match in exchange for an existing player. Substitutions are generally made to replace a player who has become tired or injured, or who is performing poorly, or for tactical reasons. A player who has been substituted during a match takes no further part in the game, in games played under the standard International Football Association Board Laws of the Game.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fouls and misconduct (association football)</span> Unfair act by a player in association football

In the sport of association football, fouls and misconduct are acts committed by players which are deemed by the referee to be unfair and are subsequently penalised. An offence may be a foul, misconduct or both depending on the nature of the offence and the circumstances in which it occurs. Fouls and misconduct are addressed in Law 12 of the Laws of the Game.

Shamsul Maidin is a Singaporean association football referee. He first became a referee in 1996 and retired in 2007.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mark Clattenburg</span> English football referee

Mark Clattenburg is an English professional football referee.

David Roland Elleray,, is an English former football referee who officiated in the Football League, Premier League and for FIFA. As of September 2021 he held the position of Technical Director at the IFAB.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Martin Atkinson</span> English professional football referee

Martin Atkinson is an English referee coach and retired professional football referee who officiated primarily in the Premier League. He is a member of the West Riding County Football Association.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Penalty card</span> Reprimands issued during various sports matches

Penalty cards are used in many sports as a means of warning, reprimanding or penalising a player, coach or team official. Penalty cards are most commonly used by referees or umpires to indicate that a player has committed an offence. The official will hold the card above their head while looking or pointing towards the player that has committed the offence. This action makes the decision clear to all players, as well as spectators and other officials in a manner that is language-neutral. The colour or shape of the card used by the official indicates the type or seriousness of the offence and the level of punishment that is to be applied. Yellow and red cards are the most common, typically indicating, respectively, cautions and dismissals.

Viktor Kassai is a Hungarian football official and a former referee who is the current head of refereeing department of the Bulgarian Football Union. He participated in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and refereed the 2011 UEFA Champions League Final. He has been a full international referee for FIFA since 2003. He retired as a referee on 30 December 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Goal-line technology</span> Electronic aid to determine if a goal has been scored in association football

In association football, goal-line technology is the use of electronic aid to determine if a goal has been scored or not. In detail, it is a method used to determine when the ball has completely crossed the goal line in between the goal-posts and underneath the crossbar with the assistance of electronic devices and at the same time assisting the referee in awarding a goal or not. The objective of goal-line technology (GLT) is not to replace the role of the officials, but rather to support them in their decision-making. The GLT must provide a clear indication as to whether the ball has fully crossed the line, and this information will serve to assist the referee in making their final decision.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Felix Brych</span> German football referee

Felix Brych is a German football referee. He referees for SV Am Hart München of the Bavarian Football Association. He is a former FIFA referee and was ranked as a UEFA elite category referee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rugby union match officials</span>

Rugby union match officials are responsible for enforcing the rugby union laws of the game during a match and imposing sanctions on individuals who do not follow the rules. "Every match is under the control of match officials who consist of the referee and two touch judges or assistant referees." Further officials can be authorised depending on the level and form of the game.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Craig Pawson</span> English football referee

Craig Pawson is an English professional football referee who officiates primarily in the Premier League, having been promoted to the panel of Select Group Referees in 2013, as well as in the Football League.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2018 UEFA Super Cup</span> Football match

The 2018 UEFA Super Cup was the 43rd edition of the UEFA Super Cup, an annual football match organised by UEFA and contested by the reigning champions of the two main European club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League. The match featured two Spanish sides, Real Madrid, the winners of the 2017–18 UEFA Champions League and the defending champions having won the previous two editions, and Atlético Madrid, the winners of the 2017–18 UEFA Europa League. It was played at the Lilleküla Stadium in Tallinn, Estonia, on 15 August 2018, and was the first European club final held in Estonia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Video assistant referee</span> Football official reviewing decisions

The video assistant referee (VAR) is a match official in association football who reviews decisions made by the referee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Comparison of association football and futsal</span>

Futsal began in the 1930s in South America as a version of association football, taking elements of its parent game into an indoor format so players could still play during inclement weather. Over the years, both sports have developed, creating a situation where the two sports share common traits while also hosting various differences.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Association, The Football. "Law 6 – The Other Match Officials". Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  2. Refereeing & Disciplinary – The Fourth Official: the Scottish Football Association website. Retrieved on 28 February 2008.
  3. "Two extra pairs of eyes for referee teams". UEFA. 28 August 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  4. "UEFA Announce Two Extra Assistant Referees in Next Season's Champions League".
  5. "IFAB makes three unanimous historic decisions". 5 July 2012. Archived from the original on 6 July 2012.
  6. "Willie Collum and additional assistants appointed for final". BBC Sport. BBC. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  7. Definition of the fifth official Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine : PDF file (page 8) quoting the "IFAB Agenda 2007". Retrieved on 14 May 2012.
  8. 1 2 "Fifa denies video evidence claims". BBC Sport. BBC. 10 July 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  9. Ingle, Sean (10 July 2006). "Sending-off is put down to video use". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 17 August 2013.