Club Lines Person
Up until this year, all SJ small-sided matches were staffed with single referees. Occasionally, full-sided matches would also have a single referee. Even with the use of full crews on many small-sided matches this year, we may still find ourself working a match as the only appointed certified official. In addition, occasionally, a crew member does not show or is injured and there may only be two appointed referees present. In these situations, we use club lines people. A club lines person is a volunteer from the spectators present who assists the referee with ball off the field decisions.
Where there are two referees present, we NEVER work with two referees (and whistles) on the field, as is done in high school soccer and some recreation programs. By never, I mean, under no circumstances (if you want to avoid disciplinary action). In that situation, there is THE referee, one assistant referee, and one club lines person. The assistant referee shall work as AR1 (bench side) to assist with substitutions and monitor the technical area.
By common practice, we ask each coach during check-in to select an appropriate volunteer (if only one is needed, you may consider allowing each team’s volunteer to work one half). The person should be someone who is old enough to understand and fulfill the responsibilities, and not be wearing outerwear in the color the jersey of one of the teams. Even when volunteers are certified referees, they are not permitted to act as an “unofficial AR”.
The referee should provide instructions before the match begins. Some useful points:
- They only signal when the ball is completely beyond the line (explain what is meant by “completely” beyond the outer edge of the line.While the common practice is to focus on the touchline, they can also signal for the goal line if they are in position to see.
- If completely over the line, put the flag straight up – do NOT point direction. The referee decides direction.
- Leave flag up until referee notices.
- If raised in error, pull down immediately and hope referee has not blown whistle (tell them there are no points for how fast they flag, so better to wait a moment.)
- They are not to indicate any other things (such as fouls or offside).
- They are not to coach or argue with the referee.
- They must stay off of the field of play and back from the touchline so that a ball that is still in play cannot touch them.
- They should advise the referee if other spectators become abusive towards them (another reason not to have them signal direction).
- Remember to thank them for their assistance after the game.
You should not accept a coach’s suggestion that he or one of his assistants can handle the flag for you. This is a tremendously unfair advantage as one coach is now able to roam the entire touchline. Coaches belong in the technical area.
The true purpose of the club lines person is to advise the referee that a ball has gone off the field that the referee would not otherwise have noted. The two most common examples are when a ball is “saved” after having crossed the boundary line and the referee cannot tell from his or her position that the ball had momentarily left the field. The other is a ball that is kicked almost parallel with and along a touchline and eventually leaves the field. It may not be possible for the referee to see exactly where the ball left the field. The raised flag helps the referee determine the exit point for the restart.
If a volunteer occasionally gives “instructions” we may choose to not hear, but if it becomes persistent, we should remind them at a stoppage not to coach. The same is true for the volunteer that insists on pointing direction. Nothing good can come from it!
The first time a club lines person publicly disagrees with a decision, we remind him or her (quietly at a stoppage if possible) to not do so. If the club lines person does so again, or argues our direction to cease, we remove him or her from the role and ask the coach for a different volunteer, or we can go without a club lines person. We can avoid many potential problems by being decisive and firm in our decisions.
The most important thing for us to remember is that we are the referee and we must always be ready to decide whether the ball is in play or not, and which direction, whether we have club lines people or not. A few minutes of clear direction to our volunteers before the match can mean the difference between a useful partnership and a contentious distraction…