2. The Role of ARs – An Assignor’s Observations

It is my opinion that the role of assistant referee is much more important to a successful match than some referees assume. To be a complete referee, you must understand how to be a complete assistant referee. Unfortunately, some referees treat the role as an afterthought (or worse).

When I work with experienced assistant referees with whom I have a rapport, the team can seem as if we are in radio contact with each other. Each of the members of the crew makes the other members more effective. The match flows more easily.

When I work with someone who is struggling with the required responsibilities, I find I have to work harder to make up the difference. For new referees, this is often because no one has explained the role and they lack experience. For otherwise experienced referees, there really is no excuse.


In this photo, we see an Assistant Referee who is struggling, even if he does not know it. On the plus side, it appears as if he is looking for eye contact with the Referee before deciding to flag for the handling offense. That is good! The flag appears to be in the correct hand (assuming that the defense is coming out and is also handling).

However, any call this Assistant Referee makes will be suspect in the minds of the coaches because his appearance is not professional.

  • He has a whistle lanyard around his neck (don’t carry the whistle around your neck as the referee, don’t carry it at all as an AR).
  • His shirt is not tucked in.
  • He is not wearing referee socks.
  • He is not wearing black or predominantly black footwear.
These last four items are completely under the control of this assistant referee. Don’t be him!As an Assistant Referee, the following traits, characteristics, and/or behaviors are essential:

  • Make eye contact with the referee at all stoppages and before signaling.
  • Keep up with play – follow the offside line and get to the goal line when required!
  • Have a professional appearance that matches or exceeds the rest of your crew.
  • Know the proper signals and when to use them (save the flag waggle for fouls you have observed!) USSF Video on AR Signals
  • Give your signals while stopped and facing square to the field, with the flag in the correct hand.
  • Slow down and think before signaling – constantly correcting signals undermines confidence in the entire crew.
  • Know Law 11 and only flag the offside offense.
  • Keep up with play – follow the offside line and get to the goal line when required!
  • Make eye contact with the referee at all stoppages and before signaling.

There is a reason the last two items are listed twice – they are that important!

Remember, you are a professional. Dress the part, know the part, act the part.


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