1. Must assist the referee from the moment he enters the field of play.
  2. Must signal with the flag when the ball is out of play. Further more, he will give the direction with the flag as to which way the throw in is to go in one motion.
  3. Will indicate goal kick and corner kick with the flag.
  4. Will raise the flag straight above the head to indicate a foul to the referee and once the referee has acknowledged, then give direction.
  5. Will assist in giving offsides.
  6. Keep a full record of all events that happen during the game eg. goals, substitutions, time, cautions etc.
  7. Must give a time indication to the Referee as requested before kick off.
  8. Will not give any signals that do not involve the flag - no hand signals.
  9. At the taking of penalties, carry out the Referees instructions as outlined prior to kick off.
  10. If at any time the Referee overrules your decision, then you pull your flag straight down and carry on with the game.
  11. Signals must be sharp, clear and precise at all times.
  12. You must watch the Referee at all times.
  13. You must face the field at all times.
  14. At the conclusion of each half, sprint to the Referee and leave the field as a team.

Adapted from an article in Referee Australia by Gordon Dunster (November 1993)

    AR Concentrating   


Following is an excellent article by Kevin Humpheys - FIFA Assistant Referee.  I recommend it to all referees for understanding how important the duties of an Assistant Referee are.  It is well worth a read as Kevin is a respect colleague and is always willing to help up and coming referees in their development and aid in their continual improvement to the highest levels of our officiating.


Good, Better, Best

The Practice of Assisting the Referee

Kevin Humphreys

FIFA Assistant Referee


The paper that follows accidentally came about as I prepared to give an instructional talk to one of the Sydney branch divisions of the AASRF. The paper outlines and describes competencies and attributes that appear to be demonstrated by assistant referees who compete at varying levels of proficiency.

The paper presumes a linear progression through each stage with mastery of the proceeding stage a necessary prerequisite in the development process.

This is my personal perception and I am sure there are many within the Soccer fraternity who, with constructive suggestions, could make the paper much better and, hopefully, a useful guide to all who assist the referee.

I would recommend papers entitled Linesmanship- A Guide to Technique by Gary Power (September 1993), Lining at Elite Level by Eugene Brazzale (August 1993) and Duties of the Linesman by Gordon Dunster (August 1993) as references worthy of being read on a regular basis. Hopefully more senior Australian officials might, in the future, document their thoughts on any aspects of officiating so as to produce a database of instructional literature for those who aspire to follow in their path.

Level 1 - Good Practice

A competent assistant referee operating at Level 1 is one who does the basics well. What are the basics? I have broken them down into two categories:

  1. Attitude

  2. Technique


  • Historically people join a referees organisation to referee. Indeed referees organisations are known as SSSRA or AASRF or ASRF etc. We need to take a wider perspective that whilst refereeing may be our preferred role, being an assistant must not be viewed as a tedious chore to be endured.

  • We need to question and understand what we are signing up for when we agree to be available to accept appointments. I contend that we view our appointment in terms of the game we will referee rather than the totality of the fixtures we will be involved in. For most of us the appointment will invariably be one centre and one line. We must learn to enjoy running lines as it is a part of the task for which we are being paid and ultimately will be one half of our afternoon's assignment. I also contend that this is a better arrangement than flying solo, doing two games by yourself.

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Good assistants make a referee look good. We all enjoy refereeing with two good assistantsgiving their best - in fact we expect that they would. If that is so it befalls on all of us to work hard on the line if we expect others to do the same for us.

  • Your task is to assist the referee. No matter how good or bad, right or wrong the referee is the one running the game. The referee must stand or fall by their own performance.


Much has been written and taught in recent years in order to develop an Australian technique which we hope will stand out on the world stage as being a model for FIFA to copy. We can only assume that the impressive performances of Gordon Dunster, Eugene Brazzale, John Bowdler and Lencie Fred (Vanuatu) on the world stage are testimony to the fact that the directives issued by the National Coaching Panel are on the mark.

At the very least an assistant at this level will demonstrate:

  1. A thorough understanding of the laws of the game and of the instructions issued by FIFA and Soccer Australia

  2. A capacity to consistently:

    • Be in line with the second last defender

    • Get to the goal line when required

    • Have a square, facing the field, view of critical incidents if at all possible

    • Give crisp, clear signals made whilst facing the field of play Keep a complete record of the game

    • Concentrate for the entire match

Level 2 - Better Practice

Developing our skills and performances to a higher level will only be achieved when the basics of level 1 are so firmly entrenched in our makeup as to be habitual. If the basics are part of an unconscious habit then I would contend that your enjoyment level of your task is higher and that this enjoyment will translate into an enthusiasm for the task that will enable a good assistant to achieve a higher level of performance.

Some of the demonstrable characteristics of assistants who compete at this level are that they:

  1. Know where the referee is as much as possible throughout the match and try to make eye contact with the referee every time they make a decision.

  2. Anticipate a range of possible scenarios in each match situation. Good assistants know in advance what might happen and have a response in mind should it eventuate. Some situations to consider are:

    • goal kick at either end

    • corner kick at either end

    • at a free kick strike on goal at either end

    • at a penalty

    • when an attacker is coming downfield towards goal

  3. Recognise early in each half the shape of the attack and defence and who are the players they are likely to be involved with. They consider:

    • who are the attackers, how many, are they mobile across the field, do they loiter in offside positions?

    • who are the defenders, is there a sweeper, are they flat across the back, do they come out in a rush, do they squeeze, do they play offside?

  4. Recognise and deal with flare ups, let the players know they have seen them and are watching. Remember, most flare ups will arise when an attacker and defender clash. Be expecting an incident and you might nip it in the bud before it becomes a critical incident. At the first chance, communicate the matter to the referee.

  5. Avoid being distracted by

    • loudmouths on and off the park

    • bad referees

    • rough/physical/spiteful matches

    • boring matches

    • bad weather conditions

    • a difficult running surface

  6. Control situations near them such as:

    • correct taking of a throw - tell the player

    • the correct placement of the ball at free kicks, corner kicks and goal kicks - tell the player

    • keeping players back the required distance at free kicks - tell the player

    • flare-ups - discussed above

Level 3 - Best Practice

I would again contend that before an assistant is ready to perform at Level 3 they will be able to demonstrate mastery of the levels 1 and 2 competencies. Best practice, or colloquially the icing on the cake, is achieved when we can learn and demonstrate two higher order competencies as set out below.

The superior assistant will correctly and consistently demonstrate the ability to distinguish:

  1. whether the attacking player is actively offside or not

  2. between assistance to the referee and interference with the referee's running of the match.

Let us consider these separately.

  1. Is the attacker actively offside?

    Despite the help given to us by FIFA in this area I do not believe there is a blanket approach we can take to answering this question in a match situation. The answer will always depend on the circumstances of each case - each situation I would contend would need to be judged on its own merits. I believe that it is important for match officials to be conscious of this. Active/passive offsides are the source of much confusion and are a contentious issue amongst players, coaches and spectators and will always generate healthy debate amongst referees. I do not believe anyone can answer the question as to whether a player is actively offside in a way that will cover the enormous variety of situations in which the question will be raised.

    May I suggest that we should take the issue to its extreme and be aggressive in our interpretation and, in the spirit of encouraging more attacking play, only flag for offside if it is the receiver of the ball who was offside at the moment the ball was played. Anyone else who was in an offside position becomes passive if they do not receive the ball subject to two qualifications:

    1. such a person is not directly interfering with the goalkeeper's ability to attempt a save or a defender's attempttoplay the ball

    2. such a person is not with another attacker who also pursues the ball.

    To do this requires intense concentration for the entire match (and the occasional slice of luck). You will also need to be able to:

    1. know where the ball is

    2. know who the ball is played to

    3. know whether the receiver is offside when the ball was played

    4. delay raising your flag until the ball is received or about to be received by the player judged offside.

    The delaying of the flag is not a breach of the law. We still judge offside at the time the ball is played. We simply delay raising the flag in the hope of not unnecessarily causing a stoppage.

    Do not be afraid to push your luck in this interpretation. FIFA have covered the assistant and his decision when they explicitly instruct us that if it is close and in case of doubt, do not flag.


  2. Distinguishing between assistance and interference.

    The area we are particularly concerned with here is fouls and misconduct. We need to be clear in our thinking that it is the referee who is given the responsibility to detect, judge and deal with fouls and misconduct. However there will be times when the referee does not carry out this responsibility either through a lack of vision of an incident, incompetence or a lack of courage. The assistant's dilemma is knowing what to do when this happens.


    • Should the assistant signal obvious fouls the referee has not sanctioned?

    • Is there a statutory or arbitory zone of influence for the assistant to operate within?

    • Are there certain fouls the assistant must not signal no matter how close and other fouls the assistant must signal no matter how far away?

    • At what point does the assistant overstep the point of assisting the referee and start interfering with the referee's running of the game?

    Once again there is, I believe, no blanket rule that can be applied to cover every situation. Each instance must be judged on its own merits. I contend however that the superior assistant will consistently:

    • Be ready to assist the referee with a signal to indicate whether or not an offence took place inside or outside the penalty area Make no signal if thereferee appears to have a clear view of the particular incident, i.e. stay out of it

    • Be prepared to be involved if you are absolutely sure the referee has missed for whatever reason a critical incident. By critical incident I refer to anything that would lead to:

      • the awarding or cancelling of a goal

      • the necessary dismissal of a player for serious foul play or violent conduct

      • the correction of a factually wrong dismissal of a player either through mistaken identity or incorrect recording.

    Remember here that the timing of the assistant's intervention is critical. The superior assistant will signal and communicate with the referee before the game has restarted. Further, the superior assistant will be able to give the referee both orally and in writing a clear and accurate account of what the referee missed.

Concluding Remarks

The primary role of the assistant referee is to provide a service to the game, the players, spectators and the referee. The practice of effectively assisting the referee is not easy nor is it trivial.

Rewards and accolades for officiating in any sport are few and far between. They are so remote that extrinsic means of motivation cannot be used to explain why some people consistently demonstrate best practice. The reasons for best practice are intrinsic and so too are the rewards.

Assisting the referee is a worthwhile labour of love.

Give it your best effort and enjoy your game.

From Referee Australia May, June, July 1997

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