The AFA Cup Finals match officials’ meeting looked at differences between what most of us do
on the parks when refereeing on our own. Some referees might think: “When you get a cup
final they bugger it up by giving you assistant referees!” John went on to discuss how to
change refereeing when you’re not used to working with Assistant Referees. Assuming: –
• you are used to refereeing by yourself
• you are not used to operating with neutral assistant referees
• at best you may have had club assistant referees
• you have a big game coming up where neutral assistant have been appointed
Put yourself in this situation. What problems will you face?
Peter King said your assistants might have never run a line. This is not taken into account
when appointments are made. Communication and trust is important. You have to decide
when to get involved and when not to intervene. You must decide what points will be part of
your briefing. You should consider flagging techniques for the assistants. Duncan Elder
referred to remembering to look at the assistants. North Middlesex Referees Society President
Ken Goldman referred to being an assistant, not being ‘insistent’ – not trying to use the flag to
tell the referee how he should be making his own judgements.
Problems you may Encounter working with Assistant s
John said as the referee you might start to duplicate responsibilities and when not used to
looking for help – relying on your own judgement for decisions, for example on a corner kick of
goal kick. You may need to adjust your patrol path to take account of the extra two team
members. You need communication with the team when giving instructions and during the
game. Making eye contact is vital. You need the ability to devolve responsibility – allowing the
assistants to deal with the offsides. You need to look at them making the decisions. You’ll
always have contentious decisions, but do we ever make ‘wrong decisions’? What if the guy on
the line tells you he thinks it’s a throw in the other way. Do you miss the assistant waving the
flag at you?
Pat rol Path
Keep play between yourself and your so called active assistant referee. That’s the guiding
principle of why we run that patrol path. It naturally lends itself to running a diagonal path.
When necessary we need to go to the extremities of the field of play, so be prepared to do so
but be flexible, in other words you need sometimes to come off the patrol path to make credible
decisions. Remember it’s a shared responsibility. Children playing football all run after the ball,
and we do to some extent too but with assistant referees we have to be more disciplined in our
movements. We can adopt various positions. We need to ask ‘What’s the next decision I am
going to have to make?’ Movement is simply changes of position. The quicker you can do it the
better in most cases. Do we know the meaning of the word “sprint?” “It has 6 letters” said
Geoff Blackmore! We need to make recovery runs and make up distance quickly sometimes.
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Corner kicks – normally go to the goal line when alone, but with assistant referees we need to
vary our position as they can tell us whether the ball has crossed the goal line. Throw ins –
when alone we monitor foul throws with the hands and the feet, but with assistant referees you
can devolve that responsibility by saying: “you take the feet I’ll take their hands.” For the ball
out of play, if alone you deal with it, but now you don’t have to –and doesn’t it make life easy?
Penalty kicks – the assistant referee has responsibility to see whether to the goalkeeper moves
off his line before the ball is kicked – you need to set this up in your pre-math instructions.
Goal kicks – the standard position would, be with your side to the Assistant Referees who
monitors the goalkeeper. You can move to the dropping zone in front of you. Your position is
now more fixed than when alone.
Free kicks – you need to monitor a lot, but can’t do them all, so use your assistant referees at
least with offside.
Monitoring injuries – you would normally adopt a position between yourself and the field of
Dur ing dynamic play
Ball out of play – the assistant referees can determine the ball out of play in the touch lines and
goal lines that and flag for it, so look for them to flag.
Offside – the assistant referees can flag immediately – part of their responsibility in the laws of
the game is to indicate how they
Fouls and free kicks – the assistants can signal in accordance with your pre-match instructions
Substitutions – generally best to let the bench side assistant deal with all substitutions
Looking for help from your Assistants
You need to know when to look for help. Avoid relying on your own judgement when your
assistant is better placed for ball out of play, fouls, off-sides and foul throws.
You can devolve responsibility to the Assistant Referees but set the parameters, for example
don’t let him signal fouls from 50 yards when you are 10 yards away. Having set the
parameters be sure to take their signal into account. Acknowledge and support them when
they come in to help you out, but you have to retain control as the referee
Interventions by the Assistant Referee
When and why should the assistant intervene? They come in to help out and should ask
themselves ‘if I’ve seen an infringement or foul should I flag immediately does the referee have
a better position than me, does it enhance the referees control?’ This should be discussed ii the
pre-match instructions. There are times when it is essential, for example violent conduct. But
for little shirt pulls or interposing the body between the payer and the ball the assistant should
ask whether, if you were the referee, you would want his signal. If there is a melee you need to
attract the referees’ attention. It’s easier with buzzer flags. You can signal then step onto the
field of play to call the referee’s attention. If the assistant calls you over you’ll need to take
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some sort of action. To sell decisions you can use the Assistant Referees for example when
deciding to give a penalty you might approach ask him, how long to go – 5 minutes?, get him
to nod in agreement, then signal the penalty kick!. The assistant needs to let the referee take
charge in the changing room and should prepare for giving and receiving instructions.
The referee has to provide the leadership and take control in the dressing room assistants
should defer to the referee. In the pre-match instructions the referee should tell the assistants
where they should be positioned and what signals are wanted. Try to avoid going against each
other. One difficult thing is that it is better for both to be wrong than one to be right. You can
sell that decision but much more difficult to sell a decision if you go different ways. You retain
overall discretion to overrule when necessary, but use if only when necessary. If you overrule
your assistant, acknowledge him and perhaps say “Yeah there was a little touch there – you
might not have seen that.”
For contentious decisions – there will always have little disagreements, but can say there are
two of us who have seen that. The assistant may give a wrong decision which you may have to
overrule. ‘Insistent assistant referees’ – those who come into the game when you don’t need
them – need to be managed. John once told an assistant referee “I didn’t want his signal for a
foul throw against a player I had cautioned.” It’s difficult to sell, but Assistant Referees must
think ‘Does the referee want this signal? If the assistant calls you over too often you can
dispense with their service but try to manage it.
You can have debriefs during the game. Be open to criticism but utilise the help your assistants
can offer and let it be a two way conversation and an opportunity for improvement feedback. It
must be led by referee and can happen at half time, full time or even during the match. The
referee can ask for example, ‘have I missed you?’ or ‘would you have done anything
differently?’ And don’t go forget to praise and encourage the assistants
Ey e Contact
Using a PowerPoint projection John displayed the statement “Eye contact is key” eight times,
followed by “Have I made myself clear?!”
In summarising the key points John emphasized the need to adapt as referee to the new
circumstances of having assistants and the importance of preparation and engaging in team
work. You should think through potential problems and utilise the help – it won’t always be
there. There is no substitute for experience, so practice! We can all learn through lining.
Remember to run a diagonal. Make joint decisions – look – have eye-contact. Do not
duplicating positions or responsibilities. Take the positives from having assistants, develop
your refereeing and lining, stay in the game & enjoy it!
John’s session was well warmly received. Chairman Gordon Kirby thanked him and members
and friends indicated their enthusiastic approval with a loud round of applause.
First published in April 2009