Assistant Referee in Soccer – Roles and Responsibilities

Soccer referees must be keen to spot fouls and other rule violations during a match. It takes multiple referees, including both assistant referees, to officiate a game and ensure its rules are followed and adhered to unbiasedly and fairly for both teams.

The assistant referee is one of the most important people on a soccer field. What are their roles and responsibilities?

The assistant referee helps the center referee and notifies them of offside violations and out-of-bounds at the sideline and end line. Assistant referees facilitate proper substitution protocol and alert the center ref of nearby fouls. Before a game, assistant referees check both goals for holes or tears.

The two assistant referees advise the center referee throughout the math. Using their best judgment, they help make decisions regarding fouls and, more commonly, out-of-bounds.

This article covers the assistant referees’ roles and responsibilities and how they help the center ref make informed decisions.

What is the role of the assistant referee?

Assistant referees, also known as “linesmen” or “sideline officials,” are vital to the functionality and equity of match officiating. They help make calls and decisions for the center ref that would otherwise go unnoticed.

The assistant referee’s role is to help the center referee make decisions per the game’s laws. The assistant referee notifies the center referee when: the ball goes out of bounds, a player is in an offside position, a team wants to make a substitution, and a foul is committed close to the touchline.

There are two assistant referees for each game. They run along the touchline in line with the ball and only cover one-half of the field each.

Assistant referees carry a flag to signal to the center referee when a stoppage is required. The assistants can’t stop the game themselves.

Assistant referees are the ones who call offside in soccer (when an attacking player makes a forward pass to a teammate who is beyond all the defending team’s field players).

If a player is beyond the last defender when the ball is kicked to them by a teammate, the assistant referee waves their flag in the air, signaling the center referee to stop the game.

What are the assistant referee’s duties in soccer?

The assistant referee helps the center official make decisions. An assistant referee’s duty is to notify the referee when the game should be stopped.

The assistant referee monitors out-of-bounds, players in an offside position, substitution requests, corner kicks, and goal kicks. Their position on the touchline helps them see these things more easily to make accurate decisions.

The assistant referee helps the official make correct and accurate decisions that they themselves can’t see from the middle of the field. The assistant’s primary duty is to help the referee.

During penalty kicks, one assistant referee stands on the goal line to ensure the goalkeeper doesn’t encroach and step off the line before the ball is kicked.

What are the roles and responsibilities of an assistant referee?
The assistant referee is standing on the goal line during a penalty kick to spot goalkeeper encroachment.

Before the game, the assistant referees check each goal to ensure they’re adequately prepared. They center each goal and check the netting for holes.

How many assistant referees are assigned?

There are multiple referees during a soccer game. Assistant referees are one of the three types of soccer referees. How many assistant referees are there during a game?

There are two assistant referees in a soccer game. They run on opposite sides of the field, covering one-half each, from the halfway line to one end line. The two assistant referees notify the center referee of out-of-bounds, players in an offside position, and when teams elect to make a substitution.

A full soccer field with black arrows indicating the position of assistant referees during a soccer game
Here is a diagram showcasing the movement of each assistant referee during a soccer game; note that neither goes past the halfway line.

There are at least three referees in a soccer game.

In professional games, a fourth official facilitates proper substitution protocol, ensuring players wear the correct equipment before stepping onto the field.

Can the assistant referee call a foul?

The assistant referees in soccer don’t have whistles and can’t stop the game, but can they call a foul?

The assistant referee can call a foul. When a player commits a foul near the touchline in front of the assistant referee, the assistant ref uses their flag to signal the foul to the center referee. The center referee calls the foul and blows their whistle to stop the game.

The assistant referee doesn’t directly call the foul, but they alert to center ref when there is one.

Although the assistant referee has no whistle to stop the game, they can call a foul by signaling to the center ref with their flag.

Can the assistant referee overrule the referee?

In modern times, with the help of VAR, there aren’t many cases where the match officials miss a crucial call.

But what happens when the assistant referee sees one thing and the center ref sees another? Can the assistant overrule the center official?

The assistant referee can not overrule the center referee. The center referee maintains thefulll authority of a match and only uses their assistant referees to help make a final decision. Assistant referees can provide input on a rule violation but can’t make an official decision.

Likewise, the center referee is responsible for trusting the assistant referee’s decision and input throughout a match. Assistant referees make vital calls regarding offsides and corner and goal kicks.

What does the assistant referee do before the game?

Assistant referees have roles and duties before a match.

Before a game, assistant referees must check that the goals are centered on either end line and that each net is free of tears and holes. If an assistant referee finds a hole in the netting, they must notify the center official and, if possible, replace the net.

The assistant referee also helps check players’ equipment before the game.

Each referee runs a lot during a game. FIFA 2022 World Cup referees ran an estimated 6-8 miles during each match. That said, assistant referees should also warm up before a game to avoid injuries.

Can the assistant referee give a red car to a player?

Only the center referee can administer players a red or yellow card.

Can the assistant referee talk to the players?

The assistant referee can talk to players but is not required to justify their decisions.

Can the assistant referee blow the whistle?

Assistant referees do not possess a whistle. They use their flag to signal for stoppages from the center referee.

Sean Tinney

I’m Sean Tinney, a lifetime soccer player and Ball At Your Feet owner. This website is a hub for practical soccer advice, information, and insights from one player to another.

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