I have been asked this question many times in my 40 year career in officiating. With today’s technology of smartphones and much better quality of TV, the referee is under much more scrutiny in all aspects of officiating. But, there are some hints to help the soccer referee and the assistants on how to not miss something.
We need to break this down into 2 categories;
- Active play when we are looking at the incident and
- Off the ball incidents.
The referee must have the angle. The “typical” diagonal cannot always be the best to see the incident. Sometimes we need to deviate from this positioning to have the better angle. Too many clinics we attend, the diagonal system of control is taught but very rarely does the instructor say you need to deviate from it at times. Quite frankly, there will be times where you should take an unconventional position to have the best angle. For instance, is it better to stay on the typical diagonal on a breakaway when the play is more towards the AR? Try to visualize the distance. The argument will be that if the AR is closer, they should be making the call. But do we really want to put that burden on the AR when the referee decides on most decisions? Referees should be no more than 20 yards from active play. Anything further from the play will put doubts in the mind of those participating.
The referee must be constantly moving. Always towards play. If you are moving towards play, then you are closer as opposed to standing and watching. It does not have to be a sprint, but some movement.
Avoid having players obstruct your view. Get into a position where you are looking “at” players and not “through” players.
Active Play—Assistant Referees
Assistant referees must always be scanning the field. Yes, the main responsibility is offside, but you are also there to assist in decisions where the referee does not have a good angle, is too far from play or looking through players. Cooperation is the key. The referee and the assistants must work as a team. A thorough pre-game in paramount in having a successful outcome.
Off the Ball Incidents—Referee
These types of incidents require the referee to be aware. What is going on in the game?
- Is the game intense?
- Are there certain players mixing it up with their opponents?
- Is there trash talking going on?
- Are there frustrated players?
Off the Ball Incidents—Assistant Referees
The above advice is pertinent to the Assistant Referee as well.
- Be aware. Has the mood changed in the players?
- Are there players close to each other after a challenge?
- Have certain players been involved in more physicality than others?
- Do you notice them talking to each other more than normal soccer players?
All of these are indicators for the referee and the assistants to be aware.
- After a tackle, keep an eye on the players until they have separated.
- Use your voice to indicate that you are watching
- Use your voice to your AR to watch those 2 players.