Teamwork is critical for a successful game in soccer. Referees and Assistant referees (4th official if allowed), must work together. This begins with a thorough pregame among the crew. This can take up to an hour but a good ’30 minutes can cover a very good pregame. For more info, click here.

Once the game begins, all officials must have focus and concentration. Eye contact after every dead ball situation between the crew is important as it tells each other that everything is ok or there is something that needs attention. I always told my crew that is everything is ok, give me a smile or a thumbs up, if I did not see one of them, then I knew something was bothering that teammate. Also, during the game, Assistant Referees must focus on the 2nd last defender, or the ball, especially in their attacking end. Side stepping allows the AR to stay focused on that 2nd last defender. Without this focus, the AR can begin to “ball watch” and not see an incident.

I’ll give you some background on the clip below. The attacking team in white is down a goal and there are 4′ left in the game and they are losing 1-0. What this tells me as a referee, is that there will be pressure by the white team to go forward and the team in dark jerseys must defend with many players in the defensive half. Particular attention must be given to the penalty area.


While the attacker is getting ready to kick the ball, the referee is focused on that player. Some of his focus should be off the ball towards where the kick is going since there is no pressure on the kicker.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Referee must have 2 obligations: offside and any foul that might occur. Although there is some possibility of an offside situation, the AR must have a wider field of vision and see the off the ball incident. By not having the wide focus, the referee crew missed a penalty situation and possibly misconduct.

To take this further, if seen by the AR, then the proper mechanics must be followed as per the pregame.

  1. The Assistant Referee raises the flag and keeps it raised until the referee stops play
  2. The Assistant Referee gives the proper signal indicating that there is a penalty—move smartly to the corner flag or drape the flag below the waist.
  3. If there is to be a face to face conference with the Referee and Assistant Referee, the Assistant should give a short and clear description of the play: #– of the defending team, tripped #–of the attacking team off the ball in the penalty area.