Refereeing Without Assistant Referees
The diagonal system of control, with one referee and two assistant referees (AR), is the only system for officiating outdoor soccer games that is currently recognized by FIFA and used by AYSO. This system allows effective evaluation of game situations because at least two people are looking at play at all times. In addition, decisions related to fouls and misconduct are made by the referee (one person), which maximizes the possibility of consistency throughout the game.
In AYSO we have processes and tools to help recruit, train, assign, and retain volunteer referees. And Regions can reach out to their Area, Section, and the National Office to get help with developing and maintaining a referee program within their Region. However, there are times when there are not enough referees to assign three officials to a game.
Using two referees should not be allowed because it develops poor officiating habits. This approach is a source of frustration as the two referees attempt but fail to provide consistency in making foul and offside decisions. If only two qualified officials are available for a match, one should assume the duties of the referee and the other should become a neutral assistant referee. A “club linesperson”, an untrained, non-neutral person, if available, may be used after receiving instructions from the referee. If a “club linesperson” is not available, the referee must assume the duties of the missing AR as is done in the single referee system (i.e. the referee must make all decisions regarding offside, touchline calls, and goal line calls that would normally be indicated by an AR).
Below are tips to help you develop and maintain a robust referee program, recruit Club Linespersons as needed, and referee games without ARs.
Tips to help you develop and maintain a referee program Club Linesman
Refereeing without assistant referees (ARs)
- A club linesperson is a volunteer provided by a team on the day of the game.
- The club linesperson has only one responsibility – to indicate when the ball completely leaves the field of play.
- The Regional Referee Administrator and Regional Board should discuss the need for club linespersons with the parents at the start of the season and remind them as required throughout the season.
- Everyone in the Region needs to understand that this is a good option when there are not enough referees.
- Club linespersons are also a source of volunteer recruits to take a referee class.
- A good start for club linespersons and other volunteers is to be trained as an AR. Being an AR provides a comfortable approach to starting a referee career.
- The primary objective is to keep the players safe, the same as when you referee with assistant referees.
- Accept assignments where your fitness level will always help you to be close to play. When refereeing without trained neutral ARs you will be running more to stay deep and wide enough to cover goal line calls, offside calls, and fouls in what would normally be the AR’s quadrant.
- Connect with coaches, players, and parents before the match.
- Establish a good connection by being pleasant and being helpful to the coaches.
- Don’t play the victim but let them know that you won’t have ARs to help you.
- Try to recruit two club linespersons.
- Thank them in advance for the support they will provide during the game.
- If only one club linesperson is available, use him/her. You will only have to help on one end of the field, but remember that the teams will switch sides at half-time so using one club linesperson is a fair approach to managing the game.
- When a player that has control of the ball with little chance of immediate contact by an opponent, or when play stops, look around the field.
- Look behind you so that you have a picture of everything that goes on during the game.
- Look ahead to identify possible offside patterns.
- Talk to players a bit more than normal.
- It will help the players sense your presence which is good for game control.
- If needed, talk to players that normally are watched closely by ARs (outside attackers and defenders).
- Apply the same foul recognition that you would apply if you were working with ARs.
- When play goes deep into the corners, get closer than when you work with ARs.
- Make firm, clear signals when you make offside and foul decisions.
For the most part, you should referee in the same manner as you do when you work with ARs. And remember to maintain a good connection with the coaches and parents just as you do when you referee with ARs. Refereeing without ARs makes you pay attention to everything that goes on during the game which helps you develop great awareness as a referee.