Make a Good First Impression - Success begins with being prepared and presenting yourself as confident and professional.
Read and know the Laws of the Game. And keep up to date on the correct interpretations.
Know the accepted mechanics approved by the U.S. Soccer and found in the Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees and
4th Officials. You should have received this booklet in your entry level course. If you did not, then contact your instructor or
download it from USSoccer.com
Know the local Rules of Competition. You can usually find these by checking the league’s website or asking your assignor. In particular, make sure you know:
- Length of the half
- Size of ball
- Number of players on the field
- Penalty kicks or no penalty kicks
- Direct free kicks allowed or only indirect free kicks
- Offside, no offside
- What you do with the game report
- Uniform requirements
As a new referee, you will not make all the right decisions. Do not get upset if you make a mistake. Just learn from it.
And learn from working with and watching more experienced referees.
If you expect to command respect (one element of game control) on the field, then you must look and act in a professional manner.
Approach the game in a way that shows you are looking forward to being there and being a part of the game.
Dress for success - wear the proper referee uniform with your referee jersey tucked in and your socks pulled up. Wear the uniform properly
any time you can still be seen by the players, coaches, and spectators. When you are not refereeing a game, take off or cover your jersey
so you do not look like a referee.
For information on purchasing jerseys and other equipment, see the "Uniform and Equipment" section below.
Taking charge does not mean yelling and acting like a dictator. This only encourages people to yell back at you.
Greet each coach with a firm handshake and a smile. Look each coach in the eyes.
Use common courtesy- “Thank you”, “Please”, “Sir”, “Ma’am”
Issue firm, simple instructions to the players so they know you are capable of managing the game.
Start the game on time.
An approved referee uniform jersey. The gold shirt is the most often used referee shirt jersey color for referees so it should be the
one jersey you purchase right away. If you are only getting one jersey, then (depending on your climate) you should probably buy the
short sleeved one. You can add the long sleeve jersey later after. Once you have more game experience, you should add one of the alternate
color jerseys. You do not need to buy all the different colored jerseys right away. However, if you advance as a referee, then you will need
to add the alternate colors over the next few years.
Solid black referee shorts or black shorts.
Black socks with either three white stripes or the U.S. Soccer logo at the top. Socks should always be pulled up to your knees.
Pulling the socks down to your ankles when off the field may help your “tan line” but it looks unprofessional.
Predominately black shoes – a brand logo is OK, preferably only white, but no other colors or decorations are recommended – you will be spending a
lot of time in your referee shoes so make sure they are very comfortable (and keep them cleaned as much as possible).
Your current year U.S. Soccer badge on the left shirt pocket of your jersey.
A referee bag that should contain the following:
- A watch with stopwatch functions – two watches are preferred, one for starting and stopping and one for keeping a running time in
case you forget to start or restart the first one
- Whistles – always have an extra in your bag
- Red and yellow cards
- Tossing coins
- Flags for the Assistant Referees
- Cold weather gear when the time of year makes it necessary
- Street shoes and dry socks
- A large plastic trash bag (to put your ref bag inside in case of rain)
- Snacks (energy bars are great!) if you are going to be doing more than one game
- Water – referees are also athletes, and proper hydration is important for performance
You can find purchasing information in the "Uniform and Equipment" section below.
You should arrive at the field at least 30 minutes prior to the game.
If you do not drive, make sure that someone knows you need a ride to your field and make arrangements for someone to pick you up to take you home.
Bring a cell phone or change for emergency telephone calls, and have the telephone number of your assignor and club contact.
Inspect the Field
Even if there was just a game on the field you will be officiating, you still need to inspect the field.
Look for holes or depressions that could cause twisted or broken ankles and see if holes can be filled. All dangerous rocks, trash, or
other objects that do not belong on the field should be removed.
Nets should be securely fastened to the goal posts and netting pulled back so as not to interfere with the goalkeeper.
Goals must be securely anchored to the ground. Sandbags on the frame toward the rear are acceptable. Goals don't have to be in the ground,
but the goal frame must not be easily tipped over. No matter how good the goals look at a distance, always carefully inspect them.
If they are not securely anchored do not start the game. Safety first! Any problems, even if corrected, must be reported to the league and the SRA/SYRA.
Corner flags, if present, are in place and are not dangerous to players (at least 5 ft. high).
Entire field is properly lined.
If anything is needed, the home team is responsible for fixing field problems.
Any issues with the field should be noted on the game report.
Check in the Players
Home team players/coaches should be checked first but it is not a requirement. You should start with the team that appears to be most ready for inspection.
Make sure that all jewelry, earrings, watches, etc. have been removed. A medical ID must be taped to the player's chest or wrist with
the info showing. (Earrings must be removed. Covering them with tape does not make them legal.)
All players must wear shin guards and socks must be pulled over shin guards.
Check in players and coaches as per the requirements and the Rules of Competition for that league.
Pay close attention to the referee during the pre-game conference. If you do not understand something the referee is saying, ask for clarification.
Make sure you understand how the referee wants you to manage substitutions, how long to hold the offside signal, etc.
Hold the flag in the proper hand. The flag should be held in the hand closest to the referee. Referees usually run a left diagonal,
which means the flag will be in your left hand most of the time.
If you turn sideways to walk up or down the field, switch hands with the flag as necessary so the flag is field side and the referee
can see the flag clearly. The flag should always be switched hand to hand in front of you, below your waist, and not above your head.
Make eye contact with the referee as often as possible throughout the game when you are not watching for offside or attending to other
AR duties. If you see the referee making eye contact with you, nod or give a “thumbs up” (or something similar) to “answer” the referee.
Stay even with the second-to-last defender (remember - the goalkeeper is usually but not always the last defender). This gives you the
best position you to make accurate offside decisions.
Follow the ball all the way to the goal line so you'll be in position to see if the ball completely (even just barely) crosses the goal line.
Following the ball to the goal line each time is an excellent habit to get into.
When you're running a line, side-step so you stay square to the field as much as possible. This position allows you to continue to see
the field and players. When you need to sprint hard to the goal line to follow play or the ball, then turn and run normally but still watch the field.
Run to the corner flag, or close to it, when signaling for a goal kick or corner kick. Raising your flag yards away from the corner flag
or goal line not only calls attention to the fact that you not in the correct position to make that decision, but also carries with it
the idea that you are either lazy or you don’t care enough about the game to be in the proper position to make the call. However, there are
times when the ball moves faster in the air than you can run – don’t worry about it, just do the best you can to catch up.
Follow the referee’s pregame directions on handling substitutions but, in particular, make sure that you have counted the players coming off
and the substitutes coming on so that you don’t wind up with too many players on the field.
When signaling for a ball that is clearly off the field across the touchline, point your flag in the direction the throw-in will be taken
(not straight up). This is very helpful for the referee in making a decision on which team last touched the ball and which team should be awarded the throw-in.
Assist the referee in making sure the throw-in is being taken from the correct spot by pointing with your free hand to where the player
should be standing when taking the throw-in. Be proactive. Do not wait for the player to make a mistake; help them get it right.
You will probably do more games as an AR at first, but when you are assigned as a referee, remember to conduct a pre-game with your ARs.
Tell them what you would like them to do in various situations, such as throw-ins, free kicks, goal kicks, etc. and make sure they understand
what you are asking from them.
Review offside and make sure the ARs have a clear understanding of the Rules of Competition for the league in which you are working.
Positioning During the Game
Be aware of your position on the field. It's tough enough to properly call a soccer match when you are on top of the play. It is impossible
to make correct decisions when you stay close to or within the center circle. Even when officiating at the small-sided game level, get in the
habit of being in the proper position and working hard.
At first, you may have to remind yourself to lift the focus of your vision from the ball and the legs of the players so you learn to take
in the whole area of active play. It is normal for new referees to have to make this conscious effort to lift their eyes. Once you are
more experienced, it will be instinctive for you to see a large area of play if you condition yourself to do this from the beginning.
Always think about your positioning - you should know why you are where you are. What do you gain by being in this position?
Communication During the Game
Make your hand signals clear. Point the direction with a straight arm, fingers extended together.
Blow clear and sharp whistles. Learn how to make your whistle “talk” for you.
- Use the whistle to communicate control. Too many newly certified referees make a call with barely an audible "tweet" which tells
everyone on the field that you are unsure of yourself. On your first call, give the whistle a firm blast and confidently point in the
direction of the play. A firm whistle will eliminate 50 percent of the arguments. Vary the strength of your whistle depending on what
happened – if there is a serious foul, for example, blow the whistle very loudly and/or several times.
Be decisive in your calls. Players and coaches may try to take advantage of the situation if you seem unsure.
Run the diagonal system of control when you have ARs assigned with you. The most accepted diagonal system is from the right corner to the
left corner – referees refer to this as a “left diagonal” – but remember that this is not a straight line. Go where you need to go to see what
needs to be seen.
Maintain good eye contact with your ARs throughout the game. A good habit to get into is to make eye contact with your ARs on every dead ball situation.
If you do not have ARs assigned and you need to use spectators as linesmen, ask them to only indicate when the ball has completely crossed
over the touchline or goal line and not the direction of the throw or whether it is a goal kick or corner kick. That is your decision.
Remember that “ball in and out of play” is the only thing they can call as club linesmen.
At half time and after the game, review all the results (number of cards, scores for each team and any incident that occurred, as well as the
information required to be reported by that particular league) so your game report is accurate.
When you are working with more experienced officials, ask them for help after the game and discuss situations where you think there was a problem.
Dealing with Problem Coaches
Set the ground rules – be proactive
- Show them where the team and the coaches will be seated. Make sure they understand that they must stay in that area.
Don't let the coaches intimidate you. Give them respect and ask for respect in return.
Be confident in your knowledge of the Laws of the Game and Rules of Competition.
Remain calm. If someone is yelling at you, do not yell back at them. Speak respectfully and quietly, so the coach must quiet down to hear you.
Do not take someone yelling at you personally. It happens to all referees, even the most experienced. However, once the coach steps over
the boundaries of the game and begins to make his comments personal or abusive, you must deal with it. Slowly and calmly walk over to the
coach. In a polite and respectful way, inform the coach that this type of conduct is unsporting and continuing with this type conduct will
result in his or her removal from the game. If the behavior continues – respectfully and professionally ask the coach to leave. If the
coach refuses to leave, give the coach a warning that if he or she does not leave, you will end the game. If the coach does not leave in a
reasonable amount of time (a few minutes), end the game. Be sure to file a very detailed report with the league so there is a good understanding
of why the game was ended early.
Dealing with Problem Players
Make your presence known from the moment you walk on the field - that way players know you are in charge. Stand tall, look people in the eye
and smile confidently. Have your pre-game questions down - introduce yourself even if you have worked games with the same coaches before,
ask for copies of the rosters, get the game ball from the home team and inspect it, check in players. (Do not tell players how you are going
to call the game and what you are going to call and not call. This can cause you major problems later on.) Doing these game management things
confidently will carry over into the game.
Remember to blow the whistle with confidence, even if you are not feeling so confident, and use decisive signals with straight arms.
If you have a difficult player dissenting or doing something else to disrupt the game, at a stoppage of play, issue a caution to them and
let the player know that kind of behavior is unacceptable. If the player still insists on being difficult, use a well delivered warning to let
them know that you have just about reached the limit of what you are going to take. It is often helpful to let the coach know this particular
player is wearing out their welcome and the team may soon be playing short. Give the coach an opportunity to take care of the problem for you
(perhaps by substituting out this player). If the bad behavior continues, issue a second caution and then a sendoff (red card). Remember that
the proper procedure for this is to display the second yellow card and then the red.
Remain calm when talking to players, but be firm in your voice and your decisions. Do not yell at players and never use foul or abusive language
no matter what they are saying to you. Speak softly so the players must quiet down to hear you.
Listen to what players are saying. Allow them to vent for a few seconds without calling it dissent, so long as it does not become abusive or personal
(however, if you are the referee, never allow a player to vent at one of your AR’s). You might find out about fouls you are missing, or there may be
something else going on that can be easily corrected. This tactic also lets the players know you are willing to listen … up to a certain point.
This type of exchange should not go on often in a game and should be very brief (for example, in the “heat of the moment”). If it goes on longer,
you must deal with it. The more experience you have as a referee, the easier it is to know how, when, and where to set boundaries.
Dealing with Problem Parents
Do not get into discussions or arguments with the sidelines.
Enlist the support of the coach. Ask him to speak with the offending spectators and let him know that, if the behavior continues, the game will not.
This will usually be enough to quiet most parents (other parents may understand the consequences and help with the problem spectator).
If you have asked the coach to deal with problem parents and the situation continues, ask the coach to have the spectator leave the area.
If the spectator refuses, tell the coach that, if the spectator is not removed, the game will end. Give the coach a reasonable amount of time
(a few minutes) to deal with the situation. Remember, you cannot dismiss a spectator directly but must work through the coach or a tournament or league official.
If the parent does not leave, you should feel free to end the game. Include any misbehavior on the part of the spectators in your game report
to the league so that this type of behavior can be disciplined and stopped. Most leagues and state associations have methods for dealing with
bad behavior, but doing so often requires a written report from the referee.
If you have any issues with coaches, players or parents not treating you respectfully, let your assignor know.