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Question Number: 29524

Law 6 - Assistant Referee 7/6/2015

RE: Rec Adult

George of Parangarecutirimicuaro, CA Sacratomato asks...

I was watching the MLS match between Portland and San Jose. As the Portland attacker dribbled down the touch line, a defender comes in hard with an elbow to the neck. Commentators criticized the AR heavily for not making the call. As they showed replay, you can see the AR's eyes are fixed on the ball expecting it to be kicked out of bounds.

I had a similar play happen to me about a month ago. Player A is in the offside position on the his left side of the field. Player B has the ball and is making eye contact with player A. To me, it looked like a pass may be coming. Player A and the player defending him keep jumping back and forth. The defender was clearly trying to get player A in the offside position. While these two were engaged running back and forth trying to gain an advantage, my eyes became fixated on the two hoping I would not blow an offside call. Player B decides to keep the ball and dribble past his defender. Next thing I know, player B gets up and the entire team is upset at me for missing a foul almost in front of me. My heart tells me it was a foul, but since I did not see it, I did not feel I had a right to call a foul.
In these situations, I was wondering if there is an offence, as an AR, I would look at first? I am sure if I had focused on the foul in front of me, I would have missed the offside call had there been a pass. How do I pick which part of the field to focus on? The foul happened on my left side about 5-10 yards away from me and the offside would have happened about 30-40 yards on the other side of the field in front of me.
As for my MLS colleague, should he be looking for a foul or did he do the right thing looking to see who touched the ball last in case the ball was kicked out of bounds? Is there a trick of the profession so you can see both?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi George
The ARs first role is the offside call and ball in and out of play. That is what the CR has asked the assistant to focus on and his primary function. So its is extremely difficult for an AR to watch for two separate events at the same time particularly when both possibilities are present. If there was no foul the CR would certainly be expecting the AR to have got any offside call and that can only be done by watching player movement.
With experience it is possible to move the focus constantly in both directions. The luck is in viewing the foul at the moment of the focus just happens to be in that direction. Now if the AR looks away to focus on his priority and misses the contact then that is unfortunate and just part of the game.
Now one of the skills that a CR or AR can develop is reading the game and players actions. It helps having played the game as the official can read / interpret what is going to happen next or what are the options that are likely to be used. The run direction of the player without the ball plus the defenders movement can help the AR decide what is the most likely possibility. If I see the player going short then that takes away some offside possibility particularly when no other option is on or has been used before in the game. A run into the channel will certainly focus the AR on offside. If I see a defender dropping off to cover that allows me the time to check back time as to what is happening at the ball so I can pick up a deflection for a throw in etc or for that matter a foul.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

For the assistant referee, the first, second, and third priority is offside. The AR is the only member of the referee team who is in the ideal position to determine offside position. When an offside/onside decision is imminent, the AR needs to focus there.

When an offside/onside decision is not imminent, the AR needs to focus on fouls that the referee cannot see. These are typically those off the ball or in the AR's immediate quadrant. In your case, the referee should be in a position to see what happens with player B, even though it is happening near the assistant referee.

Because the AR also needs to be aware of when the ball is played, some aspect of the foul is likely to be in your peripheral vision. If the AR moves about a yard back from the touchline, however, there is a wider field of view. When parents and spectators are not in the way, try moving back a yard from the touchline. You may find it very helpful.

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Answer provided by Referee Ben Mueller

The AR needs to take care of offside and ball out of play first. Then if those are taken care of, he can look for fouls. When the ball gets near a line, it gets very difficult for the AR to flag fouls as his eyes are typically on the ball and the touch line. Same thing with close offside calls. The referee needs to be aware of this and observe for the fouls harder.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi George,
To echo my colleagues, the AR's priority is offside and ball in/out of play. The referee is more likely to be able spot a foul than offside or ball in/out of play.
It is possible to be 'too close' to play to be able to see what happens. I imagine that any movement goes across your field of vision much faster when it's closer, thus is harder to track. Of course it always looks bad to players and spectators, but I've also been in the situation where something very close to me has just moved too fast for me to be able to track what's happened.

Some AR's will move away from play - eg move up the line a few yards to put space between themselves and the player (also reduces the chance of the AR being in the way), but you have to be careful you're not compromising your offside position in doing this.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi George,
first of all this is a FANTASTIC QUESTION and a great insight observation on your part. Understanding that your field of vision is compromised based on what it is you are looking for and how close or faraway you might be. Your AR duties can demand you look left and down when the foul occurs right and up because you and the CR do ...NOT... view the match in the same way!

One might think the more observant an AR is the greater asset he is to the CR but in truth the BETTER the AR is in distinguishing offside position and balls in or out the easier the referee can do THEIR job. The responsibility of the AR for fouls falls to their area of vision once play is no longer focused on offside or ball in play within their area of responsibility. The CR cannot see BEHIND play, he can sense things, he can shoulder check, but he is relying on the trail AR to catch the off the ball interactions in behind play, away from the ball once his concerns for offside and ball in play are mitigated.

We use the term... anticipation... a great deal in balancing your duties with a conceptual understanding of the game and the likelihood of what tactical movements the players may undertake so you can be every ready to catch those CMI (critical match incidents). Knowing when and how to move in advance of play to keep line of sight, use your peripheral sideways glances, listening as much as seeing what's going on around you as you focus on positional offside movement or following a ball out of play

I digress only slightly as to your number one job being the safety of the participants but as to your match responsibilities the CR will assign you the offside line as you MUST be in correct alignment for the referee to place value on your input to the ...positional... criteria of offside calls. Offside is no longer ...JUST... the responsibility of the AR! The CR must be cognisant of the deliberate touches and saves and interactions on the field for additional interpretation of the ...involvement... portion of offside.

Pundits and biased arm chair officials, myself included, often forget that our observational integrity is TAINTED by TV coverage and multiple angles slow motion frame by frame dissection of fast moving play is NOT the picture seen by the officials on the field. I was in retrospect, perhaps overly critical of many of the recent Woman's 2015 World Cup decisions.Then as pointed out by colleagues, the Men's 2014 WC had its share of suspect decision making. The ONE main point we so often forget when outside looking in, is the view inside in REAL time is ...NEVER... the same!

As to commentators criticising officials for NOT seeing, they rarely understand the game they are talking about from the eyes of an official. For example the CR is the individual looking to call or spot a foul! The CR i s aware the AR is compromised on his angle of view if he is to concentrate on offside position and the ball running along the touch or goal line for in or out of play. The AR is looking at the match from a ...COMPLETELY... different perspective as his duties demand a different match evaluation than the CR is able to make from his perspective.
To take a few steps of separation, to quickly scan the two players up and down quickly might be possible if you were sure the ball was moving slow enough or in a direction not to immediately exit play or the ball had enough separation that a foot in would not occur in the fraction of a second as you glanced away. Could you utter a warning? 'Keep the arms down?' Could you see the interaction as the players were approaching and considered the potential for a foul?
For whatever reason pundits have not yet understood this important distinction in their ...TINY... brains. If the AR was focused on his primary duties, that high elbow needed to be seen by the referee

As an AR, the ability for you to move quickly and efficiently, to be faster than those playing is always a bonus. To be set in a looking, observe mode rather than a frantic catch up and speculate as your vision is wavering on getting to somewhere. It why anticipating play is such an important part! To separate distance and use peripheral and a scanning up and down to survey additional player interaction,to not overlook the arm grabs or strikes as the feet flail away down below kicking tripping or knocking the ball away. It is difficult for many to grasp but you can be too close to play to see it correctly

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