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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 30795

Law 6 - Assistant Referee 9/21/2016

bob of new york, ny usa asks...

Can assistant referees use 'unofficial' hand/voice signals?

Something that most assistant referees I've seen do (including myself) is that if a play is a close offside play but the player is onside, the AR will run with the through ball with their arm held out to show the center referee who is looking at them that the player is onside as they are running along the play.

Another one is doing this same arm signal if I am allowing an advantage to a foul in my quadrant, almost like a half center referee advantage signal. I may also call out 'advantage' even though I am the assistant referee just to let the player(s) know that I saw a foul but am giving advantage (and may flag the play anyway) just like the center referee's reason for calling out advantage does.

I have heard that doing things like this will actually get you marked down in official assessments because they are not 'official' signals.

And if you ask 'Why do you do this?', I really don't know, it's just something I (and I assume the other referees) picked up over the years.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Bob
It depends on the level. At the highest levels ARs never use unapproved signals. Now at lowers levels AR do make signals to help *sell* some decisions. If there s no offside then no flag is the decision. Even keeping the flag straight down in while running is a clear signal that there is no offside. In respect of advantage an AR should not use the advantage signal or shout it. That is a matter for the refere only. If the AR needs to bring play back because of an unseen foul then he should signal the foul with the approved fluttering flag signal within a second or so if advantage is not going to realise. The risk there is that if the referee is looking at the incident clearly he may wave the AR down which has its own consequence .
Summary is that ARs should stick to those signals that are approved in the LotG. A thumbs up or a head shake or discreet hand signal can be used.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

The old and now unofficial 'Advice to Referees' discouraged non-standard signals, but didn't prohibit them. What you couldn't do was substitute a made-up signal for an approved one.

And it was noted that any non-standard signal should be discussed during the pre-game.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Bob,
Please....please.....please........please don't use the arm out in front for 'not-offside'!
It looks very unprofessional, and it's completely unnecessary. The simple fact that you didn't signal offside is your signal that, in your opinion, nothing has occurred. There's no point throwing in an additional signal - what is this one saying? 'I was even watching and I saw it wasn't offside!'

It looks terrible - and as an AR, word of mouth as much as assessments go a long way towards determining how you 'rank' amongst your peers. I guarantee this sort of signal will not float you to the top of the list. In all honesty, if I was refereeing and my AR started doing that, I would immediately think the AR is inexperienced.

Similarly, don't signal or call 'advantage'. This really is the referee's call. You can provide your opinion on whether a foul has occurred, but providing your opinion that 'a foul has occurred but you don't think play should be stopped' is starting to overstep your boundaries. For one, calling advantage is stating a foul has occurred - the referee may disagree. Two, you may call advantage and the referee chooses to bring it back (may occur right at the same time), which isn't a good look.

Advantage is tricky for an AR. Bear in mind that if the referee has a clear view of the incident then you shouldn't really be signalling at all. But if it looks like the referee may need some assistance, then if it's the scenario where advantage might be possible, the best practice is to signal and let the referee make the decision. When it's completely obvious that advantage has materialised, best to leave the flag down (strictly speaking you should still raise the flag and let the referee call it, but I find this just confuses everybody and leaves you out of position).

These scenarios are where eye contact with the referee becomes important. If the referee sees something but is genuinely unsure if a foul has occurred and thinks you might be in a better view, then the referee should be glancing to you. The referee looking to you is saying that they may require your opinion - and would then suggest that he hasn't seen it and is letting play continue but isn't sure if a foul occurred to start with (and really, this challenge exists in simply calling fouls even before advantage is considered).

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