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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 30870

Mechanics 10/7/2016

Steven of Los Angeles, CA USA asks...

What do you think the best plan of action is to do as a CR if you do not have any ARs?

In leagues in my area, we will occasionally run into issues (as I'm sure a lot of youth leagues across the country do) where a game may have a CR and only one AR or possibly no ARs because there aren't enough referees period.

With only one AR, it's a bit easier. The CR tends to sit more on the line where the AR2 would be. It isn't perfect for offside and sometimes will leave plays in the field tougher to call fouls on, but it's doable

But for games where the CR is having to do solo, especially if it's a higher level/age group game, what suggestions do you guys have (if you've run into this before)? Completely ignoring offside unless by chance you happen to be right on the line or it's a blatant 5 yard offside kind of thing? Do you tell the coaches beforehand that offside will be tough for you to call? Do you go possibly zero tolerance with player trash talk and caution right away as to avoid build up to a confrontation later that an AR could normally help you suppress?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Steven
Most game that happen in may part of the world do not have the luxury of three officials due to a shortage of referees. So the CR is expected to do all the calls with the help of two linemen, one from each side that do ball out of play along the touchline only, nothing else. The CR is expected to make the goal line calls and offside.
Now over many years of practise most CR have become proficient at viewing offside calls from looking face on from the diagonal. Now it will not be perfect on the tight ones yet 95%+ are never that tight and easily called. A best opinion needs to be made on the tight ones and it does rankle a bit with teams yet I always explain I am on my own and it looked onside / offside to me.
Now it does need practise at anticipation of what is likely to happen. If I see an attacker prepare to play it forward a quick glance up to view what is the player position helps and along the line hoping that the offside line is well organised. Interestingly when I am with three officials I get most of the offside flags as I am anticipating it going up. One or two with no flag gets me thinking that had I been on my own I probably would have called the offside and so be it.

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Answer provided by Referee James Sowa


I can sympathize with this. I typically work some solo 'iron-man' games with amateur adult players and also work the standard three man system. I try and avoid working duals in high school but I do them occasionally.

Not sure who I heard this from, but I have heard each scenario described as such: 'With one referee, you will get fouls called but can forget about offside. With two referees, you will get offside called but you can forget about fouls. Finally, with three you have the best of both worlds.'

Since the vast majority of games I work are three-man system, I tend to not alter too much when I work solo games. I will take generally the same position to see play with the caveat that I will get a little bit closer to the touchlines since I am missing ARs.

I tell the teams prior to the game (and several times during it as well!) that unless it is obvious, I will not be calling offside. There is always grumbling during the game but I focus more on making sure I am calling the fouls which helps to reduce the offside complaints. As Referee McHugh points out, an experienced referee should get a 'feeling' when a play is offside. I know that in a normal three man game, I am typically looking at the AR before the flag even goes up. If I have the same feeling during a solo game, odds are the player was offside.

Having said that, remember the general instruction from FIFA. The benefit of the doubt should go to the attacker on offside. This means if you are not 100% sure that the attacker was in an offside position, you should not call it.

I also handle misconduct the same in a solo game as I do a three-man system. Dissent is dissent. If you feel it erodes your authority and it is persistent, public, and/or provocative then you should caution for dissent. I do not lower my bar when I am on my own (though I may be very pointed with the players about offside decisions.)

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Steven,

Effort and humility with a smile and mention to the captains that, 'I am fair not perfect and as a single official think long and hard about laying in the offside trap depending on where about on the field I occupy at that moment of time.

I personally do not guess at offside decisions if I am unsure or simply do not know, then there is no call. I make that VERY clear. DO NOT be putting your hand up asking for something that is not coming . PLAY THE WHISTLE!!!!!! Given a single official has to cover greater area you try to weave a more direct course than the diagonal plus you take into account the weather when picking what side you rather look into or away from. You get the sun or driving wind swept rain best to keep that at your back as often as possible. I do tend to alter my positioning depending on the nature of certain restarts as certain individuals like to try to take advantage of where you are as a single official. Running straight lines tends to get you to a to b quicker but anticipation is a key, hopefully you read the game well to use this to be where play is headed rather than follow it.

Great sympathy I have for you given many of the recreational amateur matches are done via the single referee .Respect is a two way street show it you tend to get it back. I can also say with certainty that if you work your tail off to get the best view as often as you can and be strong in the body language with effective communication, then those you referee can easily see your heart and effort which goes a long way to quelling any dissent. As to putting up with BS when your are fully committed to doing a good job. My advice is don't. The 3P approach public persistent and personal or 4 P if provocative. Works just as well in 1 2 or 3 man systems . Hold yourself accountable and those you are engaged with as well, for acting responsible in a sporting match is the duty of all its participants.

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