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Question Number: 27987

Law 6 - Assistant Referee 11/9/2013

RE: Select Under 19

Peter of Savannah, GA USA asks...

I recently was the Referee in a game when a team kept beating an offside trap and scored two goals . The defending team was very upset and one of the defenders was an A/R I had worked with who assured me the call's were wrong . I positioned myself to keep a better eye on situation , and observed that the A/R was clearly missing offside calls . I was waiting for half time to have a chat with him when another breakaway occurred and a goal looked likely , I called offside myself . This caused quite a bit of Commotion from the attacking coach and upset the A/R whom was very sure he was right . What should I have done ? What is the best way to deal with an incompetent A/R ? I was told post game by an independent person that the A/R has caused problems in games before .

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
Very difficult situation to be in. Now we all know that the best position to judge offside is directly in line and from the side. ARs are best positioned to make that call.
Anyway if the referee clearly observes a blatant offside offence that is missed by the AR then the referee must call it. The flip side of that is that a flag should be waved down when it is incorrect. On tight calls I don't believe that the referee when not best placed can make a credible call and should not do so.
I have witnessed though countless blatant offsides that the attackers swear are not offside and vice versa where there is no offside and defenders get upset because they are not called. Many games in our Leagues do not have three officials so referees have to call offside on their own. That is never easy given the positioning that referees find themselves in and offside mistakes are made both ways.
I did a high level game recently with three officials and there were three offside call not made in the game by an AR that I would probably have called on my own. I had to speak to the centre half of the defending team about his berating the AR for a non call in the 1st half.
The AR when asked at halftime about it told me that the right back was not in line and he was playing the forward onside. The defender's view clearly excluded what was behind him and he assumed that his team mates were all in line with him.
Now I knew the AR was extremely competent and he had been assessed as part of a team on many occasions. I continued to go with his flags or no calls for the rest of the game and there were two non calls that looked 'iffy' to me but those were viewed from a poor position. Both non calls attracted howls of 'offside'. Now that is not to say that he could have been wrong or that they were so tight that even a FIFA AR had a challenge making the calls. In those situations I would not question the AR's call.
When I become aware that the AR is simply not competent or making wrong calls I have to manage that as best I can. Constant overturning of offside calls is not good for the game nor the official. I will mention it to an observer to perhaps view the AR performance in another game just to ensure that he is positioning himself correctly and to make a judegement on his competency.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

What to do with an AR who is not ready (or no longer able) to handle the speed/skill of the players?

Before the game, talk about offside calls. Remind the AR when you want a slow flag (player running toward ball) and when you want a quick flag (any chance of a collision). Many times the inexperienced AR is too quick to flag. A good pregame might help.

During the first half, you may need to adjust your positioning and focus to observe the AR. Is he AR ball watching? Just not keeping up with play? Flagging for offside positioning rather than not interfering with play. Are there things you can discuss during half time to improve the situation?

Moreover, you have to be 100 percent sure that the AR is wrong- it is unlikely that you are in perfect position to judge offside position (except for free kicks) So, look for hints. (At higher levels, it becomes very easy for a good team to beat a team constantly trying to use the offside trap.) Be more observant of the most forward attacker so that you can move into a better position during transition.

Once you conclude that the AR shouldn't be doing matches at this level, you have a problem for the duration of the match. The referee team must get the calls right. But, if you overrule every decision by the assistant referee, you will lose him or her. You still need those eyes at this level. What I try to do when I must call an unflagged offside or waive down a flag, is to look also for ways to publicly praise the assistant referee's other decisions. Good flag later! Thumbs up for a no-call. Keep them engaged.

After the match, don't try to fix the AR (unless you are a mentor/assessor). Instead, call the assignor and explain the problem.

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