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Question Number: 29821

Mechanics 10/15/2015

Scott of Livermore, CA USA asks...

What is the proper procedure for an AR given the following? A player is in an offside position, and he plays a ball that is kicked or headed to him, but the AR could not tell if the ball was played by a defender or an attacker. Should the AR raise his flag and let the CR wave him down, if the ball came from a defender, or should the AR let the play go (when in doubt don't wave it about)?

I assume if a goal is scored immediately, the AR should just stand at attention and then have a discussion with the CR, but I don't know what is the best procedure when play continues after the player in the offside position plays a ball from an unknown source.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Scott,
although the standard is when in doubt do NOT wave it about! It is worth noting that an efficient team of officials the CR may want the AR to flag in these cases by accepting that he as CR will help by being totally focused on who has last touched or deliberately played the ball last and call it out . Keeping in mind the deliberate save /deflection aspects that do not reset and those deliberate actions or accidental touches that do.

It is important to remember the CR is ultimately responsible for ALL calls using the input from his ARs. If you raise the flag he will in all likely hood stop play! He could wave you off if absolutely sure you are incorrect. If a goal scores and your flag is up creates huge controversy if he is allowing the goal despite the fact the flag is ONLY a signal for the referee it is NEVER a whistle signal to stop play by players!

Proper communication and good habits intelligent application of the mechanics. Your standing at attention and offering input if a goal did arise it might not be good, is in my opinion the correct approach if play evolves quickly and no word or info exchanged by between you and CR. Mind you if the opposition is yelling about offside or you have players coming over and saying to you seriously how did you miss that have no idea you are communicating that you might in fact have not! Still if you make the no call, play continues, with no goal , you had a 50% chance of being as right as you might have been wrong .

The issue is his reliance on you and his view of the play? He should have a better view than you who last touches/plays the ball just as your angle looking across has secured the attacker is indeed positioned offside and if a teammate did get that touch he is most definitely involved. It is unfortunate we do not have the luxury as they do at the elite levels of simply asking on the radio who last touched it? But as mentioned calling out OFF BLUE or defender or attacker as mentioned by Ref Wickham has much merit

This is where the pregame is so important. When discussing offside in the few instances of not being sure of position or involvement only because it is unclear who last played the ball. You are all responsible for getting it right so who is closer to the play is one factor. Are you getting a glance of eye contact at this crucial moment? This is possibly where, if a yell is not forth coming, a discreet hand signal may give valuable support to the referee. The hand signal should have been discussed and agreed upon in the pre-match discussion. One trick? Point to my eyes, TOUCH just above eye covering eye then mouthing asking WHO ? If the CR ...sees... it the AR is telling him offside, if the touch can be confirmed. Basically the raised hand touch says, (I did not see who touched it did you?) The CR if sure it was a teammate of the attacker can point to nearest BLUE attacker or say off blue the AR immediately sticks up the flag and signals offside CR whistles play dead! I rather pull a goal out that was undeserved then prevent a goal scored. The decision maybe controversial but getting it right is more important.


AR Flagging or not flagging it is still the CR that must decide. In these 4 very poor decisions no flag was required in any
mexico had to score 3 to get 1 I can not fault Cr for going with AR on 1st offside but the 2nd was his responsibility to over rule
not even remotely close sigh but CR went with AR
even the fans knew the AR was correct in NOT raising the flag. Whatever was the CR thinking

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Scott
The AR should flag what he sees. If he is unsure and a goal comes of it then as you say he stands in position which signals to the referee that all is not well and there is some doubt about the goal which requires discussion.
In open play with the AR unsure of offside then he does not flag. If he believes that it is offside then he raises the flag. Hopefully the CR is well positioned to see from his position that if it is not offside then he waves the flag down. Unfortunately CRs may blindly accept the flag in every instance. In the case of a doubtful offside and the AR is unsure then he just keeps the flag down
Here is an example of an incident
Many N Ireland players stopped playing when they saw the flag but the referee, who clearly saw that it could not be offside, correctly allowed play to continue by ignoring the flag which was then dropped by the AR. Estonia subsequently scored from a pass by the player that was in the offside position.
In this second clip while it is not clear the AR raises the flag as he believed the Blue player in an offside position was offside. The CR ruled that the PIOP with his arms raised did not interfere with play or an opponent and as the 2nd Blue player was clearly onside he allowed play to continue and a goal was scored.
Yes the AR should not have flagged but the real error here was the Red defenders who stopped playing without the whistle.
Players should know that they play to the whistle not the flag and ultimately it is the referee that makes all decisions including offside not the ARs.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

There is a better mechanic than making the assistant referee guess whether the defender made a deliberate play on the ball (not a deliberate save).

The referee knows who last played the ball. The AR's decision is easy if the referee shouts 'defender, defender' when the ball is played. It removes any doubt.

Discuss this in the pregame.

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