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Question Number: 30409

Mechanics 5/13/2016

RE: High School

Kristen of Knoxville, TN United States asks...

I was recently the AR1 during a high school game, in which I had stepped on the field twice. The first time was to set the ball for a foul right in front of me, as I was taught by several senior referees and assessors, because the CR and AR are not the most effective when they are standing right next to each other. I only stepped in about two yards.

The second time was, after noticing a player on the field was improperly equipped, I raised my flag during a substitution so I can talk to the CR, as was discussed during the pregame. I didn't wait for play to come closer because it has been stuck in the AR 2 quadrant for the past five minutes, and the CR has to run from the far end of the field. I step ten yards in so the (volatile) coaches can't hear me and explain that a player's socks didn't conpletely cover the shin guards (they were covered partially by crew socks and the rest by white slips, and the shin guards were showing through the gaps between the two layers). He says he'll look for it, and play continues for another eight minutes until the end of the game. (Play never came near me again.)

After the game, I apologized for having to call him over from so far away. He responds by snapping at me that he never heard what I said about the equipment and 'You need to stop coming on to the field. You did that to me twice!'

So, a few questions. First, is it wrong for an AR to step onto the field? Should I have raised the flag at a different time, if at all? Should I have just told the player or the coach? What else could have been changed to make the situation better? I realise that the player shouldn't have been allowed to come on the field in the first place, but the CR oversaw that substution (I didn't even signal for a substitution) as I was at the corner flag for a throw in and the improper equipment looked fine at first glance. Should I sprint to the half to monitor substitutions?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Kristen
First of all there was no need for the centre referee to *snap* at you. Your approach was to offer a well meaning explanation for what you perceived to be a helpful intervention. The referee crew is a team and all members need to be respected and appreciated equally. This should have been a learning exercise.
Now assistant referees are normally not expected to enter the field of play yet it is not cast in stone. I read nothing wrong with your interventions as you describe and your reasoning.
I suspect that the CR may have been more miffed that you had questioned his equipment check and his approval of a substitute when the player was plainly incorrectly attired.
Now the key to this is the pre match conference. What instructions was given by the referee. For me if the referee is looking after a substitution with the required checks then there is no need for an assistant to be present as well. Most referees though would delegate this to the assistant which would be advised pre match. Could the attire been picked up in the pre match inspection?
In respect of getting involved on the field my advice would be to not get involved in matters that the referee has dealt with or is likely to deal with or that he has clearly seen. If he was happy with attire then so be it. Same would go for the placement of the ball at a free kick. I might manage that from off the field of play if required / advised with a verbal instruction (if I was close enough) otherwise I would more concern myself with subsequent play after the restart such as positioning for offside etc.
One of the complaints that some officials make to me is that assistants try to referee the game. It is the referees game to officiate and ARs should undertake the role as outlined by the CR. I will get involved if there are unseen matters such as violent conduct behind the CRs back or there is going to be an error in Law on a restart. Otherwise in the two examples you cite I would not get involved. If an observer / assessor asked I would simply say that the CR did the equipment inspection and on free kicks the CR should be managing that.
As a final point, I like many official build up an understanding of what certain CRs require. Some do not like interventions and for those referees I just stick to the instructions, the main focus being offside and ball in and out of play. I recall flagging a foul in a game that IMO was a certain foul to which the referee waved the flag down. I was not too happy and from that time on I did not flag for fouls. In one game after that I witnessed another stonewall foul which was not called by the same referee and I saw the CR looking directly at it. I kept the flag down. The foul happened near the end of the game close to me and the player complained to me after the game and I told him that the referee made the non call.

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Answer provided by Referee James Sowa


I'm sorry you had to deal with what sounds like a very combative referee. It happens from time to time and all you can do is keep your head up. From what I read above, it seems like there were some holes in the pre-game given by the center referee and he was frustrated because he thought you over-stepped your bounds without even knowing that you were over-stepping them.

Let's start from the beginning. Prior to the game, the referee team is supposed to a quick check of the field. This is also a good time to do a quick walkthrough of the teams and ensure that they are properly equipped. It doesn't need to be overt but just take a quick glance. If the team sees issues, the time to correct them is before the game. Ideally, that eliminates the incorrectly equipped player.

The referee should also have a pre-game dialogue with the team. Notice I say dialogue; this is because it should be a three way conversation and not just the referee dictating to the ARs. The referee should cover every possible topic such as substitutions, illegal equipment, restarts and how the referee team will handle them. If you have any questions or suggestions, they should be raised at this time. Take for example the questions you asked us:

- [When] step onto the field?
- Should I have raised the flag at a different time, if at all?
- Should I sprint to the half to monitor substitutions?

All of these should be covered in the pre-game. As the referee is discussing restarts, ask if there is any point where the referee would like your assistance, say on free kicks in front of you. If the referee says no, then don't worry about it. If the referee says I will signal for you to help, then wait for the referee's signal. However, if it is not discussed in the pre-game, I always default to what looks best. In the case of the free kick, people associate the AR with the sideline and offside; I would remain in place until instructed by the referee.

For equipment, we discussed above the pre-game 'check'. We also ask the coaches if their teams are properly equipped. Depending if there is a walk-out, I instruct my ARs to also do a quick check of the players before walking out. Once the game starts, it gets more difficult. This is why we must ask about it in the pre-game. Ask the question: 'What do you want from us (the ARs) if we see illegal equipment?' Depending on the referee's answer, follow up for clarification. I tell my ARs to use common sense. If the equipment could cause injury to the player or an opponent (ie earrings, necklace, blood, etc...) get my attention at the next stoppage and we will deal with it immediately. If it is something a little more obscure (tape on the socks, shin guards not fully covered, etc..) but does not have an effect on player safety, get my attention the next time I am near you and we will deal with it accordingly.

Let me give a practical example of this. Last night, I was working a game and a player got a cut while sliding on the turf. His shirt got a little bloody and he had to swap out. My AR immediately noticed the blood, got my attention and we resolved it without issue. At half time, my other AR remarked that I now had two number 14's on the field because of the shirt change. It was simple enough to ask the coach to remedy it and there were no stoppages, delays, or complaints from anyone involved.

Finally, as to the referee complaining about you stepping on the field to give information. In general, it looks bad when this happens but there is nothing particularly wrong with it. Just file it away and if you ever work with this referee again, remember to not even put a toe on the line. Hopefully that helps answer your questions somewhat. Remember, it all starts with a good thorough pre-game.

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