Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

RSS FEED Subscribe Now!

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef
Panel Login

Question Number: 32032

Law 6 - The Other Match Oficials 11/18/2017

RE: Youth to adult, comp and rec.

Barry Stewart of Chilliwack, BC Canada asks...

I'd like the panel's feedback on an idea I've come up with for ARs, to show that they are 'waiting to see' if they'll be flagging an offside or not.

I discussed it with a teenaged AR a few weeks ago, then I heard today that she'd passed it on to another CR and they had tried it. We tried it in today's U-16 game and it seemed to work well.

Basically, if I see an AR running down the line to catch up with play, I don't know if there's a possible offside call coming or not.

My idea is that the AR, in a potential offside play, could run with the flag half-cocked. If the ball goes out of play, or the keeper or defence can make a safe play on the ball, the game continues. If the offside player becomes involved in play, the CR knows (by the half-cocked flag) that an upright flag will be coming soon and will know exactly what it was for.

Without headsets or buzzers at lower levels, it makes for better communication, I feel.

Of course, offside players could cotton on to the 'early warning system' and choose to no get involved in play. I don't see a problem in that, either.

Depending on the dynamics of the play, ice hockey players sometimes get a signal from officials that their team is offside and can make a correction to keep play going without a stoppage.

Your thoughts? (Thanks, as always.)

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Barry,
I suppose if it works for you and does not cause any confusion for players, spectators etc it could be seen as an extension of the fact that the Laws of the Game do allow for discreet hand signals to be used as a means of communication between the referee and AR, with the proviso that these ''should have a clear meaning which should have been agreed in the pre-match discussion.'' I am not sure that this would normally include the use of non-standard flag signals, however.

For instance there used to be a couple of different unofficial flag signals used to indicate a penalty (the USSF had one, the FA had another) and my understanding is that they were both discontinued after the powers-that-be expressed their disapproval.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Barry,
in general most associations seem to dislike discreet hand signals but if you have confidence in the ability of your ARs to grasp your reasoning and believe it does not interfere with their other duties.

You as CR know that ONLY on Involvement is offside called and you are rarely unsighted as to the potential unless your back was turned.

What purpose does it serve if the AR signals I THINK rather than THERE IS?

Remember no flag UNLESS 100% involved based on the AR knowledge of what The AR knows. The AR is not going to know what the CR knows until after the stoppage or if his flag is waved off he will realize something went unseen. I rarely go out or switch off out of a third without a backward glance and eye contact with the near AR just to ensure I did not miss something or to give a thumbs up.

The AR might be in a foot race to keep up so whether he remembers to do as you ask or whether you can get eye contact or a shake of the head and say no it was last played off blue not white so no offside!

The offside flag is only a message for you it is NOT signal to stop play although players love to blame their mistakes in defending for an incorrect flag . . A key in communication CONSTANT eye contact to actually develop the habit of looking to your ARs

I point to my eye is what did you see?
I wave you off on offside touch my hand and point at blue it was off blue
I hunch my shoulders is I have no idea?
I see you touch your front pocket or back pocket to indicate you think card is required I either nod yes or no & thumbs up or we have a chat!

I see you sprint up the line after a goal I signal kick off .
I see you standing still after a goal looking grim we have a chat
I see you raise the flag I stop play or wave you off. In all cases we discuss post game or halftime when it is required! Eye contact with AR before and after any restart. I have had ARs leave the FOP and sit down in the stands to prove how some CRs overlook the AR far too much


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Barry
Over the years there has been a few unapproved flag signals which referees in certain parts of the world used to communicate discreetly with the referee.
Two that I can think of was the flag across the chest to signal a penalty kick and the other across the lower body to signal encroachment at a penalty kick.
A number of years ago FIFA /IFAB came out with a statement that it only wanted approved flag signals to be used. The approved signals are in the Laws of the Game.
The Advice allows for discreet hand signals. The advice tells us that as a general rule, the AR should not use obvious hand signals. However, in some instances, a discreet hand signal may assist the referee. The hand signal should have a clear meaning which should have been agreed in the pre-match discussion.
Now despite that some signals or mannerisms continue in the game. I continue to see the 'walk the dog' flag where the AR points the flag downwards at an angle in front of him to denote no offside.
I feel one of the challenges with discreet signals is that they do not work all the time as they are discreet or maybe an AR forgets or does not bother in every situation. Another discreet hand signal is tapping the card pocket to show the referee what the AR thinks of a challenge.
I feel the more important part is that any AR that wants to progress up the ladder needs to stick rigidly to the approved signals. An observer may time a dim view of unusual flag movements or lots of hand movements. ARs at the very top of the game spend hours perfecting their signaling techniques and one would never see non approved signals being used. Even running with the flag is perfected.
If some communication that is agreed between the referee crew can assist in officiating that game at lower levels then so be it.
Personally I think with good positioning, understanding the game and keeping good eye contact with ARs will prevent the missed flag. CR now know that there can be a wait and see flag so that eventuality needs to be factored in by the referee. Just because a flag does not go up does not mean that it won't when the ball is played.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32032
Read other Q & A regarding Law 6 - The Other Match Oficials

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members.