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: 32664

Mechanics 8/21/2018

RE: Under 19

john of houston, texas usa asks...

A referee I worked with some years ago did a wrong mechanic where if a free kick was taken '20 yards out, he would send the AR to the end line to watch ball over the goal line and CR would take offside line to watch for offside and fouls.

I thought this was a bad mechanic but after happening to me at least five times where a close free kick hit the crossbar, possibly entered the goal, and no one was there to see it, I decided to pick this up and instruct my ARs to do it if I signal them to. It has led to at least a handful of for sure correct calls of either a goal or no goal since an AR was on the end line.

I'm confused as to why this is such a poor mechanic to use, besides just 'the AR should always be with the second to last defender'. For a kick taken 18, 20, 25 yards out, the CR and AR end up standing only a few yards apart from each other horizontally in the penalty area, and good players can typically put a short distance shot like that right on frame. I feel that missing a goal/no goal will be much more controversial than possibly missing an offside, even though CR is on the offside line to see it.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI john,

As you are aware we award a good goal because we KNOW it to be so we do not guess it, which is why your concern is valid. The AR of course should follow the shot into the goal given the ball not the 2nd last defender is the offside line but if the CR is doing this we have both officials on or near the goal line!

It is a mechanic that breaks into a 40/60 % split of what might occur that can be seen or missed when the AR is NOT in a position to judge on offside and the CR not in a good position for a counter attack or to judge if the wall breaks early or has handling issues as he will behind the wall if looking for offside especially on the follow through with both offside & onside players headed for rebounds as the AR will NOT know. Then too if the CR tries to stay with the play for offside he commits deep and a reversal of fortune he is way out of position to respond to a counter attack.

Yes a ball DIRECTED into the goal that goes in and back out off a save or deflection or looks suspiciously close will not garner you any favours from one team thinking goal the other thinking close but no goal if you decided the opposite. No reason to be confused as it is true if you do as you suggest and get that look of seeing a close call turn into a good goal you might be pleased you did so. But the reasoning is flawed as what are the chances of something else going wrong that will be missed occurs more often?

We do cast the dice on position at times in anticipation or expectations of how a team or tactically a match unfolds or sets up. I used to go down into the goal line on a long throw into the PA then run a curve back to the spot where I normally start out by the edge of the PA area as the ball is in flight. I was ridiculed by many peers suggesting it was a horrible idea but as in most who say never do that I proved then wrong again and again. Using the ball flight time to readjust and the bracketing with my AR side to side I had a vey good angle look into the PA shenanigans from a much different perspective than from outside the PA some 25 to 30 yards out from the goal line near the corner of the PA from our preferred positions on throw ins.

You can be certain the new goal line tech will render any need to do as you suggest unnecessary but at the grassroots you will still have some leeway to do as you suggest. A setting sun in the eyes, a tendency to tactically try to drop balls into the path of players instead of direct shot? A gut feeling? Age group easy to keep up with play? Just be aware that positioning and fitness play a large part in development of a career and while I applaud individuality team thinking on correct positioning is something being mapped out over a lot of games to determine the best USUAL position. Yet we often say be where you need to be to see what needs to be seen. Your match your decision your reputation is born of these !

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
The reason it is viewed as poor mechanics is law of averages. I have officiated as an AR for many many years and the amount of true hairline goals off the frame of the goal I can count on one hand.
Now if I were to compare that with offside decisions on rebounds, ball over the top to attackers , fouls in my vicinity I have lost count.
So the basis of good positioning is
1. To see what needs to be seen
2. Not to be in the way of play
3. To be able to move to react to next phase of play.
Now if we look at free kicks in the scoring zone the referee has to consider the following likely factors / events
1. Offside position of attackers including gaining an advantage from a rebound
2. Possible fouls between the players.
3. The ball being stopped / controlled by an arm in the wall or offside line
4. Ball crossing the goal line.
If we watch any game I can say with certainty that the least likely event is 4. So why plan for the unlikely and position for something that is least likely to happen of all possible events. Even at that for an event that even good positioning might not even resolve.
In the recent Premier League game between Newcastle and Tottenham the first goal was a header off the crossbar down and played out by the goalkeeper off the line. The AR was on the goal line yet without Goal Line Technology the decision was impossible to make as the ball was less than an inch over the line.
I recall an older observer who asked that referees on their own should position themselves off the field of play over the goal line at the front post at corners. Very old film reels show this positioning or some even at the back post. Anyway I tried it for a while and I can only recall one time when it was really advantageous on a goal line clearance. It is not that it did not work just that it did not tick most of the positioning boxes for me.
So while no position is wrong my advice is to plan for the more likely events. Even if a hairline goal is missed aka Lampard v Germany in the 2014 WC, the game recognises that it is not possible to be everywhere and to view every single event. Even if the AR is perfectly positioned I can assure you that it will still be questioned on a bang down ball off the crossbar. On the ones that are obviously not in and I have seen plenty of those as well they can be viewed from a distance with generally little complaint?
The final point which is probably the most important is that the Laws of the Game book sets out positioning for officials in all of the game situations. The advice also states * The AR's position for a free kick must be in line with the second-last defender to check the offside line. However, the AR must be ready to follow the ball by moving down the touchline towards the corner flag if there is a direct shot on goal.**

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi John,
You really need 3 officials in these scenarios - at least!
Positioning is all about weighing up what's more likely to happen, the significance of possible events, and how seeing those is affected by your position.

For instance, an offside is quote significant, and if you're not right on line then your chances of accurately calling this are significantly reduced. It's also very likely to occur.

A very close ball in/out situation is about the most significant thing that can occur, and almost impossible to judge if not right on line - but also very unlikely.

Whereas a possible foul scenario could be as significant as a ball in/out scenario (eg missing a foul that scores a goal), or it could be less severe. It's far more likely, and being in the wrong position does significantly compromise your capacity to spot the most likely fouls.

When I'm refereeing by myself or with a CAR, I'll stand on the offside line, accept the compromised foul position, and be prepared to sprint to the goal line. But it does compromise my foul position quite strongly versus a traditional position - and makes it almost impossible to spot a handling offence in the wall. The wall also creates a blind spot that I can't see at all - eg if the ball hits the wall then there's challenge in that area, I probably won't be able to see much.

I've had referees that have instructed me to do as you've suggested - but I honestly believe that is a compromised position. And even standing on the offside line, it's still hard for the referee to be closely monitoring fouls while keeping an eye across the entire field for offside players. Especially as the referee may need to quickly move back or forth to keep the ball carrier in line - do that and the offside spotting is immediately compromised.

There's never a perfect position - there's just a most optimal position.

Read other questions answered by Referee Jason Wright

View Referee Jason Wright profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi John,
I think my colleagues have already given a number of cogent arguments as to why the position level with the second last defender is the optimum one to take on free kicks. Now, it is obviously the case that the authorities have acknowledged there can be an issue at times with determining whether the ball has crossed the line, which is why such things as goal line technology and additional assistant referees have been introduced.

As a student of the history of the Laws of the Game it is fascinating to me to note that this is an issue that is close to being as old as the Laws themselves - or at least, almost as old as the IFAB. In 1893, just seven years after the formation of the IFAB, the Irish FA made a proposal that 'goal line judges' be introduced to assist in judging whether the ball had crossed the line for a goal. The proposal was rejected only because it was felt at the time that it would be too difficult to find enough match officials to fulfil this role.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 32664
Read other Q & A regarding Mechanics

The following questions were asked as a follow up to the above question...

See Question: 32270

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.