What Do Assistant Referees Do In Soccer

During a soccer match, what soccer fans usually focus on are the players who have the ball during a given time. However, most people miss the tremendous amount of effort that a referee puts during a soccer game.

The main referee of the game will have to run towards the ball throughout the whole game. They do that to make sure that they are always close enough to the place where a foul might take place. This makes their decisions much more accurate.

However, the professional soccer fields are huge, thus the referee might not be able to be very close to the ball during the whole match. For that reason, the main referee will need assistant referees to make sure that they are able to detect any fouls at a given moment during the game.

In other words, in order to make sure that a soccer game follows the rules, the main referee is allowed to have assistants from outside of the soccer field. The most important assistants are called the assistant referees. But what do the assistant referees exactly do?

What do assistant referees do in soccer?

As the name implies, the assistant referee’s job is to make sure that the main referee does their job right. They assist the main referee in taking decisions about fouls, offsides, throw-ins, corner kicks and a few other things.

It’s worth noting that assistant referees are not decision makers. They only help the main referee make the right decisions on the field.

As you might have guessed, the assistant referees use devices to communicate with the main referee of the game and give them advice throughout the whole game. 

Assistant referees also use a flag to communicate their decisions to the referee and to the audience watching the game.

How many assistant referees are there during a soccer game?

If you have watched at least one soccer game, then you might have noticed that usually there are 2 assistant referees during a soccer match.

An assistant referee has to stand on the sideline of the field. One of the assistant referees stands on one sideline of the field while the other stands on the other side line. 

In order to make the assistant referee’s job easier, each of the 2 referees covers only one side of the field instead of having to cover both. 

This way, the assistant referee’s decisions will be more accurate because they will be covering a smaller distance.

Giving each assistant referee their own side of the field also makes sure that the referees’ decisions won’t conflict with each other. Each assistant referee will communicate their opinion about what decision the main referee has to make only when the ball is inside their side of the field.

With that said, it’s now time to mention what the key things that assistant referees are helpful for.

1- Assistant referees signal when the ball goes outside the field

Whenever the ball leaves the soccer field, the assistant referee raises their flag up, and the main referee uses their whistle to indicate that a throw-in or a corner kick has to be taken.

Most of the time, the main referee will rely on the assistant referee to decide which team has touched the ball last before it went outside of the field. 

The reason behind that is because the assistant referee will be closer to the sidelines than the main referee most of the time whenever the ball leaves the field.

If the assistant referee lifts their flag using their left hand, it means that the team who’s on the right side of the assistant referee is the one who takes the throw-in and vise-versa.

Assistant referees also use their flags whenever the ball crosses the goal lines too. If the referee lifts the flag forward, then it’s a goal kick, else it’s a corner kick.

2- Assistant referees help with detecting offsides.

One of the most important roles that assistant referees do is enforcing the offside rule during a soccer match.

If you don’t know what the offside rule is, then you can check the soccer rules article that was linked above.

Since the main referee is running inside the field all the time, they may not be able to correctly identify whether the offside rule has been broken because they will be having a hard time watching all the defense players of the defending team while also keeping an eye on the ball and the offender team’s strikers.

With that said, the main referee will rely on the assistant referees almost every time in order to decide whether there’s an offside or not.

Catching an offside rule violation isn’t easy for the assistant referees either. In order to make their life easier, what the assistant referees do is that they try to always run alongside the last player of the defending team.

This means that all of the opponent players who are on the right side of the assistant referee are standing in the offside area. If any one of them receives the ball from their teammates, then the assistant referee will raise their flag to signal the main referee to use their whistle.

3- Assistant referees help with detecting fouls.

As mentioned before, the main referee of the game might not be able to always be close to a foul scene. If the assistant referee saw a foul, then they can raise their flag and let the main referee know that a foul has been done.

This will help the main referee a lot. The main referee will rest assured that they won’t have to cover all the areas of the field by themselves in order to be able to make the right decisions. Instead, they can rely on the assistant referees to detect the fouls that are close to the sidelines of the soccer field.

There are other types of assistants to the main referee of the game. For example, there are the VAR assistants which have been introduced recently to the soccer world.

While all of these assistants are technically “Assistant referees”, the term “Assistant referees” is currently used only for the referees that run on the sidelines of the soccer field and no one else.

With that said, I’ll end this article by throwing a few random facts that have to do with soccer referees.

  • Assistant referees are not required by the laws of the game. However, they exist in almost every professional soccer match because they are extremely useful.
  • The main referee of the game is the only referee who runs inside the soccer field
  • The main referee can always override the decision of the assistant referees.