Week #4-5 March 26 - April 3

Weeks 4 and 5 of the MLS match schedule were notable in that PRO assistant referees were called upon to help manage the game in several key plays. 
The assistant referee’s priorities are:

  • Offside
  • Boundaries
  • Game Management

in that order, so it is not uncommon for ARs to have very few, if any, key game management decisions during a match.

However, they must be prepared when their involvement is necessary for match control.

PRO instruction to assistant referees about when to help the referee with fouls, misconduct and boundary line decisions  is based on three basic guidelines.

  1. Credible position to make a decision
  2. Closer to the action than the referee
  3. Better view / out of view of the referee

Of course, the assistant should also be aware of whether the referee would have applied advantage. 
Based on these guidelines we will analyze 6 different situations from Weeks 4 and 5 where the AR provided assistance to the referee.

Free Kick vs Penalty Kick

The AR is often called upon to make a decision of whether a foul occurs inside or outside the penalty area, usually because they are positioned with a good perspective of the line at the top of the 18 and can accurately judge the position of the foul for a referee caught trailing the play.  Watch this video and take special note of the location and view of the referee.  Then imagine the position of the AR (unfortunately not visible on the video, but would naturally be aligned with second to last defender) at the moment of the foul.

At the moment of the foul the assistant referee, who would be positioned 4-5 yards inside the penalty area, has to look through 4-5 players to see the location of the foul.  The referee is best positioned to make the decision that the foul occurred outside the penalty area and should be a free kick and not a penalty kick.

  • Is the AR in a credible position to make a decision? – No.
  • Is the AR closer to the action than the referee? – No.
  • Does the AR have a better view or is it out of the view of the referee? – No.

In this case the referee should not look to the assistant for help because he is best positioned.  If asked, the assistant referee should communicate to the referee that he did not have a credible position to help make a decision and cannot be 100% sure.

Using the same criteria as above, look at a this somewhat similar situation from the NYFC vs NE match.

Although in this case the assistant has a clear line of vision to the foul's location he is not in a credible position to assist the referee.  The referee does have a clear view of the location and does not need the AR's help and makes the correct decision.

There is one more point that needs to be made about fouls at the edge of the penalty area.  Defenders at the professional level are well aware of the penalty area lines and when faced with having to make a tackle will do so before the attacker enters the box to avoid the potential of a penalty kick.

Fouls Inside the Penalty Area

For each of the next four videos, analyze the position of the assistant referee when they get involved in game management.  Can they answer "yes" to the three guidelines?

  1. Credible position to make a decision
  2. Closer to the action than the referee
  3. Better view / out of view of the referee

The AR has a credible position, is closer than the referee and has a better view than the referee and correctly judges that this is not a handball offense.

The AR has a credible position, is closer than the referee, has a much better view than the referee and correctly judges that this is a handling offense and penalty kick.

The AR has a credible position, is closer than the referee, has a better view than the referee and correctly judges that this is not a foul.

This is a very difficult situation because the potential handling is very light and not clearly evident from the angle of the assistant referee.  In real time it is nearly impossible to spot.  Although the AR has a credible position, his distance and angle do not provide him with necessarily the best view to judge whether the FCD attacker actually makes contact with the ball with his hand, as the ball hardly changes direction.  In this case, if the AR cannot be 100% sure of their decision they need to allow play to continue.   

Two Quality Offside Decisions.

The first one gives benefit of the doubt to the attack and the second shows concentration to make a correct offside decision on a goal.