FIFA and MLS Testing the Implementation of the Video Assistant Referee

From May 18-May 20, 2016, the International Football Association Board, or IFAB, held a series of workshops to discuss and learn about the possible implementation of Video Assistant Referees, or VARs. The way this system would work is, according to FIFA’s sketch on their website, that there would be two video assistant referees sitting in front of multiple monitors presumably somewhere at the stadium. The two situations in which a review can be initiated are if the VARs recommend the referee gets a second opinion or the referee informs the VARs that he would like to review the play. FIFA has determined that there are four situation in which the call can be reviewed by a VAR; a goal decision, a penalty decision, a direct red card decision, or a case of mistaken identity or if the referee does not know which player to discipline. Lukas Brud, the IFAB Secretary, said that the IFAB and FIFA conducted practice runs with this technology using previous match footage and attempting to re-enact the match with VARs. According to Brud, approximately one in four decisions was considered “reversible” by the video assistant referees; Brud also said that the average time for a play to be reviewed was twelve seconds, so it could be done in a quick way without delaying the game. As stated by IFAB, there were over twenty-five associations and leagues that contact IFAB to learn about this system and express interest. At the conclusion of the workshops, MLS, many Dutch Competitions, Hyundai A-League in Australia, Germany’s Bundesliga, Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro, the Super Cup Supertaça Cândido Oliveira, and the Portuguese Cup Taça de Portugal all expressed interest to participate in the experiment over the next couple of years. Brud says that IFAB hope to have the system fully implemented in league play by as soon as 2018 if all goes well.


Apologies! According to FIFA’s copyright restrictions, you must be redirected to YouTube to watch the videos below.

How to Deal With Noisy/Obnoxious Spectators

At some point in every referee’s career, they will come across a group of parents or spectators that are loud and rather rude. Some referees are exceptionally good at dealing with this and others are not as experienced. Most new referees start off working youth matches, where the parents can get really loud and try and make their opinion heard to everyone, although they are most likely not knowledgeable on the Laws of the Game. First off, there are limited options as to what a referee can do to reprimand a spectator for abusive language or just overall being a jerk. The first step the referee should take is to try and ignore the comments if they are annoying, not hurtful in anyway. If comments from the spectator are determined by the referee to be over-the-top or abusive, the referee should ask the spectator to “calm down” or “quiet down.” If, after this, the spectator does not stop their abuse, the referee can ask the spectator to leave the field and its immediate surroundings. If the spectator refuses to leave, the referee should ask the coach of the team that the spectator is supporting to encourage the spectator to leave. If the spectator still refuses to leave, you should inform the coach that if the spectator does’t leave, the match will be abandoned and the league or tournament coordinators will determine the outcome. Typically, the spectators will eventually leave, but in the rare case that they don’t, you are now prepared to handle it.

The Responsibilities and Procedure for a Fourth Official

The fourth official is a very helpful part of the referee crew. The problem is that most matches do not have a fourth official. Having an additional referee requires more money, which most clubs are not willing to pay. But, when you reach a higher level of play, fourth officials are more common. The fourth official is responsible for replacing a referee or assistant referee if they are unable to continue in the match for any reason, typically an injury. The fourth official also:
– assists the referee with any administrative duties
– assists the referee with substitution procedures
– has the authority to check the equipment of any substitutes
– supervises the replacement balls in case the match ball becomes unusable
– assists the referee with any decisions (the referee has the final decision; the fourth official may only provide input, not make the final decision)

The fourth official should wear the same jersey as the referee and assistant referees, although he may wear a jacket if he wishes and the competition rules comply with that wish. In higher level competitions with a limited number of substitutions, the fourth official may receive a substitution board to use. The substitution board is the way for the fourth official to signal which player is exiting the field of play, and which player is entering during a substitution. The substitution board can also be used to signal how much time the referee is adding on to the end of the half to make up for injuries and stoppages.

The fourth official signals a minimum of two minutes of stoppage time

The fourth official should arrive to the field of play earlier than the referee and assistant referees. He should make sure that the referees’ locker room (if used) is unlocked for the referee and assistant referees. He should also check in with the facilities manager to see if there are any additional responsibilities that he has in regards to preparing for the arrival of the referee and assistant referees.

Dealing With Difficult Coaches

Question: How should I handle coaches who are loud and disrespectful to my assistant referees and me during games?

Answer: This is one of the toughest things for referees to handle. The game can be going just fine until you lose focus for a split-second and make the wrong call on whose possession it is for a throw-in and all of a sudden the coach of the team who is affected by your call will start screaming and throwing a fit over something that isn’t really that big of a deal. Here is how you should deal with it if a coach is giving you a hard time:

*NOTE: these are suggestions and your judgment should always come first. Utilize law 18!

  1. Wait for a stoppage in play, then go over to the coach and ask him/her to quiet down and talk to you at halftime or after the game if they have a concern.
  2. If they continue, you should wait for a stoppage in play or stop play, depending on the severity of the incident and issue the coach a formal warning and tell him that he must stop or you will have to ask him to leave.
  3. If the coach continues to be out of control, you must ask him to leave the field of play and its immediate surroundings. You cannot show the coach a red card like you can to players or substitutes, but you should file a send off report or a disciplinary report with your league after the incident.

Good Equipment for the New Referee

Question: Hi, what is some good equipment that I should have? I am fairly new at refereeing and don’t have some stuff (flags, alternate jerseys, etc.).

Answer: Hello, glad to know that you are started to referee! To start you off, I would go with some basic, but fairly nice equipment. For uniforms, you should check out our uniform article. As far as flags go, I would get something basic, and depending on what style you want. Maybe something like this or this.

For a wallet, I would buy something like this.

As far as whistles go, I would look here for more information. I recommend buying a basic gym/duffel bag that you can find on nearly any website or in any store. If you want to go for a more advanced range of equipment, check out this information on communication systems. I wouldn’t be afraid to spend a little bit more money on uniforms, wallets, or flags either; especially if you are refereeing at a level where you get paid and you will be able to make the money that you spend on your equipment.

New AYSO Referee

Question: Hi, I am a new AYSO referee (have only worked a few matches) and I would like to know what special tips you may have for me?

Answer: AYSO refereeing is different than most other leagues. I started off, like many others, refereeing AYSO. You often do not get the experience with a full referee crew, as it is hard for the games to get fully stocked with referees since it is volunteer work. That being said, it is still wonderful experience to later move on to a level where you will get paid and be able to referee at a much higher level. Overall, I would say that you should just study up on the Laws of the Game, just so you know more than the coaches (they are volunteers too) and over time you will gain more experience and be a wonderful referee.


Question: What are some good things to go over during a pregame talk with the referee crew?

Answer: The pregame is vital to having a good match in terms of control and communication as a team. The referee is in charge of facilitating this meeting and making sure that his AR’s understand the Laws of the Game and that any questions are addressed. The referee should state any specific requests he his for his assistants and how they wish to communicate during the match should they need to. After the pregame meeting, the referee and assistant referees should check the field and goals to make sure that they meet the expectations stated in the Laws of the Game.

Some Youth Leagues Change Rules Around Heading the Ball

Some youth leagues around the United States have made it illegal for players to head the ball in concerns that more head injuries are occurring. The leagues are responding by making it, in some cases, an indirect free kick offense for a player to intentionally head the ball. Referees should be aware of their league rules, knowing what to enforce. There is mixed reactions to these new rules from the officiating community, but it is in the interest of the health of the kids. Concussions have been a hot topic in all sports recently, and referees should know the protocol for what to do in case of a concussion or other head injury during a match. You can find this protocol for youth sports here. When in doubt, you should advise the coach to have their player sit out and get checked by a medical professional.

New Official Sports Jerseys

Official Sports is releasing new jerseys available for purchase this summer. These new jerseys are getting closer to the solid color style that is used around the world by most leagues. This picture was released on the Official Sports website, along with the text “Available Summer 2016.”

These new jerseys have a much sleeker, good looking design than the old ones. Referees will still be permitted to wear their aoon-to-be old jerseys through 2018. The look of these new jerseys is very good, but referees will be forced to buy new equipment, which is unfortunate. In addition to the design of the jersey changing, the USSF logo has changed as well, forcing referees with the logo on their shorts to buy new shorts. Although this is a very good change to the overall look of Official Sports equipment, it is unfortunate that it will likely cost around $50 for a jersey.