Assistant referee

What is an Assistant referee in soccer?

In soccer, the assistant referee, also known as a linesman, is an integral part of the refereeing team. Their primary role is to assist the referee in making decisions during the game.

The assistant referee, as the name suggests, assists the referee in making decisions during the game. There are two assistant referees in a soccer match, one on each touch-line. They must stay level with the play and have a clear view of the game to assist the referee in making decisions.

Formerly known as a linesman, the assistant referee is expected to advise the referee on throw-ins, fouls, and offsides. As part of the refereeing team, there is also a fourth member often referred to as the ‘fourth official’ that helps with general game management from the touch-line. Often managing substitutions, communicating with the referee, and controlling problems between substitute benches.

what is an assistant referee in soccer?

How does the Assistant Referee Help the Referee?

The assistant referee has many roles in a match that they must focus on to help the referee in the best way possible. A signal by raising their flag is the most common and effective way of doing this. Here are the key roles and responsibilities of an assistant referee in a soccer match:

Out of play

An assistant referee must signal when the entire ball has crossed over either the touch-line or byline and has gone out of play. They then must signal which team is awarded a corner, goal kick, or throw-in. The assistant referee must have a clear view of the ball and the players to make the correct decision.


An assistant referee is also required to signal when an attacking player has entered an offside position. They must keep up with the defensive line throughout the match to make sure that they can accurately judge offside decisions. The assistant referee must raise their flag to signal an offside, and the referee will then decide whether to allow play to continue or award a free-kick to the defending team.


An assistant referee signals to the referee when a substitute is ready to be made. They will indicate this by raising their flag and then informing the referee of the player’s number and the team they are playing for. This helps the referee to manage the game by ensuring that substitutions are made correctly and fairly.

Penalty kicks

An assistant referee will stand on the byline when a penalty kick is being taken to confirm the ball has crossed the line and the goalkeeper has stayed on their goal line. They must be alert and focused to make sure that they can accurately judge the situation. If the goalkeeper moves off their line before the ball is kicked, the assistant referee will signal this to the referee, who will then decide whether to allow the penalty to be retaken.

General game management

Aside from the specific roles mentioned above, the assistant referee is also responsible for assisting the referee with general game management. This includes helping the referee to control the game by communicating with the players and coaching staff, as well as ensuring that the match is played in accordance with the laws of the game.

Some examples of the best assistant referees

While soccer referees tend to be more well-known than assistant referees, there have been a few assistant referees who have made a name for themselves in the world of soccer. Here are some world-famous assistant referees:

  • Sian Massey-Ellis

Massey-Ellis is a British assistant referee who became the first woman to officiate in a Premier League match in 2010. She has since gone on to officiate in some of the biggest matches in English soccer.

  • Frank Anderson

Anderson is a former American assistant referee who officiated in two World Cups (1990 and 1994). He is also the first American to have officiated in a European club final.

  • Miguel Martínez

Martínez is a Spanish assistant referee who has officiated in numerous high-profile matches, including the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands.

  • Bertrand Jouannaud 

Jouannaud is a French assistant referee who has officiated in several major tournaments, including the UEFA European Championship and the FIFA World Cup.

  • Darren Cann

Cann is a former English assistant referee who officiated in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He is also a former FIFA Assistant Referee of the Year.


The assistant referee is a vital part of the refereeing team in soccer. They play a critical role in helping the referee to make the correct decisions during the game. By focusing on their roles and responsibilities, they can help to ensure that the match is played fairly and in accordance with the laws of the game.