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for Referees, Assistant Referees and 4th Officials
Andrew Castiglione
Founder of Ken Aston Referee Society

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At the beginning of the 2002/2003 seasons, the FIFA Board approved that the ‘Additional Instructions for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials’ should now be printed in the Laws of the Game book.

From 1994 through 1996 the Law Book contained a section titled "Additional Instructions Regarding the Laws of the Game". These were absent in the 1997—1999 Law books. In 2000 a section titled "Additional Instructions for Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials" was added to FIFA’s "Questions and Answers to the Laws of the Game" book (available on FIFA’s web site); these additional instructions are now included in the Law book 2002/2003 and onwards. The instructions can be found below:

The following additional instructions to Referees, Assistant Referees and Fourth Officials are intended to clarify the correct application of the Laws of the Game.

Football is a competitive sport and physical contact between players is a normal and acceptable part of the game, however players must play within the Laws and respect the principles of fair play.

Serious foul play and violent conduct are two sending-off offences in Law 12 involving unacceptable levels of physical aggression.

Serious Foul Play

A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Violent Conduct

Violent conduct may occur either on the field of play or outside its boundaries, whether the ball is in play or not. A player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.

He is also guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against a team-mate or any other person.

Offences against goalkeepers

Referees are reminded that:

- It is an offence for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands

- A player must be penalized for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it

- It is an offence to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him at the taking of a corner kick.

Screening the ball

It is not an offence if a player with the ball under control within playing distance, screens; the ball from an opponent without using his arms.

If however he prevents an opponent challenging for the ball by illegal use of the hand, arm, legs or body he must be penalized by a direct free kick, or a penalty if the offence was committed inside the penalty area.

Scissors or bicycle kick

A scissors kick is permissible provided, in the opinion of the Referee, it is not dangerous to an opponent.

Deliberately handling the ball

Referees are reminded that deliberately handling the ball is normally punished only by a direct free kick or penalty kick if the offence occurred inside the penalty area. A caution or dismissal is not normally required.

Preventing a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity

A player is sent off, however, if he prevents a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball. This punishment in Law arises not from the act of the player deliberately handling the ball but from the unacceptable and unfair intervention, which prevented a goal being scored.

Cautions for unsporting behavior by deliberately handling the ball

There are circumstances when, in addition to a free kick being awarded, a player must also be cautioned for unsporting behavior e.g. when a player:

- Deliberately and blatantly handles the ball to prevent an opponent gaining possession

- Attempts to score a goal by deliberately handling the ball

Holding an opponent

A common criticism of Referees is their failure to correctly identify and punish the offence of holding an opponent. The failure to deal appropriately with shirt-pulling and arm holding can result in confrontation situations developing and Referees are instructed to make an early intervention and to deal firmly with the situation in accordance with Law 12.

- A direct free kick or a penalty kick is normally all that is required as punishment but in certain circumstances an additional sanction is required e.g.

- A caution for unsporting behavior is required when a player holds an opponent to prevent him gaining possession of the ball or taking up an advantageous position
A player must be sent off if he denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by holding an opponent

The taking of free kicks

Referees are reminded that a player must be cautioned if:

- Player delays the restart of play

- Player fails to respect the required distance when play is being restarted

Offside signals

It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.

Assistant referees must only indicate for an offside position if the player has to be penalized for being in that position.

Offences by goalkeepers

Referees are reminded that goalkeepers are not permitted to keep possession of the ball in their hands for more than six seconds. A goalkeeper guilty of this offence is punished by an indirect free kick.

Persistent offenders

Referees should be alert at all times to players who persistently infringe the Laws. In particular they must be aware that even if a player commits a number of different offences he must still be cautioned for persistently infringing the Laws.

Attitude towards Referees

The captain of a team has no special status or privileges under the Laws of the Game but he has a degree of responsibility for the behavior of his team.

A player who is guilty of dissent by protesting at a referee's decision must be cautioned.

A player who assaults a referee or who is guilty of using offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures must be sent off.


A player who attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to have been fouled guilty of simulation and must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.

Delaying the restart of play

Referees must caution players who delay the restart of play by tactics such as:

- Taking a free kick from the wrong position with the sole intention of forcing the referee to order a retake

- Appearing to take a throw-in but suddenly leaving it to one of his team-mates to throw-in

- Kicking the ball away or carrying it away with the hands after the referee has stopped play

- Excessively delaying the taking of a throw-in or free kick

- Delaying leaving the field when being substituted

Celebration of a goal

While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.

FIFA recognized in Circular No. 579 that such reasonable celebrations are allowed. The practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time wasting and referees are instructed to intervene in such cases.

A player must be cautioned when:

- In the opinion of the referee, he makes gestures which are provocative, derisory or inflammatory

- He climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal being scored

- Leaving the field to celebrate a goal is not a caution able offence in itself but it is essential that players return to the field as soon as possible.

Referees are expected to act in a preventative mode and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal.

Liquid refreshments

Players are entitled to take liquid refreshments during a stoppage in the match but only on the touch line. It is not permitted to throw plastic water bags or any other water containers onto the field.


Referees are reminded that, in accordance with Law 4, players may not wear any kind of jewellery.

Indication of additional time allowed

Fourth officials are reminded that when, on the instruction of the referee, the minimum additional time to be allowed at the end of each half is being indicated, this indication should only be made at the end of the final minute of each period of play.

Dealing with injured players

Referees must follow the instruction below when dealing with injured players:

- Play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in his opinion, only slightly injured

- Play is stopped if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured

- After questioning the injured player, the referee authorizes one, or at most two doctors, to enter the field to ascertain the type of injury and to arrange the player's safe and swift removal from the field

- The stretcher-bearers should enter the field with a stretcher at the same time as the doctors to allow the player to be removed as soon as possible

- The referee ensures an injured player is safely removed from the field of play

- A player is not allowed to be treated on the field

- Any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field of play. He may not return until the referee is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped

- As soon as the referee has authorized the doctors to enter the field, the player must leave the field, either on the stretcher or on foot. If a player does not comply he is cautioned for unsporting behavior

- An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has started

- An injured player may only re-enter the field from the touchline when the ball is in play. When the ball is out of play, the injured player may re-enter from any of the boundary lines

- The referee alone is authorized to allow an injured player to re-enter the field whether the ball is in play or not

- If play has not otherwise been stopped for another reason, or if an injury suffered by a player is not the result of a breach of the Laws of the Game, the referee restarts play with a dropped ball

- The referee allows for the full amount of time lost through injury to be played at the end of each period of play


Exceptions to this ruling are made only for:

- Injury to a goalkeeper

- When a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention

- When a severe injury has occurred e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg etc.

The Technical Area

Fourth officials are expected to control the technical area in a preventative rather than a confrontational manner.

However if the occupants of the technical area indulge in serious misconduct the fourth official must inform the referee immediately.

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