5.1 – Duties and responsibilities

General priorities (highest first):

  1. Having a thorough knowledge of the duties of your own position.
  2. Being aware of the duties of each of the other officials.
  3. Being prepared and able to assume any one of the other positions whenever circumstances, such as injury or delayed arrival, require rearrangement of assignments.
  4. Knowing the prescribed signals and when and how they should be used.
  5. Being able to handle and pass the ball properly underarm up to 10 yards with a flat trajectory and nose first.

Specific duties during the game (in no particular priority):

  1. Knowing the down and yardage prior to each snap.
  2. Being ready to assist any official who is out of position.
  3. Securing a new ball, if appropriate, after all action has ceased.
  4. Being alert to happenings away from the ball when play has left your immediate area.
  5. Calling time out for any player who is obviously injured.
  6. Being prepared, if necessary, to call any serious foul or rule infraction that you observe, regardless of specific assignment.
  7. Observing incorrect procedures or rulings by other officials and attempting to prevent and/or correct them whenever possible.
  8. Communicating with colleagues, players, coaches, announcers or spectators as appropriate whenever anything unusual or out of the ordinary happens.

5.2 – Common sense officiating

  1. It is important that you call every foul that you see which affects the result of the play, the safety of the players, or the discipline of the game. However, please remember that neither spectators nor players come to see officials marching up and down the field. Use your discretion, and above all your common sense. Delay throwing the flag for a second or two to give yourself time to review the play mentally.
  2. Preventive officiating enables a game to flow in a disciplined manner. Whenever necessary, talk to coaches or players with regard to their conduct. Never ignore a foul: you must do something about every foul. Even if you decide not to throw your flag, talk to the player(s) involved.
  3. At appropriate times, such as when the players are lining up for a kickoff or leaving the huddle to go to the line of scrimmage, remind players to check their mouthpieces and chinstraps, and also to use their hands legally. Try not to be obtrusive about doing this.
  4. Always acknowledge complaints from players. You cannot see everything on every play. If a player makes a complaint against an opponent, be prepared to observe the next encounter between them more closely. Request the assistance of other officials when necessary, but don't delay the game in making such a request.
  5. When speaking to players, coaches or spectators always be polite. Your position as an official does not give you the right to be abusive or derogatory. Use soothing language to defuse hostility.
  6. When you have made a decision based on your observation, your experience and your knowledge, do not back down. Pressure from coaches, players, or the spectators should not be allowed to influence your judgment. When you are wrong, admit it, but don't allow it to affect your performance.
  7. Praise players for good sportsmanship, but make sure you do it to both teams.

5.3 – Tempo and injuries

  1. Always try to keep the game flowing smoothly, but do not rush. Move quickly when required, but do not allow your desire for rapid action to interfere with your duties nor with correct determinations.
  2. Jogging (slow running) into position almost always looks better than walking.
  3. When moving into position for the next down, keep facing the ball. This may enable the Referee to declare the ball ready for play sooner, and thus speed up the game tempo. It will certainly prevent you being surprised by a quick snap and improve your ability to spot extracurricular activity.
  4. When players are getting angry or frustrated, you may need to slow down the tempo of the game in order for them to cool off or have an opportunity to speak to you or their teammates (legally). Alternatively, a slight increase in the tempo of the game may be beneficial in forcing them to concentrate more on playing and less on talking. Use your experience to decide which is the appropriate course of action in a given circumstance.
  5. Particularly in hot weather, encourage players to drink water during stoppages in play by reminding them of the opportunities. Never call a Referee's timeout solely for the purpose of allowing players to take in water. Stopping the game at an arbitrary point will always benefit one team over the other in terms of momentum. Instead, use the opportunity of an injury or penalty enforcement to allow players to go towards the sideline for a quick drink.


  1. The recognition of injured players is the concern of all game officials.
    1. If in doubt about a player who is on the ground, signal timeout [S3] and call the attention of the medical personnel present.
    2. If in doubt about a player who is still on his feet, ask him if he is OK. If he does not answer in the affirmative after asking twice, stop the clock as he is probably in no fit state to continue.
    3. Pay particular attention to participants (players and officials) who may have suffered a concussion. Be aware of the signs of concussion and be on the lookout for them. Anyone who shows signs must leave the field for assessment and may not return to the game unless cleared to do so by a medical professional.
    4. Also be on the lookout for participants who are bleeding or are blood soaked. They must also leave the field for attention.
  2. Good practice in dealing with injured players includes:
    1. Never hurry the treatment of an injured player.
    2. Always act in the best interests of the injured player. This usually involves summoning his team's trainer on to the field to tend to him. If a team doesn't have its own trainer, then the medical personnel provided by game management (e.g. a paramedic or stadium doctor) should be summoned.
    3. Other personnel (e.g. a coach or a fellow player) may want to tend to the player while the medical personnel are being summoned. Take care with this, since unless you know they are trained in first aid, there is a possibility (usually remote) that they might make the situation worse. This might particularly be the case if a broken bone or internal injuries are suspected. Nevertheless, allowing these personnel to reassure the player is normally the most appropriate thing to do.
    4. Before the game, ask the Head Coach of each team to identify his team's first responder(s) to players' injuries, and whether they are qualified in first aid (or better, are a paramedic, physiotherapist, sports therapist, doctor or nurse).
    5. In cases where the player is legally a child, everyone has a higher duty of care towards him. Allowing a parent (or other family representative) on to the field to talk to or reassure the player while he is being examined may be a good thing to do. The need for this normally increases with the severity of the injury, the length of the stoppage and the youth of the player.
    6. The official who recognises an injured player should note his number and ensure that the provisions of Rule 3-3-5 are observed.
    7. Always follow the advice or instructions of the medical personnel present regarding the removal of players from the field. Don't rush this.
    8. Do not resume play while a player is being treated out of bounds within the limit lines, or deeper if there is a risk to him and the people attending him.
  3. Look after your own physical and mental well-being. Drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather.

5.4 – Boxing in

  1. When shifting position during the game, always try to surround the play together with the other officials. A position of "outside looking in" is essential for sideline and end line coverage while the ball is inbounds. Once a player with the ball goes out of bounds, the sideline officials must turn and keep their eyes on him while there is a threat of action against him. Keeping the play "boxed in" should ensure that each play is observed from more than one viewpoint.
  2. While the ball is live, don't get too close to the play.
  3. Keep out of the way of the players.
  4. Generally, there is no need for any official to watch:
    1. The ball while it is in the air (other than a glance to ascertain its direction if it may be coming towards you).
    2. The ball after a pass is incomplete.
    3. The dead-ball spot once it is marked (Mechanic 5.7.1).
    4. The ball at the succeeding spot until the snapper is about to touch it (Exception: if the wind is strong enough to move the ball).
    5. The spot of a foul after a flag has been thrown to it (or level with it).
    6. The goal line after a touchdown or safety has been scored.
    7. The ball after a field goal attempt is scored or missed.
    8. The sideline or end line after a player has been ruled out of bounds.
    9. A player who is out of the play and has no opponent near him.
    10. Substitutes and coaches in the team area.

    In each case, there is a need for you to concentrate on something else more important.

5.5 – Co-operation and communication

  1. It is essential that the officials work together as a team and that you communicate efficiently with each other for the purposes of effective game administration. Such communication will often be verbal, but where verbal communication is impossible or inappropriate, approved visual signals should be used.
  2. You must also communicate where appropriate with players, coaches, spectators and announcers. If a ruling is puzzling or controversial, it is better to take a moment to explain it than for everyone to continue in ignorance. Your aim is to give information before someone needs to ask for it.
  3. On the sidelines, ask the Head Coach to appoint someone as the "Get-back coach", responsible for keeping his colleagues and players in the coaching box and team area. He can devote more time than you can to keeping people out of your way.
  4. All officials should signal the down number before each down. If there is disagreement, blow your whistle before the snap, signal timeout [S3] and confer with your colleagues to establish the correct number. All officials are responsible for ensuring that the down box shows the correct number.
  5. At the end of a down, if you are the Coverer and you are sure the ball is dead, blow your whistle. It should be blown with authority, not just a peep. Other officials should echo the whistle only if it is necessary to end continuing action in their area of coverage. Never be the first official to blow a whistle if the ball is not in your zone of responsibility. Don't toot your whistle unless you have thrown a penalty flag or otherwise need to attract the Referee's attention.
  6. If you blow an inadvertent whistle, don't think no one will notice. Continue to blow and make sure the play is killed. Admit your mistake and follow the procedure laid down by rule (Rule 4-1-2-b).
  7. Your body language says more than you think - be aware of it. If you are moving hesitantly (e.g. towards the spot where a catch was attempted), it is a sign that you are not sure of the call and need help. Be aware of such body language signals by colleagues and be prepared to assist them where you can. Never point at players or coaches in a disapproving or threatening manner.
  8. Don't shout at people - it indicates your loss of control. Never swear at a player, coach or colleague.
  9. The following points illustrate good and bad practice when two or more officials disagree on a call. The goal is to get the involved officials to resolve the matter between themselves, but if they cannot the Referee may have to be the final arbiter of the decision.
    1. Officials who disagree on a call must be called together to discuss the matter with each other. The best place for this conference is at the dead-ball spot or the spot where the contentious matter took place. The conference should be conducted calmly, without raised voices or overt gestures (including pointing). Officials not involved in the conference should keep players away, while maintaining coverage of the dead-ball spot and any other relevant spots.
    2. Ask the officials to describe what they saw, not just what they are ruling. One official may accept that another had a better view of the play. Make sure that all relevant facts (e.g. whether the ball was live or dead, whether the incident occurred before or after the change of possession) are mentioned.
    3. Distinguish between issues of fact (e.g. what happened?), issues of judgement (e.g. did it happen intentionally?) and issues of rule (e.g. what does the rulebook say we do in the given situation?).
    4. Cut short the conference once all the officials concerned have given their view and opinion. There is no time for repeated remarks (unless clarification is necessary) and encourage everyone to stick to the point.
    5. Ideally, the officials concerned will come to their own resolution and notify the Referee.
    6. If the officials cannot agree on the call, it is normally best to go with the call made by the official with primary responsibility for making it. Going with the call made by an "experienced" official over that made by an "inexperienced" official may cause problems in the long-term.
    7. Remember the "when in doubt" principles in the Rules and in section 6.1. However, doubt is not the same as uncertainty - it is OK to go with what you are reasonably sure of.
    8. Once a final decision has been made, the Referee should signal and/or announce the outcome decisively. The need for the decision to be clearly notified to everyone becomes greater the longer the conference takes. It also helps to sell the call if all of the officials nod their heads in agreement during or at the end of a discussion.
    9. If an official does not agree with the final decision, he must not make any statement or gesture that would give that impression.
  10. All verbal communication between officials and with persons subject to the rules shall, whenever necessary, be in English. If a translation into another language is necessary for someone's benefit, this should normally be given after the English statement. In games where English is the primary language of communication, if a person addresses an official in a language other than English and the response needs to be shared with others, then it should be translated into English before a response is made.
  11. The following are examples of situations where an official is "involved", even if they have not thrown a flag. Communicating their knowledge to the rest of the crew (especially the Referee) may well be crucial to getting the call correct.
    1. illegal touching of a pass or kick
    2. incorrect clock operation
    3. change of possession
    4. whether or not the pass or kick crossed the neutral zone
    5. where there are multiple flags
    6. whether a pass was caught or trapped
    7. whether a pass was catchable on a pass interference call

5.6 – Signals

  1. Your signals should be clear, distinct and deliberate at all times.
  2. If you are the Coverer, signal a timeout when the rules provide for stopping the clock or when a timeout is charged to a team or to the Referee.
  3. Repeat all timeout signals given by all other officials.
  4. The usual timeout signal is [S3]. However in the following circumstances, the Coverer should give the specified signal instead of the timeout signal:
    1. when a touchdown, field goal or try is scored - [S5];
    2. when a safety is scored - [S6];
    3. when a touchback is awarded - [S7];
    4. when a forward pass is incomplete, or a field goal attempt is wide or short of the goal, or when there is no score on a try - [S10].

    These signals are sufficient to instruct the timekeeper or clock operator to stop the clock, and [S3] should not be given in addition unless a penalty flag has been thrown, or a charged or injury timeout awarded.

  5. The on-field timekeeper should stop the clock before giving or repeating any timeout signal (Rule 3-3-2).
  6. Signals such as timeout or incomplete pass should be repeated two or three times (or held for a few seconds) to ensure that everyone sees them. More repetitions are excessive. Do not bend at the waist when giving incomplete pass signals.
  7. On scrimmage plays, use the start the clock signal [S2] only when the ball becomes dead in bounds within 10 feet of the sideline and the line to gain has not been reached. As the Coverer, make the starting signal two or three times and no more. If the play ends beyond or close to the line to gain, give the timeout signal [S3] only.
  8. There is no need for the on-field timekeeper to echo the start the clock signal [S2]. If visual confirmation is required he may use signal [Sup12].
  9. When giving signals at the end of a play, continue to face the players in your area of responsibility until all threat of further action has passed. If you signal clearly enough (and continue the signal for long enough) your fellow crew members, the occupants of the press box and the spectators will all see the signal whatever direction it is given in.
  10. It is only the Referee's signals on penalties and unusual incidents that need to be given in the direction of the press box. Don't make signals towards the Referee while you still have players in your area who you need to watch.
  11. Unless you are absolutely certain that the Referee knows that the line to gain has been reached, that the play ended out of bounds, that there was a change of possession, or that there was a score, repeat the signal(s) you have given once you have established eye contact with the Referee, but only when there is no threat of further action in your area.
  12. Don't get excited when signalling (especially touchdowns). Be tranquil and poised. Don't become emotional. Maintain your equanimity.
  13. Use the dead-ball signal [S7] to indicate the end of a play if a 40-second play clock is being used.

5.7 – Marking spots

  1. There are only three ways to mark a dead-ball spot. These are:
    1. with a ball (placed so its axis is parallel to the sideline);
    2. with your foot;
    3. with a bean bag.
  2. Place a ball at the spot if you have one and don't need to relay it, or mark the front tip of the ball with your downfield foot. The Coverer must never move away from the spot except in the most exceptional of circumstances. Then use a bean bag as a last resort.
  3. Only use a ball to mark the actual dead-ball spot. Never place a ball on the ground at any other spot level with the dead-ball spot (except at the inbounds spot). Don't place a ball at the inbounds spot if the enforcement of a penalty has not been completed.
  4. When marking forward progress with your foot do it inconspicuously. The best way is to stand with your feet level, with the instep of your downfield and upfield feet marking the front and back ends of the ball respectively. (In this context downfield means nearest the defensive team and upfield means nearest the offensive team.) If you want to extend your downfield foot slightly this is permissible, but don't draw undue attention to the position: there is nothing worse than two officials obviously indicating different spots. Discuss in the pre-game conference how the crew is going to resolve any conflict.
  5. In normal play, forward progress usually only needs to be marked to a tolerance of one foot. Since the ball is just less than one foot long, this means there are only three positions that a ball can be in between any pair of yard lines:
    1. with the nose (most forward point) of the ball on the forward yard line;
    2. with the middle of the ball midway between the two yard lines;
    3. with the tail (rearmost point) of the ball on the back yard line.

    Note that in this system the ball is never positioned spanning a line.

  6. Officials need only mark forward progress to the nearest one of these points, except:
    1. where the line to gain or goal line is concerned, in which case more accuracy is necessary;
    2. after a change of possession (start of new series), in which case the dead-ball spot should always be marked with the nose of the ball on the nearest yard line.
  7. Officials may direct the spotting of the ball at the hash marks by giving the spotter appropriate verbal instructions or signals, i.e.: "nose on" [Sup32], "middle" [Sup33] or "tail on" [Sup34].
  8. If a series of downs started "middle", then the line to gain will be reached if the ball is at "middle" 10 yards on. Similarly for "nose on" and "tail on".
  9. The lateral position of the ball is denoted by the following numbering system:
    [table omitted - see the PDF version for details]
When using an elastic band or similar, one way to denote the position is to place the band on the 1st finger for left hash, 2nd finger for left goal post, 2nd & 3rd fingers if the ball is in the centre, 3rd finger for right goal post, and 4th finger for right hash. For finer resolution, other combinations of fingers can be used.
  • When marking a spot, continue to officiate. Don't stare at the ground - the spot won't move!

    5.8 – Ball relay

    1. After any play, the following roles need to be performed by the officials. In many cases, on a given play one official will perform more than one role and in most normal situations it is highly unlikely that all members of the crew will be involved.
      1. Coverer: an official who is covering the dead-ball spot.
      2. Retriever: an official who procures a ball from a ball person, player or, occasionally, where it is lying on the ground.
      3. Spotter: an official who places the ball at the inbounds spot.
      4. Relayer: an official who acts as middle-man in getting the ball from the Coverer or Retriever to the Spotter.
      5. Clearer: an official who clears the old ball off the field
    2. If you are the Coverer you should not normally handle a ball unless:
      1. inside the nine-yard marks: if the ball becomes dead at your feet you also become the Retriever, and the normal Retriever must be ready to act as Relayer;
      2. outside the nine-yard marks: if you can easily procure a ball from a player without moving from your position, put the ball at your feet and leave the Retriever to obtain another ball for relay to the Spotter.
    3. The Relayer should also be the Spotter if he can carry the ball to the succeeding spot before anyone else can get there.
    4. Never be in a hurry to relay the ball. Accuracy is more important than speed. If you are not so good at throwing the ball accurately, you will need to make up for it by taking a few more steps to get closer to your target.
    5. If you have a ball in your hand, move it into the field towards the succeeding spot rather than away from it (e.g. to the dead-ball spot).
      1. The exception to this is if there is a flag on the play, in which case the priority is to get the ball to the dead-ball spot.
      2. The exception to the exception is if there has been an incomplete pass - the ball still needs to go infield to the Spotter.
    6. When a scrimmage play ends between or near the hash marks:
      1. The Umpire will normally be the Retriever and Spotter.
      2. On a long play, the Back Judge may act as the Retriever and Spotter unless he is the Coverer. Similarly, if there is a loss on the play the Referee or Centre Judge may act as the Retriever and Spotter unless he is the Coverer.
      3. If a pass is incomplete deep down the middle of the field, or the play ends in Team B's end zone, the Field Judge or Line Judge should act as Relayer and send his ball person to retrieve the old ball. The Umpire will take the ball from the Relayer. The Relayer must ensure that his ball person is the one who retrieves the old ball.
    7. When a scrimmage play ends well outside the hash marks:
      1. [IN xx0 FORMATION (4-MAN CREW)] The wing official will almost always be the Coverer. The Referee and Umpire share the roles of Retriever and Spotter with whichever is nearer to the ball being the Retriever, and the other going to the inbounds spot to be the Spotter.
      2. [IN xx1 FORMATION (5/6C-MAN CREW)] Responsibilities will be similar to a 4-man crew except that on long gains the Back Judge may also be the Retriever or Spotter. The Referee, Centre Judge, Umpire and Back Judge need to divide up their roles as follows: whoever is nearest the dead-ball spot is the Retriever; the next nearest is the Relayer or Spotter, and the furthest away may be the Spotter if he can get into position.
      3. [IN 3x1/xx2/xx3 FORMATION (6C/6D/7/8-MAN CREW)] The Coverer will be either the wing official or the deep wing official on that side of the field. The Retriever will normally be the other sideline official on the same side. [IN xx3 FORMATION (7/8-MAN CREW)] The Back Judge, plus either the Umpire or Referee (whichever is nearer) will act as Relayer(s). The Umpire, Centre Judge or Referee should go to the inbounds spot to be the Spotter.
      4. [IN 3xx FORMATION (6C/8-MAN CREW)] Responsibilities will be similar to a 5/7-man crew except that the Umpire, Centre Judge and Referee will combine to perform the roles of Relayer and Spotter. Normally, the nearest official to the dead-ball spot will be the Retriever; and either the Umpire or Centre Judge will be the Spotter.
    8. When the ball becomes dead in the end zone on a free kick, the Coverer will obtain a ball from either the returner or a ball person and either take it or relay it to the touchback spot.
    9. In hurry-up situations (when the clock is still running), the Umpire must go get the ball wherever it is inbounds, and act as both Retriever and Spotter. Other officials should not handle the ball, and must ensure that they are in position for the next down.

    5.9 – Out of bounds coverage

    1. When handling out-of-bounds plays, it is important that each official assumes a separate responsibility in order that duplication does not result in extra-curricular activity going unobserved.
    2. If you are the first official (the Coverer)
      1. You should first of all signal timeout [S3] and, for your own safety, move to the out-of-bounds spot only once players have run through that area.
      2. You should signal timeout as soon as the ball becomes dead - don't wait until you reach the dead-ball spot. You may give the timeout signal while on the move.
      3. Remain on (or near) the sideline at the out-of-bounds spot to watch continuing action in or near the team area. It is essential to observe continuing action. If absolutely necessary you can drop a bean bag and go further out to prevent/stop any continuing action.
      4. Once there is no further risk of fouls occurring, you should obtain a ball from either the ball carrier or a ball person and use it to mark the spot.
    3. If you are the second official (the next official to reach the area: [IN 3x1/xx2/xx3 FORMATION (6C/6D/7/8-MAN CREW)] this would be the other official on the same side of the field as the first official; [IN xx1 FORMATION (5/6C-MAN CREW)] this would be the Back Judge, Referee or Centre Judge):
      1. You should go out of bounds with the ball carrier (going out as far as the ball carrier does) to specifically watch for and prevent fouls on him.
      2. If the ball carrier (or another player) goes into the opposition's team area, stay close to him and escort him back on to the field before you even start to think about ball relay.
      3. As Retriever, you should normally be the one to retrieve the old ball from the ball carrier or a new ball from the ball person and convey it either to the Coverer (to mark the spot) or else to the Relayer for relay to the inbounds spot.
      4. If necessary you should loop around the Coverer (going further out of bounds in the process) in order to cover a ball carrier who carries on running beyond the Coverer.
    4. If you are the third official (this will be [IN xx2 FORMATION (6D-MAN CREW)] the Referee; [IN 3xx FORMATION (6C/8-MAN CREW)] the Referee, Centre Judge or Back Judge; [IN xx1/xx3 FORMATION (5/6C/7/8-MAN CREW)] the Referee or Back Judge) you should cover the action in the field of play behind the first two officials and either get a ball to the Coverer (to mark the spot) or else act as Relayer.
    5. If you are the fourth official (this will be [IN xx1/xx2 FORMATION (5/6-MAN CREW)] the Umpire or Centre Judge; [IN 2x3 FORMATION (7-MAN CREW)] the Umpire, Referee or Back Judge; [IN 3x3 FORMATION (8-MAN CREW)] the Umpire, Centre Judge, Referee or Back Judge) you should observe continuing action between your position and the sideline and also move towards the sideline to assist as a potential Relayer.
    6. [IN xx0 FORMATION (4-MAN CREW)] The Referee and Umpire must co-ordinate as necessary to do the jobs of the second and third officials (Retriever and Relayer) described above. In particular, the Umpire must be prepared to move towards the sideline (or even out of bounds if necessary) to be in position to deter or observe continuing action. Either the Referee or the Umpire should act as Spotter, as appropriate.

    5.10 – Dealing with fights

    1. If by putting yourself between two players you can prevent a fight, then do so, but never do so at risk to your own safety (your number one concern). Never grasp a player's facemask to prevent or break up a fight.
    2. If a fight breaks out on the field and you are the nearest official to a team area, you should regard it as your primary duty to keep substitutes and coaches from entering the fray. This will normally be the case if you are the wing or deep wing official on that side of the field, but on occasion you may be another official (e.g. the Referee or Back Judge) if, for example, the fight breaks out in an end zone.
    3. If substitutes, coaches or other personnel come on to the field they should be immediately ordered off it. If they persist and cannot be recalled, record or note their numbers (or identities if not substitutes) so that they or their coaches may be cautioned once order has been restored (Mechanic 3.5.7).
    4. If you are nearest the fight, make a note of the numbers of the players involved, taking care to distinguish participants from those players trying to break up the fight. Those players definitely observed to have participated in the fight must be disqualified once order has been restored.

    5.11 – Fumbles

    1. Unless there has obviously been no change in team possession, if you cover a fumble recovery that is not advanced, signal to show which team has recovered the ball. If Team B has recovered the ball (or Team A has recovered after a double change of possession), signal a first down [S8] in the appropriate direction. If Team A has recovered the ball, signal the number of the next down.
    2. If no official has seen a player recover a fumble before a "scrum" forms on top of the ball, the ball should be awarded to the player in control of the ball once the scrum is unpiled. If players from both teams have equal control of the ball, the ball should be awarded to the team last in possession (Rule 7-2-2-b). Touching the ball does not necessarily mean that a player is in control of the ball.
    3. If it is necessary to "dig it out", and you are the nearest official, dig for the ball. If you are the next official, signal timeout [S3] to stop the clock, and this should be echoed by the rest of the crew. As the digging official, when you determine possession, verbally relay that information to the nearest standing official, normally the Referee, who will then signal the proper direction. Only the Referee, if he is not the signalling official, may echo the direction signal. (See also section 21 for bean bag mechanics on fumbles.)
    4. A technique to encourage players to get off the pile is to shout out "he's got it", making it clear to players not in possession that they are too late to make a difference to possession.
    5. Ensure that players from neither team contravene Rule 9-2-1-a-1-k by pushing or pulling opponents off the pile after the ball is dead.
    6. Don't rush any decision. Before signalling a direction, take a moment to check that you have the direction right. That is why calling out a colour is a better practice.

    5.12 – Written records

    1. All officials should record, in writing:
    • result of the toss
    • scores
    • charged team timeouts
    • sideline warnings
    • duration of the game
    • all fouls that you call (whether accepted, declined, cancelled or offset)
    • all disqualified players
    • all players penalised for unsportsmanlike conduct
    1. Additionally, [IN xx0/xx1 FORMATION (4/5/6C-MAN CREW)] the Line Judge or [IN 3x1/xx2/xx3 FORMATION (6C/6D/7/8-MAN CREW)] the Field Judge shall record all fouls (whether the penalty is accepted, declined, offset or cancelled) called by all members of the crew.
    2. At the end of the first and third periods, and before moving to the other end of the field, all officials should record the yard line of the ball and the down and distance. The Referee, Umpire and [IN 2xx FORMATION (NO C)] Line Judge or [IN 3xx FORMATION (6C/8-MAN CREW)] Centre Judge should in addition record the lateral position of the ball. The Linesman and Side Judge should also record the position of the chain clip.

    5.13 – Timing responsibilities

    1. Depending on the number of officials on the crew, the following officials are responsible for timings:
      [table omitted - see the PDF version for details]
    2. If there is a visible game clock, it must be regarded as the official game clock. If not, it must be switched off. Don't split hairs about time on the clock. If the stadium clock says that a period has ended, don't overrule it unless you have good and strong grounds (Mechanic 20.1).
    3. The duration of the game is defined to be the time from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, including the half-time interval and time for any stoppages or suspensions.

    5.14 – Counting responsibilities

    1. Depending on the number of officials on the crew, the following officials are jointly responsible for counting players:
    2. It is especially important to count players on field goals, punts, tries and after every change of possession.
    3. Having more than 11 players on the field and not noticing it is one of the worst errors a crew can make.
    4. The officials who have responsibility for counting the players on each team also have the responsibility for enforcing the restriction on the number of players allowed in the huddle.

    5.15 – Officials' Conduct

    1. Remember that your conduct before, during, and after each game is subject to public scrutiny. Always conduct yourself in a manner befitting an official.
    2. Officials bear a great responsibility for engendering public and participant confidence. You are judged by everything you do, on the field and off it, before, during and after the game. Greet and treat the personnel from each team equally. Don't banter with spectators. Don't fraternize with anyone.
    3. Perform warm-up exercises before the game in the privacy of the changing room or well out of sight of players and spectators. Do not test your whistle on or within hearing of the field of play. Do not toss footballs around or indulge in any other recreational activity in sight or sound of spectators, players or other personnel.
    4. No official is permitted to consume any prohibited drug or alcoholic beverage, or be under the influence of one, either before or during the game.
    5. Do not provide any team, coach or player with any information pertaining to any other team, coach or player. Do not carry gossip from one team to another, nor make statements about another crew or another official.
    6. Do not engage in arguments with anyone after the game regarding any decisions made. If they wish to complain, refer them to your supervisor. Questions of judgment on the part of any official are not open to argument either on the field or after the game.
    7. Be loyal to your fellow officials, to your officiating organisation and to football.
    8. Report immediately to your supervisor any approach by anyone regarding the possibility of an attempted bribe or any other unethical act.

    5.16 – Dealing with the media

    1. Always be courteous when dealing with the news media, but remember that your job is officiating and that you are not a spokesman for any team, league or officiating organisation.
    2. You may at any time, except in the emotion-charged atmosphere of a game or its immediate aftermath, explain and discuss a rule. Do not, however, discuss a particular play, ruling or interpretation except after the game to answer specific questions from reporters attending the game. The best place to do this is in or immediately outside the officials' dressing room. Be sure the crew discusses the play in private, and makes sure all the facts are clear, before the Referee talks to the reporters.

    5.17 – Philosophy of 6, 7 and 8-man crews

    1. The basic principles of 6, 7 and 8-man officiating remain the same as those of 4 or 5-man, however the addition of one or two extra officials can be an advantage or a disadvantage. It is obviously an advantage to have extra pairs of eyes on the field, maintaining order in fringe areas and giving additional perspectives on key plays. The disadvantages occur if the additional officials simply duplicate the responsibilities of the existing officials, leading to two officials ruling on the same play but potentially in contradictory fashion. Alternatively, there may be a situation where two officials each leave a tough call to the other and the indecision causes the right call to go unmade. It is thus even more crucial on a larger crew that communication is effective and that areas of responsibility are well defined.
    2. Having extra officials makes it easier for a crew to detect rules infringements. This better protects the safety of the players and decreases the chances of a team obtaining an unfair advantage. It should not be the aim of a larger crew to call more fouls, rather the extra officials should provide more opportunities for preventive officiating, as well as having a greater deterrent effect. This should in the long run reduce the number of fouls.
    3. The more officials there are, the easier it should be to detect illegal action away from the ball. It is much less likely that extra-curricular activity will occur undetected.
    4. It is likely that there will be a significant number of plays where some officials, particularly the ones deep downfield, are not directly involved. As one of those officials, you must therefore be prepared to concentrate on your cleanup role, and remain alert for the time when the play does come in your direction, because when it does it is likely to be a big play like a long pass or crucial kick. You can also contribute to the better administration of the game by keeping yourself involved in such duties as relaying balls, controlling sidelines, covering flags and checking penalty enforcement.
    5. With a larger number of officials, as a wing or deep wing official, it is possible for you to concentrate for longer on the action by and against eligible receivers. On a 7 or 8-man crew, you should only have to key on one receiver which should make it impossible for any foul play involving him to go unobserved. Similarly, as the play develops, you will have smaller zones to deal with and should therefore be able to provide better coverage.
    6. As a deep wing official (or the Back Judge on a 7 or 8-man crew), you must always try to stay deeper than the deepest player in your area (except F/S when you have goal line responsibility). By keeping the players boxed in between you and the wing officials, the play can be covered from front and back, providing optimum coverage.
    7. As the size of the crew increases, there is more chance that your initial position will be nearer the place you need to be to make a call, thereby reducing the need for you to make the call while moving at top speed. A larger crew is not however an excuse for you to remain stationary.
    8. When you are one of two officials covering the same sideline (or end line), it is crucial that you establish eye contact with your colleague to communicate your ruling to each other before giving any overt signals.
    9. When you are one of two officials covering the same intersection of two lines (e.g. at a goal line or end line pylon), you should concentrate on the crossfield line (i.e. the end line or goal line) if you are on that line, and leave the primary responsibility for the sideline to your colleague.
    10. Occasionally, three officials will find themselves covering the same crossfield line. In this case, if you have another official (almost certainly with his back to you) between you and the ball, don't stand behind him and don't repeat his signals (except timeout, [S3]).
    11. While only a minority of officials may be working in 6, 7 or 8-man crews regularly, it is the responsibility of every official to be familiar with these mechanics so that they can take an effective place on a playoff or other assignment covered by a larger crew.

    5.18 – Alternate officials

    1. Where alternate officials are assigned to a game, they may be used EITHER to perform specific mechanics OR to simply assist on the sidelines.
    2. Alternate officials should attend the pre-game conference. Pre-game on the field, the alternate officials may assist with checking the chains, checking the balls, briefing the chain crew, briefing the ball boys, briefing the stadium clock operator(s), checking player equipment and any other task requested by the game crew.
    3. Where specific mechanics are needed:
      1. Where a ninth official is assigned to a game as an alternate, he should stand level with the line of scrimmage on the press box side of the field and discreetly assist the crew with rulings concerning balls and ball carriers crossing the neutral zone.
      2. Where a tenth official is assigned to a game as an alternate, he should stay with the chain crew and note the down number, distance and yard line before each play.
    4. Where no specific mechanic coverages are required, or in addition to the above, the alternate officials should stand near the team area (at least one on each side of the field) and:
      1. assist the game officials in communicating with the head coach (and vice versa)
      2. observe any potential transgressions of the restricted area between the sideline and the coaching box, and work with the "Get-back coach" to encourage substitutes, coaches and others to remain in their proper areas
      3. observe potential transgressions of the mandatory and illegal equipment rules, and warn coaches where breaches may occur
      4. observe the conduct of all persons in the team area and inform the game officials of any abuse or taunting emanating from there
      5. observe whether injured players leave the game and remain out of the game for at least one play
      6. confirm whether requests for timeouts come from the head coach
      7. liaise with television personnel where necessary
      8. be aware of the time to kickoff, and the progress of the half time interval
      9. observe play and assist the game officials in correcting any egregious errors, in particular:
        1. penalty enforcement spots and distances
        2. timing errors
        3. number of timeouts left for each team
      10. carry spare equipment (e.g. whistles, pens/pencils, flags, bean bags) in case a member of the game crew loses his
      11. at all times look out for their own safety
    5. Alternate officials should wear full uniform, but cover their shirt with a non-stripy jacket or tabard to distinguish themselves from the members of the main crew.
    6. The officials should decide in the pre-game conference which positions the alternates will slot into in the event that one, two or more of the crew is incapacitated.

    5.19 – Consistency

    Officials are often criticised for lack of "consistency", but often what the critics mean is not what we are actually striving for.

    1. Aspects of consistency that we do strive for include:
      1. decisions made in the 1st quarter should be the same as decisions made in the 4th quarter (with the exception of "blowout" games)
      2. decisions made for/against the home team should be the same as decisions made for/against the away team
      3. decisions made on one side of the field should be the same as decisions made on the other side
      4. decisions made for/against players of high ability should be the same as decisions made for/against players of lower ability in the same game
      5. all officials on the same crew should interpret the rules the same way (but this may vary in practice according to their experience)
      6. all officials participating in the same tournament should interpret the rules the same way
      7. the application of standard mechanics
    2. Aspects where we do not require consistency include:
      1. decisions made when the facts of the case are different
      2. calls in high-level (e.g. international or national premier league) games need not be the same as calls in lower-level games
      3. similarly, we do not require consistency of interpretation between senior and junior/youth games
      4. calls made while the attitude and conduct of players is positive need not be maintained when the same players switch to a less desirable attitude
      5. mechanics in unique or unusual situations
    3. Aspects where we would like to achieve consistency but accept that we cannot reasonably expect it with our current resources include:
      1. decision making by officials of differing experience
      2. all officials working in different countries or different parts of the same country interpreting the rules exactly the same way

    5.20 – Mental preparation

    Acknowledgement: This section is based on material produced by The Football Association for its match officials.

    1. Top officials are those who (among their other skills) can overcome the mental pressures of a tough game. They can ignore the crowd or the importance of the occasion, or even feed off them to improve their performance. For most people, the mental pressure comes from within: it is their own reading of the situation which causes pressure, and because it is from within it can be controlled. The winners are not necessarily born this way but have trained themselves both mentally and physically.
    2. Consistency comes from the ability to focus on the game and ignore internal and external distractions and apply the rules correctly in each and every situation.
    3. The ideal official is:
      1. calm under pressure
      2. in control of their emotions
      3. confident
      4. mentally alert
      5. positive
    4. The good official does not try to avoid pressure, rather they accept that it is part of the game at all levels. Be confident that you have the skills to deal with the situation. Pressure is not a threat but a challenge to be welcomed.
      1. Do not get upset by the challenge of the players to your decisions; they are not directing their anger at you, they don't know you! Their frustration is directed at the uniform - the authoritative role you represent.
      2. Show no anger, no fear, no negative emotions. The only emotion allowed to show itself is enjoyment, and remember, that is what we are there for!
      3. Be strong in your decision making, take responsibility and manage the consequences whether your decisions are right or wrong.
      4. Be confident, assertive but not arrogant, have a determined belief in your own ability that you can perform well. This means you will not be intimidated by the pressures of the occasion or by the antics of the players.
      5. Be able to maintain concentration on the things that matter in the game, and have the ability to "switch off" no matter what the pressure.
    5. How do you learn to officiate under pressure? The answer is: you don't. Nobody performs well "under pressure" - the reason why our top officials at all levels of the game "shine" when the stakes are highest, the competition the fiercest and the game the toughest is not because they can do it under pressure, but because they eliminate the pressure and officiate in an "ideal mental state".
    6. When you are officiating at the ideal mental state:
      1. you feel relaxed although the adrenaline level is high;
      2. you feel a little nervousness but with a sense of calmness and confidence;
      3. your decisions will be made spontaneously without conscious thought process as you will have a strong belief in your ability;
      4. you will always feel as if you are in the right place at the right time;
      5. you will maintain concentration and have an awareness of what is happening around you;
      6. you will maintain control over your emotions and not become tense, therefore remain in total control of yourself.

      If you manage the above, you will eliminate the excess of "pressure" which would otherwise prevent you from performing at your best.

    7. Preparing mentally for a game:
      1. Don't change your physical preparation, i.e. continue any physical training at your usual level, and do not change your pattern of relaxation as this is equally as important as your physical preparation.
      2. Do prepare yourself mentally for anything which might happen.
      3. Don't try to make changes to your refereeing technique. What you have done so far has been good enough to give you the opportunities you are receiving. Only make changes to your identified areas of development.
      4. Do a little mental rehearsal every day; see yourself refereeing in an ideal mental state.
      5. Don't become anxious about your nerves, you will need an adrenaline flow for the game, so look forward to the 'buzz'.
      6. Do anticipate that you will enjoy the game. You are going to perform well; you are going to be in control; you are going to handle any situation that arises.

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    Editor: Jim Briggs, Editor, IAFOA Manual of Football Officiating

    Generated: 10/2/2019, 1627