1.1 – Basic philosophy
Each official must fully understand the rules.
However, the knowledge is not sufficient without the ability to interpret
and correctly apply them.
These skills can only be acquired by way of considerable effort and study.
In addition to the necessary rules knowledge, the official needs to know
where to stand, what to look for, and of course, what to do when he sees
With these skills, officials can provide impartial administration of
one of the most exciting sporting competitions and allow it to proceed
smoothly so that skillful play is not spoiled by fouls or unsportsmanlike
It is fundamental that the correct use of mechanics leads to better
Mechanics are two things: responsibilities and positioning.
Responsibilities are paramount because without each official performing
his assigned duties for a particular part of each play inevitably there
will be action that is not observed.
To neglect a responsibility is to give players carte blanche to violate
the rules with which it is associated.
Positioning is almost as important, because it is fundamental that an
official has the best chance of making a call correctly if he is in
position to get the best view of the action.
The positioning mechanics in this book are based on those of various US
officiating associations, particularly the CFO.
They are thus based on many, many years of experience and have been
found by extensive experiment to be the best.
All officials are encouraged to write a personal checklist of
things they must do and look for in each position on all possible play
This should be reviewed and updated periodically as a reminder of what
they should be doing and how best to achieve it.
It must not be forgotten that football is a game played by and watched
Football officials must develop an appreciation of the wide variety of
human reactions that can arise in the charged atmosphere of a sporting
It is only through the development of such an appreciation that
officials can learn to gain the respect of the players and coaches, and
maintain the discipline so essential in such a physically exciting game
The foundations of officiating:
The first foundation of officiating a game is that it is played in a
The field, its surrounds, and the players and their equipment on it,
must not pose an unreasonable risk to the participants, nor make a
mockery of the game.
This is often taken for granted.
The second foundation is the respect that the players and coaches must
have for the decisions made by the officials.
Without that respect, anything the officials do is unlikely to
significantly influence the players' behaviour.
The penalties in the rulebook form an effective deterrent for illegal
actions only if they have an impact on players and the game.
Without these foundations it is next to impossible for the officials to
apply the rules effectively to ensure a fair contest.
A textbook like this cannot hope to be definitive about every possible
situation that might arise in a game of football.
It therefore means that the officials have to decide for themselves
what is the best response to what happens.
That doesn't mean that officials can "freelance" and do whatever they
They have responsibilities at all times to their colleagues to be in
the expected place and to be covering their priorities.
Only by working together can a crew expect to officiate a game
Only by being in the right place at the right time can an individual
official play his role in that.
This book tells you the best place to be for common situations, and how
to respond to common occurrences (and a few rare ones).
Everything else is up to you.
1.2 – Crew formations
Our mechanics cover crews of any size from 3 to 8.
While 3-man mechanics are covered in a specific chapter, mechanics
relating to other sizes of crew are spread through most of the chapters
of the book.
In the past, we have distinguished the crew's formation simply by its
size, but developments in officiating mean that this is no longer
appropriate - for the same number of officials, we potentially have
multiple crew formations.
For example, traditionally a 6-man crew has two officials deep (the
Field Judge and the Side Judge).
However, an alternative is to have only one official deep and add a
In the same way that people talk about soccer teams as being in a 4-3-3
or 4-4-2 formation (where the digits represent the number of defenders,
midfielders and forwards), we describe the composition of a crew in
terms of the number of officials in each of three groups.
The groups are:
[table omitted - see the PDF version for details]
We represent the crew formation in a 3-digit notation where:
the first digit represents the number of officials in the core group
the second digit represents the number of officials in the wing group
the third digit represents the number of officials in the deep group
This notation reflects that future developments in football officiating
may add an additional official to any group.
For example, the NFL is considering adding a third official to the wing
In this notation, we use 2xx to mean a crew that has two officials in
the core group, regardless of the number in the others.
Similarly, xx3 indicates a crew that has three officials in the deep
The following are the valid crew formations we recognise:
[table omitted - see the PDF version for details]
A 6-man crew needs to decide before a game which formation to use.
It should use a 222 formation (6D) when it expects a lot of passes,
kicks or other downfield action.
The crew should use a 321 formation (6C) when it expects a lot of action
around the line of scrimmage.
A crew should normally not change formation during a game, but may do so
if absolutely necessary and only during a game stoppage.
Obviously, before making such a decision, the crew should take regard of
its members' experience in the changed positions.
CFO mechanics require opposite officiating positions (H/S, L/F) to swap
sidelines at half-time.
IAFOA mechanics require officiating positions to stay on the same
sideline for the entire game.
If, for some reason, it is necessary to swap personnel, then the
person who was H in the first half becomes L and in the second half, and
Similarly, F and S would switch roles.
1.3 – Points of emphasis
For this edition, we wish officials to take particular note of the
Before ready on free kicks:
[IN xx1/xx2/xx3 FORMATION (5/6/7/8-MAN CREW)]
The Umpire should remain between the kicker and the ball until the
Referee declares the ball ready for play
Other officials should keep their arm in the air until the ready for
play, unless something happens that means they are no longer ready.
Previous points of emphasis are also still relevant:
the timeout [S3] signals given by
Referee mechanics around ready for play:
Whether you are using a 40-second play clock or a 25-second one, it is
important to declare the ball ready for play consistently.
Where there is no 40-second clock, we attempt to simulate it.
Umpire and Centre Judge mechanics around ready for play:
The Umpire and Centre Judge should be in their position (not standing
over the ball) prior to the snap
one or more of the Referee, Linesman or Line Judge is not in position
and facing the ball
one or more of the deep officials is a considerable distance away from
the down box is nowhere near the line of scrimmage or is showing the
wrong down number
Team B has not yet finished its response to Team A's substitution
The Umpire or Centre Judge
should immediately get over the ball if a whistle is blown for
any reason (e.g. a foul occurs, a timeout is granted, the ball blows
away), or if Team A makes a last second substitution
Whichever official spots the ball, there is no reason for anyone to
stand over it unless something delays play.
If you have thrown your flag, make sure you give a long, clear timeout
signal at the end of the play
Other officials will echo this.
Make sure the Referee, Umpire and Centre Judge
are aware of your signal.
Unless you are holding the dead-ball spot, once continuing action has
ended, go to the Referee to report your foul
The Umpire should ensure that he knows as soon as possible the reason
for a flag being thrown.
If you have information to contribute to penalty administration
(e.g. you thought the pass was uncatchable on DPI; you know there was
a change of possession and are not sure the Referee does), pass it on.
Hurry up plays:
Don't slow down the game.
In particular, when Team A is attempting a hurry-up offense:
A wing official marking the dead-ball spot should not come into the
field unless player conduct requires it or the spot is very close to the
line to gain.
Only the Umpire or Centre Judge should handle the ball while the clock
[IN 2xx FORMATION (NO C)]
The one exception to this is if the Referee is nearer to spot the ball
when there has been a loss of yardage.
All officials (and the chain crew) have a duty to get to their position,
face the ball and be ready for the next play as quickly as possible.
Do not consume time talking to players, coaches or other officials while
the clock is running.
Do not grant a measurement if it is possible to avoid it
It is a foul to
an opponent in the back; it is not a foul to
an opponent in the back
For holding to be worth calling, there must be demonstrable restriction.
It may be slight, but it should be demonstrable.
The following items of communication between the officials and the Head
Coach of a team are essential:
For each foul against his team, the nearest sideline
official must inform
the Head Coach of the number or position of the offending player and
what the player did that was illegal
If the enforcement involves loss of down, the Coach must be informed of
For each unusual enforcement or judgement, an official must inform both
Head Coaches, whether or not it is
against his team
This may be the nearest sideline
official or the Referee, depending on the
nature of the call.
"If a visual game clock is not the official timing device during the last
two minutes of each half, the Referee or his representative shall notify
each captain and head coach of the time remaining each time the clock is
stopped by rule" (Rule 3-3-8-c).
This will normally be relayed to the Head Coach via the nearest sideline
At the two-minute warning, the nearest sideline
official must inform the
Head Coach of the
time remaining and how many timeouts each team has remaining.
When a team has used its
timeout of a half, the Referee must inform the Head Coach of this fact,
as well as the precise time remaining.
The Referee should
delegate this job to another official.
When a player is disqualified, the Referee accompanied by the official
who called the foul (or the nearest sideline
official if it was the Referee)
must inform the Head Coach of the number of the player disqualified and
the nature of the foul
When a measurement takes place, it
take place at the
The Coverer must place the ball on the ground at that spot.
Measurements must not be made at some spot level with the dead-ball
spot and, in particular, the ball must not be moved from a side zone to
between the hash marks
before the measurement takes place
Out of bounds coverage:
When the ball carrier goes out bounds, the covering official
turn and keep their eyes on him while there is a threat of action
Next chapter (changes)
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Editor: Jim Briggs, Editor, IAFOA Manual of Football Officiating
Generated: 20/3/2017, 2241