5. GENERAL PRINCIPLES
5.1 – Duties and responsibilities
General priorities (highest first):
Having a thorough knowledge of the duties of your own position.
Being aware of the duties of each of the other officials.
Being prepared and able to assume any one of the other
positions whenever circumstances, such as injury or delayed arrival,
require rearrangement of assignments.
Knowing the prescribed signals and when and how they should be used.
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):
Knowing the down and yardage prior to each snap.
Being ready to assist any official who is out of position.
Securing a new ball, if appropriate, after all action has ceased.
Being alert to happenings away from the ball when play has left your
Calling time out for any player who is obviously injured.
Being prepared, if necessary, to call any serious foul or rule
infraction that you observe, regardless of specific assignment.
Observing incorrect procedures or rulings by other officials and
attempting to prevent and/or correct them whenever possible.
Communicating with colleagues, players, coaches, announcers or spectators
as appropriate whenever anything unusual or out of the ordinary happens.
5.2 – Common sense officiating
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.
Preventive officiating enables a game to flow in a disciplined
Whenever necessary, talk to coaches or players with regard to their
a foul: you must do something about every foul.
Even if you decide not
to throw your flag, talk to the player(s) involved.
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
Try not to be obtrusive about doing this.
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.
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.
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
Praise players for good sportsmanship, but make sure you do it to both
5.3 – Tempo and injuries
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.
Jogging (slow running) into position almost always looks better than
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.
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
Use your experience to decide which is the appropriate course of action in
a given circumstance.
Particularly in hot weather, encourage players to drink water during
stoppages in play by reminding them of the opportunities.
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.
The recognition of injured players is the concern of all game officials.
If in doubt about a player who is on the ground, signal timeout [S3]
and call the attention of the medical personnel present.
If in doubt about a player who is still on his feet, ask him if he is
If he does not answer in the affirmative after asking twice, stop the
clock as he is probably in no fit state to continue.
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.
on the lookout for participants who are bleeding or are
They must also leave the field for attention.
Good practice in dealing with injured players includes:
Never hurry the treatment of an injured player.
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
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
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.
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,
doctor or nurse).
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.
The official who recognises an injured player should note his number and
ensure that the provisions of Rule 3-3-5 are observed.
Always follow the advice or instructions of the medical personnel present
regarding the removal of players from the field.
Don't rush this.
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
Look after your own physical and mental well-being
and that of your colleagues.
Drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather.
5.4 – Boxing in
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
Keeping the play "boxed in" should ensure that each play is observed
from more than one viewpoint.
While the ball is live, don't get too close to the play.
Keep out of the way of the players.
Generally, there is no need for any official to watch:
The ball while it is in the air (other than a glance to ascertain its
direction if it may be coming towards you).
The ball after a pass is incomplete.
The dead-ball spot once it is marked
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).
The spot of a foul after a flag has been thrown to it (or level with
The goal line after a touchdown or safety
has been scored.
The ball after a field goal attempt
is scored or missed.
The sideline or end line after a player has been ruled out of bounds.
A player who is out of the play and has no opponent near him.
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
It is essential that the officials work together as a team and that you
communicate efficiently with each other for the purposes of effective
Such communication will often be verbal, but where verbal
communication is impossible or inappropriate, approved visual signals
should be used.
Radios should be used where available, but only in accordance with Chapter
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.
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
All officials should signal the down number before each down.
If there is disagreement,
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
It is never wise to carry your whistle in your mouth.
It is too easy to blow an inadvertent whistle.
Raising your whistle to your mouth gives you a fraction of a second extra
thinking time in which to decide whether the whistle needs to be blown or not.
Even when there is a pre-snap foul, there is not microsecond urgency to
get a whistle blown.
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
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.
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
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.
Don't shout at people - it indicates your loss of control.
Never swear at a player, coach or colleague.
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.
Officials who disagree on a call must
together to discuss the matter with each other.
Other officials who can offer information or rules knowledge should also be
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.
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.
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?).
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.
Ideally, the officials concerned will come to their own resolution and
notify the Referee.
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
Going with the call made by an "experienced" official over that made
by an "inexperienced" official
should not be a factor.
Remember the "when in doubt" principles in the Rules and in section
However, doubt is not the same as uncertainty - it is OK to go with
what you are reasonably sure of.
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.
If an official does not agree with the final decision, he must not make
any statement or gesture that would give that impression.
All verbal communication between officials and with persons subject to
be in English.
If a translation into another language is necessary,
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.
(National federations or officiating organisations may substitute their local
language for English for use in domestic games only.)
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
illegal touching of a pass or kick
incorrect clock operation
change of possession
whether or not the pass or kick crossed the neutral zone
where there are multiple flags
whether a pass was caught or trapped
whether a pass was catchable on a pass interference call
whether a pass was forward or backward
5.6 – Signals
Your signals should be clear, distinct and deliberate at all times.
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.
timeout signals given by
The usual timeout signal is [S3].
However in the following circumstances, the Coverer
should give the specified signal
of the timeout signal:
when a touchdown, field goal or try is scored - [S5];
when a safety is scored - [S6];
when a touchback is awarded - [S7];
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
be given in addition unless a penalty flag has been thrown, or a
charged or injury timeout awarded.
The on-field timekeeper should stop the clock before giving or
repeating any timeout signal
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.
On scrimmage plays, use the start the clock signal [S2]
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.
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].
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
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.
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
the Referee while you still have players in your area who you need to
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.
Don't get excited when signalling (especially touchdowns).
Be tranquil and poised.
Don't become emotional.
Maintain your equanimity.
Get into the habit of making your signals unhurriedly, smoothly and
calmly (except on pivotal plays that require a bit more emotion - see section
If you are the Coverer, you will need to signal that the ball is dead.
This will be using the dead-ball signal [S7] unless the timeout signal
[S3], touchdown/field-goal signal [S5], safety signal [S6] or incomplete
pass/unsuccessful field-goal signal [S10] is appropriate instead.
5.7 – Marking spots
There are only three ways to mark a dead-ball spot.
with a ball (placed so its axis is parallel to the sideline);
with your foot;
with a bean bag.
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.
must never move away from the spot except in the
most exceptional of circumstances.
Then use a bean bag as a last resort.
Only use a ball to mark the
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.
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
(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
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
with the nose (most forward point)
of the ball on the forward yard line;
with the middle of the ball midway between the two yard lines;
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.
Officials need only mark forward progress to the nearest one of these
where the line to gain or goal line is concerned, in which case more
accuracy is necessary;
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.
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].
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".
The lateral position of the ball is denoted by the following numbering
[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
After any play, the following roles need to be performed by the officials.
In many cases, on a given
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.
an official who is covering the dead-ball spot.
an official who procures a ball from a ball person, player or,
occasionally, where it is lying on the ground.
an official who places the ball at the inbounds spot.
an official who acts as middle-man in getting the ball from the
Coverer or Retriever to the Spotter.
an official who clears the old ball off the field
If you are the Coverer you should not normally handle a ball unless:
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;
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.
The Relayer should also be the Spotter if he can carry the ball to
the succeeding spot before anyone else can get there.
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.
If you have a ball in your hand, move it into the field
the succeeding spot rather than away from it (e.g. to the dead-ball
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.
The exception to the exception is if there has been an incomplete pass -
the ball still needs to go infield to the Spotter.
When a scrimmage
play ends between or near the hash marks:
The Umpire will normally be the Retriever and Spotter.
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.
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
The Umpire will take the ball from the Relayer.
The Relayer must ensure that
ball person is the one who retrieves the old ball.
When a scrimmage
play ends well outside the hash marks:
[IN xx0 FORMATION (CREW OF 4)]
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.
[IN xx1 FORMATION (CREW OF 5/6C)]
Responsibilities will be similar to a crew of 4 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.
[IN xx2/xx3 FORMATION (CREW OF 6D/7/8)]
The Coverer will be either the wing official or the deep wing
that side of the field.
The Retriever will normally be the other sideline official on the same
[IN xx3 FORMATION (CREW OF 7/8)]
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.
[IN 3xx FORMATION (CREW OF 6C/8)]
Responsibilities will be similar to a crew of 5/7
except that the Umpire, Centre Judge and
(to a lesser extent)
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.
Efficiency is the key.
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.
In hurry-up situations (when the clock is still running), the Umpire
get the ball wherever it is inbounds, and act as both Retriever and
Other officials should not handle the ball, and must ensure that they
in position for the next down.
5.9 – Out of bounds coverage
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.
If you are the first official
You should first of all signal timeout [S3] and, for your own safety,
move to the out-of-bounds spot only
players have run through that area.
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.
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.
you can drop a bean bag and go further out to prevent/stop any continuing
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
If you are the second official
(the next official to reach the area:
[IN 3x1/xx2/xx3 FORMATION (CREW OF 6C/6D/7/8)]
be the other official on the same side of the field as the
[IN xx1 FORMATION (CREW OF 5/6C)]
be the Back Judge, Referee or Centre Judge):
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.
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.
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
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.
If you are the third official
(this will be
[IN xx2 FORMATION (CREW OF 6D)]
[IN 3xx FORMATION (CREW OF 6C/8)]
the Referee, Centre Judge or Back Judge;
[IN xx1/xx3 FORMATION (CREW OF 5/6C/7/8)]
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.
If you are the fourth official
(this will be
[IN xx1/xx2 FORMATION (CREW OF 5/6)]
the Umpire or Centre Judge;
[IN 2x3 FORMATION (CREW OF 7)]
the Umpire, Referee or Back Judge;
[IN 3x3 FORMATION (CREW OF 8)]
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.
[IN xx0 FORMATION (CREW OF 4)]
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,
5.10 – Dealing with fights
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
Never grasp a player's facemask to prevent or break up a fight.
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
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.
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
(or identities if not substitutes) so that they or their coaches may be
cautioned once order has been restored
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
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
If Team A has recovered the ball, signal the number of the next down.
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
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
(See also section
for bean bag mechanics on fumbles.)
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.
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.
Don't rush any decision.
Before signalling a direction, take a moment to check that you have the
That is why calling out a colour is a better practice.
5.12 – Written records
All officials should record, in writing:
result of the toss
charged team timeouts
duration of the game
all fouls that you call (whether accepted, declined, cancelled or offset)
all disqualified players
all players penalised for unsportsmanlike conduct
[IN xx0/xx1 FORMATION (CREW OF 4/5/6C)]
the Line Judge or
[IN 3x1/xx2/xx3 FORMATION (CREW OF 6C/6D/7/8)]
the Field Judge shall record all fouls (whether the penalty is accepted,
or cancelled) called by all members of the crew.
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 (CREW OF 6C/8)]
should in addition record the lateral position of the ball.
The Linesman and Side Judge should also record the position of the
5.13 – Timing responsibilities
Depending on the number of officials on the crew, the following officials
are responsible for timings:
[table omitted - see the PDF version for details]
Game clock operating options:
[IN xx2/xx3 FORMATION (CREW OF 6D/7/8)]
The crew shall decide whether the Line Judge or the Field Judge will be
responsible for the game clock and associated duties.
If the control device for a stadium clock is portable and can be used
on/near the field of play, it is permitted for the on-field timekeeper
to supervise an assistant to operate it from near the sideline.
If the control device is watch-like, it is also permissible for the
on-field timekeeper to operate the stadium clock as the official game
It is permitted for an assistant off the field to keep the game clock
This is an option that may improve accuracy of clock operation, but
should only be taken when an additional official (experienced in
timekeeping) is available and there is a vantage point where they have
good visibility of the field.
In the absence of a stadium clock, the assistant shall relay the time
remaining to the crew by radio when required by rule, upon request,
or at periodic intervals.
The Video Judge must not be used as the clock operator/assistant due to
their need to concentrate on other duties.
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.
If there is a visible game clock, it must be regarded as the official
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
5.14 – Counting responsibilities
Depending on the number of officials on the crew, the following officials
are jointly responsible for counting players:
It is especially important to count players on field goals, punts,
tries and after every change of possession.
Having more than 11 players
on the field and not noticing it is one of the worst errors a crew
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
Remember that your conduct before, during, and after each game is
subject to public scrutiny.
Always conduct yourself in a manner befitting an official.
Officials bear a great responsibility for engendering public and
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.
Perform warm-up exercises
before the game
preferably in the privacy of the changing room, if not
out of sight of spectators, if not
well away from players.
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.
Do not consume alcohol or any prohibited drug, or be under the influence
of either, before, during or immediately after a game.
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.
Do not engage in arguments with anyone after the game regarding any
If they wish to complain,
refer them to
Questions of judgment on the part of any official are not open to
argument either on the field or after the game.
Be loyal to your fellow officials, to
your officiating organisation
and to football.
Report immediately to
any approach by anyone regarding
the possibility of an attempted bribe or any other unethical act.
5.16 – Dealing with the media
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.
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'
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 crews of 6, 7 and 8
The basic principles
of officiating for crews of 6, 7 or 8
remain the same as those of crews of 4 or 5,
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
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
It is thus even more crucial on a larger crew that communication is
effective and that areas of responsibility are well defined.
Having extra officials makes it easier for a crew to detect rules
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.
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
It is likely that there will be a significant number of plays where
some officials, particularly the ones deep downfield, are not directly
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.
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 crew of 7 or 8, you should only have to key on one receiver
which should make it impossible for any foul play involving him to
Similarly, as the play develops, you will have smaller zones to deal
with and should therefore be able to provide better coverage.
As a deep wing
official (or the Back Judge on a crew of 7 or 8),
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.
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.
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
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
Occasionally, three officials will find themselves covering the same
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]).
While only a minority of officials may be working in
crews of 6, 7 or 8
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
Where alternate officials are assigned to a game, they may be used EITHER
to perform specific mechanics OR to simply assist on the sidelines.
Pre-game duties of the alternate officials:
Attend the pre-game conference.
Pre-game on the field,
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.
Introduce yourself to the Head Coach on the side of the field you will
operate during the game.
If there is no alternate official on the other side of the field, ask
a sideline official on the other side to inform their Head Coach that
there is an alternate official and your location.
Where specific mechanics are needed:
As a ninth
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.
As a tenth
stay with the chain crew and note
the down number, distance
and yard line before each play.
Where no specific mechanic coverages are required, or in addition to the
stand near the team area (at least one
on each side of the field) and:
assist the game officials in communicating with the Head Coach (and
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
observe potential transgressions of the mandatory and illegal equipment
rules, and warn coaches where breaches may occur
observe the conduct of all persons in the team area and inform the game
officials of any abuse or taunting emanating from there
observe whether injured players leave the game and remain out of the
game for at least one play
confirm whether requests for timeouts come from the Head Coach
liaise with television personnel where necessary
be aware of the time to kickoff, and the progress of the half time
observe play and assist the game officials in correcting any egregious
errors, in particular:
penalty enforcement spots and distances
number of timeouts left for each team
carry spare equipment (e.g. whistles, pens/pencils, flags, bean bags)
in case a member of the game crew loses his
at all times look out for their own safety
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.
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.
If the Referee is incapacitated, it is best that another member of the
crew moves to Referee and the alternate replaces that official, unless
the alternate official is an experienced Referee at the level of the game.
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.
Aspects of consistency that we do strive for include:
decisions made in the 1st quarter should be the same as decisions made
in the 4th quarter (with the exception of "blowout" games)
decisions made for/against the home team should be the same as decisions
made for/against the away team
decisions made on one side of the field should be the same as decisions
made on the other side
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
all officials on the same crew should interpret the rules the same way
(but this may vary in practice according to their experience)
all officials participating in the same tournament should interpret the
rules the same way
the application of standard mechanics
Aspects where we do not require consistency include:
decisions made when the facts of the case are different
calls in high-level (e.g. international or national premier league)
games need not be the same as calls in lower-level games
similarly, we do not require consistency of interpretation between
senior and junior/youth
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
mechanics in unique or unusual situations
Aspects where we would like to achieve consistency but accept that we
cannot reasonably expect it with our current resources include:
decision making by officials of differing experience
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.
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.
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.
The ideal official is:
calm under pressure
in control of their emotions
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.
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
Do not get upset by mistakes or under-performance by your fellow officials.
Remember, you were inexperienced once and even now you still make mistakes
from time to time.
Calmly put right those mistakes that can be corrected by rule.
Gently inform colleagues who practise incorrect mechanics.
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!
Be strong in your decision making, take responsibility and manage the
consequences whether your decisions are right or wrong.
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.
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.
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".
When you are officiating at the ideal mental state:
you feel relaxed although the adrenaline level is high;
you feel a little nervousness but with a sense of calmness and
your decisions will be made spontaneously without conscious thought
process as you will have a strong belief in your ability;
you will always feel as if you are in the right place at the right time;
you will maintain concentration and have an awareness of what is happening
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.
Preparing mentally for a game:
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
Do prepare yourself mentally for anything which might happen.
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.
Do a little mental rehearsal every day; see yourself refereeing in an
ideal mental state.
Don't become anxious about your nerves, you will need an adrenaline flow
for the game, so look forward to the 'buzz'.
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.
5.21 – Pivotal plays
In any game, there are likely to be a number of plays which are
-- i.e. they are important because they may make a significant difference
to the game, perhaps by giving one team an advantage.
You must learn to recognise pivotal plays so you can respond appropriately.
Most plays are "routine", involving small gains or losses, but even a
routine play may be pivotal to the conduct of the game if it sparks a
confrontation between players, involves an injury, or comes at a
Plays that are often pivotal include:
all types of scoring play
changes of possession
fourth down plays where Team A go for it
third down plays that end close to the line to gain
all plays in a close game when time is short
Recognising a pivotal play may occur before the snap, for example:
Team A's substitutions or formation indicate that something unusual is
likely to happen
Team B's substitutions or confusion indicate that they may not react
normally to the play
Team A take an unusually long time to call the play and/or the coach is
more involved than usual
Recognising a pivotal play may occur during the play, for example:
the play ends near to the goal line
the play ends near to the line to gain
a fumble occurs during the play or the ball becomes loose from a
it is difficult to tell whether the pass was complete or incomplete
it is difficult to tell who first touched a kick
one or more players become very emotional during it
A play may become pivotal because of a foul called during it.
This is especially the case when the penalty negates a score, a change
of possession, a long gain or a big loss.
You need to respond differently to a pivotal play.
This might include:
getting closer to the action
selling the call conspicuously and decisively
taking time to cool frayed tempers
communicating more clearly both verbally and by signals
Conversely, you should try not to oversell routine plays.
If you do that, you will lose your ability to sell pivotal plays.
Binary file (standard input) matches
A play that pivots the game towards one team may turn out to actually
pivot it towards the other, once a penalty is taken into account.
This is likely to generate especially strong emotions.
Next chapter (axioms)
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Editor: Jim Briggs, Editor, IAFOA Manual of Football Officiating
Generated: 18/4/2020, 1131