Laws of the Game & FA Rules

Law 6: The Other Match Officials

IFAB Laws of the Game 2020-21

Law 6 - The Other Match Officials

Other match officials (two assistant referees, fourth official, two additional assistant referees, reserve assistant referee, video assistant referee (VAR) and at least one assistant VAR (AVAR)) may be appointed to matches. They will assist the referee in controlling the match in accordance with the Laws of the Game but the final decision will always be taken by the referee.

The referee, assistant referees, fourth official, additional assistant referees and reserve assistant referee are the 'on-field' match officials.

The VAR and AVAR are the 'video' match offiials and assist the referee in accordance with the VAR protocol as determined by The IFAB.

The match officials operate under the direction of the referee. In the event of undue interference or improper conduct, the referee will relieve them of their duties and make a report to the appropriate authorities.

With the exception of the reserve assistant referee, the 'on-field' match officials assist the referee with offences when they have a clearer view than the referee and they must submit a report to the appropriate authorities on any serious misconduct or other incident that occurred out of the view of the referee and the other match officials. They must advise the referee and other match officials of any report being made.

The 'on-field' match officials assist the referee with inspecting the field of play, the balls and players’ equipment (including if problems have been resolved) and maintaining records of time, goals, misconduct etc.

Competition rules must state clearly who replaces a match official who is unable to start or continue and any associated changes. In particular, it must be clear whether, if the referee is unable to start or continue, the fourth official or the senior assistant referee or senior additional assistant referee takes over

Assistant referees

They indicate when:
  • the whole of the ball leaves the field of play and which team is entitled to a corner kick, goal kick or throw-in
  • a player in an offside position may be penalised
  • a substitution is requested
  • at penalty kicks, the goalkeeper moves off the goal line before the ball is kicked and if the ball crosses the line; if additional assistant referees have been appointed the assistant referee takes a position in line with the penalty mark
The assistant referee’s assistance also includes monitoring the substitution procedure.

The assistant referee may enter the field of play to help control the 9.15m (10 yards) distance.

Fourth official

The fourth official’s assistance also includes:
  • supervising the substitution procedure
  • checking a player’s/substitute’s equipment
  • the re-entry of a player following a signal/approval from the referee
  • supervising the replacement balls
  • indicating the minimum amount of additional time the referee intends to play at the end of each half (including extra time)
  • informing the referee of irresponsible behaviour by any technical area occupant.

Additional assistant referees

The additional assistant referees may indicate:
  • when the whole of the ball passes over the goal line, including when a goal is scored
  • which team is entitled to a corner kick or goal kick
  • whether, at penalty kicks, the goalkeeper moves off the goal line before the ball is kicked and if the ball crosses the line

Reserve assistant referee

The only duty of a reserve assistant referee is to replace an assistant referee or fourth official who is unable to continue.

Video match officials

A video assistant referee (VAR) is a match official who may assist the referee to make a decision using replay footage only for a 'clear and obvious error' or 'serious missed incident' relating to a goal/no goal, penalty/no penalty, direct red card (not a second caution) or a case of mistaken identity when the referee cautions or sends off the wrong player of the offending team

An assistant video assistant referee (AVAR) is a match official who helps the VAR primarily by:

  • watching the television footage while the VAR is busy with a 'check' or a 'review'
  • keeping a record of VAR-related incidents and any communication or technology problems
  • assisting the VAR's communication with the referee, especially communicating with the referee when the VAR is undertaking a 'check'/'review' e.g. to tell the referee to 'stop play' or 'delay the restart' etc.
  • recording time 'lost' when play is delayed for a 'check' or a 'review'
  • communicating information about a VAR-related decision to relevant parties

Assistant referee signals

Assistant Referee signals

Additional assistant referee signals

Goal (unless the ball has very clearly passed the goal line)