Understanding AR Signals

On the field, the assistant referee's job is simple: assist the referee. Whether by calling an offside or directing a throw-in, the referee relies on the assistant's input.It is just as important to understand the assistant as it is to understand the referee, so here's a crash course in basic flag-waving.




  1. Watch for the flag up . This is the most basic signal the assistant will make. By putting the flag up, they are indicating to the referee that play needs to be stopped for some reason. Typically, when the assistant sees something, they will put up the flag, and after the referee blows the whistle the assistant will indicate what they saw. If the referee does not see the flag, the other assistant will typically "mirror" the signal to help attract the referee's eye.
  2. Watch for ball out-of-play and restarts . One of the two main jobs of the assistant is to indicate when the ball is out of bounds and how the game should proceed. Once the referee has blown the whistle, the assistant will indicate how to proceed:
    • Signal for a throw-in If the assistant raises the flag, at a 45 degree angle and points it horizontally along the touch line, they are indicating for a throw-in. The team attacking in the direction they are pointing takes the throw.
    • If the assistant stands near the goal line and points at the goal, they are signalling for a goal kick.
    • If the assistant stands near the goal line and points at a downward 45 degree angle toward the corner flag, they are signalling for a corner kick.
  3. Watch for offsides . This is initially indicated by a flag straight up in the air, to indicate to the referee that play must be halted. When the referee's calls the offside with a whistle, the assistant then holds the flag in one of three positions in front of them to indicate where on the field the offside occurred and thus where the ball should be placed for the free kick. But if the referee gives you a waving gesture it means there was no advantage in play so it continues and you lower your flag.
    • If they hold the flag up at a 45 degree angle, they are signalling for an offside on the far side of the field (from them).
    • If they hold the flag straight horizontally, they are signalling for an offside in the middle of the field.
    • If they hold the flag down at a 45 degree angle, they are signalling for an offside on the near side of the field.
  4. Watch for substitutions . If the assistant holds his flag above his head with both hands, he is indicating to the referee that a substitution is being performed and that play should not be started until it is finished.
  5. Watch for the goal signal . When the assistant thinks a goal has been scored, they will lower the flag, optionally may point to center with their hand and sprint back to the center line. If they want to dispute the goal, however, they will put the flag up and stay where they are.
  6. Watch for the penalty kick signal . This can vary from region to region. Generally, if a foul is called by the referee and it is inside the penalty area the AR will move toward the corner flag. If the AR stays where they are then it indicates the foul was outside the penalty area. The referee can then determine the appropriate restart. Other possible signals for penalty kicks include holding the flag horizontally across the chest or running to the corner flag and hiding their flag behind their back.
  7. Watch for the miscellaneous signal . When the assistant simply keeps the flag straight up after the whistle is blown, he is indicating he needs to talk to the referee. The assistant may show this signal if, for example, a player begins abusing him or he sees outside interference. In particular, if he wishes to indicate that a player deserves a yellow or red card, he will place his hand over his chest badge.