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You’ve seen that Lino!

When you talk to some referee’s they will tell you that being an assistant referee, or “lino,” is actually harder than being the referee.

You have to learn to assist the referee and not insist in a job where having numerous eyes in multiple directions would be a major help. The man in the middle, the referee, is in charge and you are there to assist him or her when help is needed and always be credible.

“You’ve seen that lino,” spectators and players will shout at you. As an assistant I often think “don’t tell me what I’ve seen, how can you possibly know what I am looking at.”

An assistant referee has so much to take in and, most importantly, (apart from the other two assistant referees and maybe an assessor) no-one knows what the instructions are from the ref.

Usually, assistant referees will receive their pre-match instructions an hour-or-so before kick-off; a lot of these instructions are the same but some referees change certain areas. As an assistant, you need to know what they want and make sure you don’t give the referee any surprises.

So, what does an assistant referee do?

The senior assistant usually patrols the dugouts and ensures that competition rules are being followed by both sides. Normally, two are allowed to stand, with one person shouting instructions. All substitutions will be made from the half-way line and they will make sure a player leaves the pitch before the substitute enters the field of play. The assistant must also make sure the player wears no jewellery (including bands around their wrist), that under armour garment colour matches the kit colour and, finally, he or she will check boots and studs.

The assistant then needs to get back in position, which is line with the second rear-most defender. People think that awarding a throw-in is just a case of pointing the way you think- but it’s not always that easy.
What if two players from opposing teams go in on the ball at the same time? You don’t want the referee to give the throw to the home team and then you, as an assistant referee, give it to the away team.

Both sets of players will see it as their ball and fiercely argue their case – this is why officials are appointed.  If the team of officials are unsure then the decision will go in favour of the defensive team.

Sometimes match officials convey messages “downstairs” – the ref will point one way below his waist and the assistant, if unsure, can look and ensure that they ‘go the same way.’  Alternatively, if the assistant is certain a little shake of the flag in the right direction below the waist will assist the referee.

What other things come into consideration when deciding which way a so-called “simple” throw-in goes?

How far away are you? Your position should be the second rear-most defender. If the defenders are sitting really deep then you can be a good distance from the ball, which is where the teamwork comes in.

You must bear in mind that there are three areas. Firstly, there is ‘your area,’ which is the space immediately around you. Secondly, is the area a bit further down the line, which is where the ref is usually situated if the ball is there, and, finally, the third which is furthest away from you. In this area, as an assistant ref, you always look at the referee and go with him, no matter what you think – assisting not insisting.

A simple throw is not so simple all of the time.

So, with that in mind, what would you do in this situation?

Red team are attacking down the wing – running right next to the touchline – and the blues are defending and trying to tackle.

The assistant is looking down the wing. He or she needs to know if the ball goes out of play for a throw-in and, remember the whole ball has to cross the line to be a throw-in, he or she also needs to be in line with the second rear-most defender.

Apart from looking down the line for the throw-in, the assistant is also checking for offsides at a 90-degree angle to where play is. Try doing it – it’s much harder than it sounds.

The ball is then whipped in and the assistant has a whole new set of tasks. Was it a defender or attacker that headed the ball? Was it a goal kick or corner? Or was it handball? Was it in the box? Was there a push? Was the player in an offside position, and, if so, was he interfering with play? Where is the referee positioned? If there was an incident will he need my help? Is the incident outside of my credibility zone (the further away the less credibility an assistant has)?

That is an awful lot of information for the assistant to digest – and it all comes from one cross.

Then you hear the shout, “You must have seen that, Lino?”

Again don’t tell me what I’ve seen. I was looking at the offside, the three heads that went up, the keepers encroaching movement, if the ball’s in-play or over the line, and, and this is a big one, was there a late tackle as the cross came in?

Match officials get the highest majority of these decisions spot on. Per game, the percentages of correct decisions made by officials are a lot higher than those of the players. It’s brilliant – considering how hard these decisions are.

Then, with all this happening, the assistant referee still has to keep control of the dugouts when there isn’t a fourth official available.

So, at your next game, please spare a thought for the assistant referee.
This is just a small insight into an assistant referee on match day…….