Matchday guidance for referees

Match Day Guidance

When it comes to Match Day, the referee has a number of duties and factors to consider other than the 90 minutes from kick off to full time. Below are some guidelines for areas of match day that the referee has control over.

Get in touch

If you have any questions or want to know more, please contact the Referee Development Officer or alternatively email Refereeing@thefa.com

It is vital from the referees view point that when asked to undertake a pitch inspection, you do so professionally and remembering the overriding factor of player safety. At the forefront of your mind you must always think - is the playing surface safe to play on?

  • If a pitch inspection is required, arrive in plenty of time to ensure the inspection is complete in good time. Keep both clubs informed as and when appropriate.

Prior to reaching a decision the Referee who is making the inspection should consider the following;

  • Whether or not the ground (playing area) is dangerous (e.g. ice / frost)
  • Whether or not conditions are or could turn farcical
  • The existing condition of the playing surface in conjunction with the prevailing weather conditions as previously confirmed with the local weather authority
  • Be seen to be active and inspect thoroughly! A professional approach must be adopted when carrying out an inspection. It is not acceptable just to take a cursory look at the field of play in normal dress (i.e. Suit / Blazer etc.). Sports kit should be worn, along with appropriate footwear (i.e. football boots). All areas of the pitch should be inspected. A ball should be used to determine whether the surface is playable (for movement and bounce).
    ...remember the decision as to whether the match is played, is the referees.

For detailed guidelines, please see the 'Pitch Inspection Guidance' Document below.

Referees will ask their Assistant Referees to carry out their duties in accordance with the following instructions, based on the requirements of Law 6. These instructions will vary on whether the assistants are neutrally appointed, or provided by the clubs.

Club Assistants

Club assistants will vary in quality, but basic instructions for of a club assistant are;

1. To be to be positioned on the 'left back touchline' of their team, keeping in line with the 2nd rearmost defender at all times.

2. To assist the referee by indicating when the ball is out of play

3. To assist the referee by indicating when play should be stopped, following an offside offence.

Neutral Assistants

When working with neutral assistant referees, the referees pre-match instructions will be in greater detail and will place greater responsibility on the assistant referees.

For guidelines on pre-match instructions for neutral assistants, please see the 'Pre-Match Assistant Referee Instructions' document below. 

A Fourth Official will be appointed to certain rounds of FA and County FA Competitions and all matches in the English Premier League, English Football League and National League Premier. The Fourth official actively officiates if any of the three match officials are unable to continue.

Guidance on how a referee can best utilise the Fourth Official to assist in their match control is outlined in the ‘Fourth Official Guidance' document below. 

Match Officials are reminded that Law 4 states: “A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to themselves or another player including any kind of jewellery.”

  • All items of jewellery (necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands, rubber bands etc.) are strictly forbidden and must be removed. Using tape to cover jewellery is not acceptable.
  • Under-shorts worn by players, are to be of the same main colour as the shorts or the colour of the shorts trim. If undergarments (shirts) are worn, the colour must be the same main colour as the playing kit. If a long sleeved under garment is worn the sleeve colour must be the same colour as the sleeve of the short sleeved shirt.
  • Please note that under garments and thermal shorts may contain clothing manufacturer’s marks but must not exceed an area of 20 square centimetres and must not be visible outside playing kit during the period of a match.
  • Match Officials are also to incorporate a footwear inspection into the pre-match safety check of players’ equipment. This will take place in the tunnel immediately prior to the game.

The Football Association have offered the following guidelines:

“When inspecting footwear officials are to be alert to the possibility of the edge of the blade developing rough areas on either the plastic or metal used in their construction."

Remember, player safety should be at the forefront of your mind when checking player equipment

The Laws of the Game and FIFA instructions indicate that any player requiring treatment must be given such treatment off the field of play, with the least delay possible being made in the progress of the match.

Referees must follow the instruction below when dealing with injured players:

  • Play is allowed to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in their opinion, only slightly injured
  • Play is stopped if, in their opinion, a player is seriously injured or receives a head injury
  • After stopping play for a serious injury or when recognising the need for medical attention to a player the Referee authorises up to two medical representatives to enter the field of play to assess the injury only and arrange for the player’s safe and swift removal from the field of play
  • Any player bleeding from a wound must leave the field of play. They may not return until the Referee or, if appropriate, 4th Official (where appointed) is satisfied that the bleeding has stopped
  • An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has started
  • If play has not otherwise been stopped for another reason, or if an injury suffered by a player is not the result of a breach of the laws of the game, the Referee restarts play with a dropped ball

For detailed guidelines, please see the 'Treatment of Injuries Guidance' Document below. 

Matches are abandoned for a number of reasons, the main ones being, floodlight failure / power cut, adverse weather (including fog), serious injury and public / player disorder. Prior to reaching a decision the Referee must consider the following:

Power failure

  • Discuss with the Home Club to determine the extent of damage or downtime

Adverse weather

  • The possibility of an improvement, use of the local forecast/weather centre is advised
  • If possible, players should be taken off the field of play until such time a final decision is made as to whether to continue or abandon
  • The safety of players and spectators is paramount

Serious Injury or Incident

  • The extent and seriousness of the injury / incident
  • The feelings of both sets of players and management
  • The length of any delay

Public / Player disorder

  • The degree of disorder, either crowd or player
  • The safety of the players and / or spectators prior to any possible re-start

Under all these circumstances the Referee’s decision is final, therefore it is vital that he considers all factors prior to abandoning a match. Consultation and communication are the key factors.

Related Articles

View All