By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer
In Play of the Week 25 we are discussing the responsibilities of assistant referees and the difficulties of when and what they have to prioritize.
The Laws of the Game list the duties of an AR as follows:
“Two assistant referees may be appointed whose duties, subject to the decision of the referee, are to indicate:
– When the whole of the ball leaves the field of play
– Which team is entitled to a corner kick, goal kick or throw-in
– When a player may be penalized for being in an offside position
– When a substitute is requested
– When misconduct or any other incident occurs out of view of the referee
– When offenses have been committed whenever the assistant referees have a better view than the referee (this includes, in certain circumstances, offenses committed in the penalty area)
– Whenever, at penalty kicks, the goalkeeper moves off the goal line before the ball is kicked and if the ball crosses the line”
In this play, from the New York Red Bulls versus New England Revolution game, as proceedings move over towards experienced AR Corey Rockwell, he has two decisions to make at the same time, both highlighted in the list of duties above.
He has to judge whether the whole of the ball leaves the field of play and whether a player should be penalized for being in an offside position.
You can see his attention moving quickly between the ball and the position of the offside player. You can see on the freeze frame (below) at the very moment when the Revs’ Juan Agudelo stops the ball from crossing the line and plays the ball forward, his team-mate Kei Kamara is in an offside position. When Kamara plays the ball, Rockwell immediately and confidently raises his flag.
This Play of the Week to any uninitiated observer may seem dull and straightforward but the skill of the AR in this situation cannot be understated. It actually defies ‘inattentional blindness’. Check out the clips below.
Studies have shown that the human brain can only focus on one event at a time.
This is an area where the referee also has to show heightened attention. If a foul occurs during this play, you cannot really expect Rockwell to see it. I hear on regular occasions when ARs have not signaled for a free kick in these situations, “it’s right in front of him and he doesn’t give it!” – this is so unfair on the AR.
ARs have to prioritize their duties. Ball out of play and offside should always take priority over misconduct and offenses. The referee may have that covered but ball out of play and offside decisions are primarily the responsibility of the AR.
In this play Rockwell knows this and multitasks between the ball potentially going out of play and the offside offense. At the very moment the ball is played, you can see that for a split second he is prioritizing on watching the ball before switching his attention immediately to the offside decision.
In summary, this is a great example of assistant refereeing at the highest level, showing the attributes that are required to be a world class AR. Concentration, awareness, alertness, prioritizing and, of course, multitasking.