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A referee (right) making a decision during the match IsraelAndorra in the McDOS Goffertstadion

A referee presides over a game of association football. The referee has "full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed" (Law 5), and the referee's decisions regarding facts connected with play are final, so far as the result of the game is concerned.

The referee is assisted by two assistant referees (formerly known as linesmen), and in some matches also by a fourth official. In 2006, the appointment of a fifth official also became possible, due to implementation by FIFA. The match officials utilise a positioning system known as the diagonal system of control.

The vast majority of referees are amateur, though they are usually paid a small fee and/or expenses for their services. However, in some countries a limited number of referees – who mainly officiate in their country's top division – are employed full-time by their national associations and receive a retainer at the start of every season plus match fees.

Referees are licensed and trained by the same National organizations that are members of FIFA. Each National organization recommends its top officials to FIFA to have the additional honor of being named a FIFA official. International games between National teams require FIFA officials. Otherwise, the local National organization determines the manner of training, ranking and advancement of officials from the youngest youth games through professional matches.


Powers and duties

The referee now carries a yellow card and a red card, to indicate the booking for misconduct; either a caution or send-off of a player. This was introduced by Ken Aston.

The referee's powers and duties are described by Law 5 of the Laws of the Game.[1] These include:


  • stopping, suspending or terminating the match, at his discretion, for any infringements of the Laws;
  • stopping, suspending or terminating the match because of outside interference of any kind;
  • stopping the match if, in his opinion, a player is seriously injured and ensuring that he is removed from the field of play. An injured player may only return to the field of play after the match has restarted;
  • allowing play to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is, in his opinion, only slightly injured.
  • allowing play to continue when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from such an advantage and penalises the original offence if the anticipated advantage does not ensue at that time.
  • taking disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable and sending-off offences. He is not obliged to take this action immediately but must do so when the ball next goes out of play.
  • taking action against team officials who fail to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and may, at his discretion, expel them from the field of play and its immediate surrounds.


  • enforcing the Laws of the Game;
  • controlling the match in co-operation with the assistant referees and, where applicable, with the fourth official;
  • ensuring that any ball used meets the requirements of Law 2;
  • ensuring that the players' equipment meets the requirements of Law 4;
  • acting as timekeeper and keeping a record of the match;
  • ensuring that any player bleeding from a wound leaves the field of play. The player may only return on receiving a signal from the referee, who must be satisfied that the bleeding has stopped.
  • punishing the more serious offence when a player commits more than one offence at the same time.
  • acts on the advice of the assistant referees regarding incidents that he has not seen.
  • ensuring that no unauthorised persons enter the field of play.
  • indicating the restart of the match after it has been stopped.
  • providing the appropriate authorities with a match report, which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players and/or team officials and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the match.

Whistle use

warming up

Referees use a whistle to indicate the commencement or restart of play, to stop or delay play due to an infringement or injury, or to indicate that time has expired in the half. The whistle is an important tool for the Referee along with verbal, body and eye communication. The use of whistles is not mandated by the Laws of the Game.

In fact, the whistle was not mentioned in the Laws of the Game (LOTG) until very recently. The main LOTG simply mentions the referee should signal certain events. Only in 2007, when the IFAB greatly expanded the LOTG Additional Instructions section, did they mention the whistle. In fact, they wrote up a full page of advice on how and when the whistle should be used as a communication and control mechanisms by the Referee.

Before the introduction of the whistle, referees indicated their decisions by waving a handkerchief. The whistles that were first adopted by referees were made by Joseph Hudson at Mills Munitions in Birmingham, England. The ACME Whistle Company (based at Mills Munitions Factory) first began to mass produce pea whistles in the 1870s for the Metropolitan Police Service. It is frequently stated the referee's whistle was first used in a game between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Norfolk in 1878; however no such fixture is known to have taken place between the two clubs in that year.


Modern era Italian league referee's uniform. The shirt includes two chest pockets for the storage of cards

Modern day referees and their assistants wear a uniform consisting of a jersey, shorts and socks: until the 1950s it was more common for a referee to wear a blazer than a jersey. Traditionally that uniform was almost always all black, unless one of the teams was wearing a very dark jersey in which case the referee would wear another colour of jersey (usually red) to distinguish himself from both teams. At the 1994 World Cup finals, new jerseys were introduced that gave officials a choice of burgundy, yellow or white, and at the same time the creation of the FA Premier League in England saw referees wear green jerseys: both changes were motivated by television considerations. Since then, most referees have worn either yellow or black, but the colours and styles adopted by individual associations vary greatly. For international contests under the supervision of FIFA, Adidas uniforms are worn because Adidas is the current sponsor. FIFA allows referees to wear five colours: black, red, yellow, blue and green. Along with the jersey, referees are required to wear black shorts, black socks (with white stripes in some cases), and black shoes.

Uniform In England

In England the Football Association governs the uniforms that english referees are allowed to wear. This is limited to that all referees that officiate in levels below the Premier League, The Football League and Leagues with Contributory Status must wear a black uniform with white collars and cuffs.

"All registered referees officiating in Competitions under the jurisdiction of The Football Association and County Football Association’s must wear uniforms comprising traditional plain black shirts, with white collars (and cuffs, if worn) and black socks."

Referees in the Premier League, The Football League and Leagues with Contributory Status, are given speical dispentation to wear the current sponsored PGMO kit which is designed for use in the English Premier League.

"The following Competitions may be excepted from the above, on application subject to the conditions below:- The F. A. Premier League, The Football League, Competitions of Panel and Contributory League status"

The current supplier of the Premier League kit is Umbro who have had the deal since 2007, controversy was created when the newest kit released this year was released as it did not incorporate the traditional white collar, which also meant it could not be used below supply level for referees. The new kit was seen as a step backwards by many referees and the previous edition of the kit, 'Umbro Wembley' is still seen as the best current kit out at the moment.


Referees in football are first described by Richard Mulcaster in 1581[2]. In this description of "foteball" he advocates the use of a "judge over the parties". In the modern era, referees are first advocated in English public school football games, notably Eton football in 1845[3] A match report from Rochdale in 1842 shows their use in a football game between the Bodyguards club and the Fearnought Club[4].

See also


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