Referee Responsibilities

General Referee Tasks and Responsibilities


  • Check your BAYS assignments on the Web and your email regularly.
  • Get to the field early -- at least 30 minutes before the scheduled kick-off time. Use this time to walk the field (if a game isn't already in progress). Look for dangers such as broken glass, holes in the ground, unanchored goals, loose goal nets, puddles, etc. The home team coach, or home club field supervisor should be advised of field problems in time to have them fixed, preferably without delaying the kick-off.

Reminder: If the home club field supervisor has closed the field for use that day, you must accept that decision, and no game (not even a scrimmage) may be played. His responsibility is to protect the field.

  • If the field supervisor has not closed the field for use, you still can decide the field is unplayable. Your responsibility here is to protect the players. Safety First.
  • Introduce yourself to each team's head coach. State your name clearly. Don't spend more time chatting with one team than the other.
  • Get two team rosters from each coach and the pass cards for all coaches. KEEP the coaches’ pass cards until after the game. 
  • If a coach has only one copy of his roster, you may begin the game if the other coach agrees to waive his right to a copy. 
  • Check the players' names against the roster, and if player pass cards have been issued to the team (MTOC eligible and high school age teams), check those too and keep them until after the game. If a player is not listed on the roster, he or she may not play. If a coach tells you that someone on the other team can’t play, tell the coach to take that up with the BAYS division director. 
  • Write your name in the space provided under 'Referee' on each roster. Give a copy to the coach of the other team (if you have two copies), but keep one copy from each team for yourself. 
  • Each team must have a coach present with a valid BAYS coaching card (including a sticker for the current year). If no one has a valid coach’s card for a team, do not start the game. 
  • Check players for proper equipment, shirt numbers, shin pads under stockings. No jewelry may be worn by any player -- with two possible exceptions: Medic-Alert medallions, and items with religious significance to the player. Even these exceptions must be worn in a safe manner, not endangering any other player. Earrings absolutely can not be worn by any player on the field, even if covered with tape. They are dangerous. Don’t insist that the player take them off, only insist that they not play if the earrings are in.
  • Late arrival - If both teams have the minimum required number of players at kick-off time, don't wait for the full team, start the game. If either team has fewer than the minimum required (8 for 11v11 games; 7 for 9v9 games; 6 for 7v7), there is a grace period of 15 minutes to wait for the minimum number of players. 
  • When that deadline arrives and the players haven't, decide whether to play a 'friendly' game between the two teams, or to just skip the whole thing. Make sure both coaches know that the outcome of such a 'friendly' game cannot be used in the standings. And put down what happened in your game report.


  • Treat every game as important -- it surely is important to the players. Try to hustle, and make a good show of participating in the game -- but never try to be the star. Assume that you are being observed in every game by a local club or a BAYS official; that way you will never be surprised when someone does observe you.
  • Use your whistle, your voice, your presence, your eyes, and your cards to control the game. If you see a foul, wait a half-second to be sure that what you think you saw really happened, and was not trivial, in the context of this game. Then, decide if you should signal 'play on' for advantage or blow your whistle and restart with a free kick.
  • Remember, you are the referee. If you don't punish foul play, one of two bad things will happen -- foul play will spread, or the players will punish their opponents when your back is turned.
  • Don't be too quick to award a penalty kick. And don't be reluctant to award one whenever a major direct kick foul by the defense occurs in their penalty area while the ball is in play. Wait a second or two to see if the attacking team can score despite the foul. Remember, a goal is better than a penalty kick.
  • Every game needs a halftime interval -- usually five minutes. On a cold day, four minutes may be better; on a very hot and humid day seven or eight minutes may be best. Don't skip halftime -- the players need it, and so do you.
  • Anticipate that play in the second half may be very different from that in the first half. More is at stake, and there is less time remaining to win. Coaches will often change their game plan at the half. 
  • In a close game, you will need your best concentration in the last five minutes -- don't get overtired or 'tune out' then. This is when your preseason conditioning really pays off. The game will be on the line. Be There!
  • Injuries and bleeding: If any player is bleeding, blow your whistle and stop play. Have the bleeding player attended to in the bench area. Get a substitute in, and resume play. The player who was bleeding cannot come back into the game until you check that they are no longer bleeding. Insist that upon re-entry, they come to you to be inspected.
  • Consider any injury to a very young player to be serious. Stop play immediately. For older players, use your judgment to see if play can safely continue for a few seconds until the ball is in a good place for a restart (dropped ball) or the player rejoins the game. If they don’t get up promptly or if play will endanger them, blow your whistle and stop the game. If in any doubt, stop play right away.
  • If you believe any injured player has lost consciousness, however briefly, you must exclude that player from reentering the game. It doesn't matter what the coach thinks, what a parent or the player thinks.
  • If you stop play for bleeding or an injury, the restart must be a dropped ball.
  • Cautions and Yellow Cards: Use them sparingly. The seven reasons for issuing a caution appear under Law 12 in your USSF Laws of the Game. Simply put, you need to caution a player who is playing out of control, or cheating. Award a caution and show the Yellow Card to help restore control of the game. 
  • Ejections and Red Cards: Know the seven reasons for issuing a send-off under Law 12. The reasons are all consistent in that the game will be spoiled if this player stays in it.

Remember, two names accompany every ejection report -- the player (or coach) ejected, and the referee's. Don’t be too hasty to pull the Red Card. If you do eject someone, never change your mind after displaying the red card. An ejected player can not be substituted for. Follow up with a prompt ejection report to the BAYS Ejections Secretary, Joe D’Amico.


  • Shake hands with or wave at each coach, announce the final score, tell each of them "Nice game, coach"; don't be drawn into any discussions with anybody (except your referee assignor or a referee assessor). Return all the pass cards, unless you ejected somebody with a pass card. If you ejected someone, keep their pass card. If you have the next game on the same field, inspect the new teams and avoid contact with the previous two teams, their coaches, and their spectators. 
  • As soon as you can access a computer, access the BAYS Web site. Login and write up the game report. Report the final score and note any cautions or send-offs you awarded. (This is not your ejection report – see below) 
  • If there was a send-off / red card, contact Joe D’Amico–Ejections Secretary, when you get home. (E-mail[email protected] or telephone 781 251-9284.)
  • The ejections secretary will advise you on how to fill out the separate pink 'Ejection Report' (a postcard size form that is available from your local assignor) or how to report electronically via email.
  • The ejections secretary will also inform you as to how he wants you to send the pass card and ejection report to him. If there was a send-off, you may receive a follow-up telephone call from the ejections secretary, or some other BAYS officer, if more information is needed.
  • If there was a serious injury, an additional report form should be filled out: The Official USSF Referee Report plus Addendum. Your referee assignor can give you this form or it should be available on the Web. Its purpose, in case of serious injury to a participant, is to provide a factual basis for Mass. Youth Soccer back-up insurance to help pay for medical bills or lost time from school or work. You are not expected to be a medical expert, so just report what happened as far as you know. Your parents could help you with this form, if you are a youth referee.
  • Serious injury, would include any broken bone, twisted knee, or head injury that caused the player to leave the game for good and any injury for which an ambulance is summoned.

Safety First

Your most important duty as referee is to ensure the safety of the players. BAYS will always support your decisions whenever you are trying to protect the players.