Soccer Referee and Assistant Referee Signals



Soccer Referees and Assistant Referees give visual signals to communicate with players, coaches, and spectators about their decisions.  Visual signals teach multiple aspects of the game and educate everyone to the functions of the referees.  The presentation below is a compilation of international, collegiate, high school, and youth signals as used in the United States.

Soccer Referee

Soccer Referee


Goal Scored (Option #1) – [traditional American-football style] both arms briefly raised overhead


Goal Scored (Option #2) – [international style] turn and point with one arm toward the center mark and start moving briskly to the center circle


Goal Scored (Option #3) – [#1 and #2 in sequence] both arms briefly raised overhead, then point to the center mark (Recommended)


Offside – both hands to respective hips


Tripping – move one leg forward and out slightly into the air


Striking – move elbow from side toward rear and back


Jumping – move arm overhead then down (like a train engineer pulling their whistle cord)


Handling – right hand moved slightly forward and back while touching left forearm


Holding – right hand grasps left wrist


Pushing – open palms moved from chest out


Charging – right hand to left-upper-arm, then elbow moved toward rear


Goalkeeper Carrying Ball – open hands circled around each other


Dangerous Play – both arms straight raised from sides at 45-degree angle


Ball Dead – arm up, open palm directed like a “stop signal” toward kicker or thrower; keep the arm up the entire time while ball is dead


“My Time” – both arms overhead and crossed at the wrists (play is stopped due to a substitution or an injury, or due to an “outside event” such as an extra ball or a dog on the field; do not use the term “time-out.”)


Resume Play – noticeably drop arm from “Ball Dead” position down to side


Free Kick – arm straight out pointing in the direction of the goal the kicking team is attacking


Indirect Free Kick – one arm held straight up until kick is taken


Substitution OR Play Stopped (Referee Tme) – hands crossed over head two times (then wave in subs or hold until stoppage ends)


Substitute(s) May Enter – right hand, open palm, waved in front of shoulder then toward shoulder, twice


Corner Kick – point to the correct corner arc with arm 45-degree angle down


Goal Kick – simultaneously point with one hand to goal area and with the other hand out into the field


Impeding – Clasp both palms to chest


Play-On – one-arm underarm swing (no foul or infringement is being called)


Advantage (is being applied) – two-arms underarm swing or two arms outstretched low


Soccer Referee Advantage Signal


Unsporting Conduct – hand placed behind head


Foul Throw (Unequal Hands) – imitate throwing ball with the force of only one hand (with an incorrect motion, one arm moved dramatically forward while the other is held back)


Foul Throw (Feet) – imitate throwing ball while lifting one leg backward


Penalty Kick – point to the Penalty Mark


Caution (Yellow Card) – hold the yellow card with the arm fully extended directly overhead (book the offender)


Ejection (Red Card) – hold the red card with the arm fully extended directly overhead (book the offender)


Booking – write down team (color), jersey number, caution or ejection, time, reason


Location for Defensive Wall – hold arm straight out, with palm facing the defenders, directly above 10-yard line (ensure defenders move back; return to a proper position; and then, when ready, drop the arm as in “Resume Play”)


Drop ball – hold ball below waist and then pull hand out from underneath



While running along the sideline, the flag is to be kept at the side, pointed down toward the ground.

AR - Flag Down While Running

AR – Flag Down While Running


Goal Kick – standing in line with the “six,” point the flag into the field


Corner Kick – point to the base of the corner flag while standing near the end line

AR - Corner Kick

Assistant Referee soccer Corner Kick signal.


Foul, Misconduct, or Infringement – twirl the flag directly overhead; after the whistle is blown, point the flag to the spot on the field where the foul occurred (if the whistle is not blown, take the flag down)


Throw-in (ball out of play) – point the flag straight up and then point the flag up the sideline, with the arm at a 45-degree angle, in the attacking direction of the throwing team

AR - Ball Out (Throw-in)

AR – Ball Out (Throw-in)


Substitution – with both arms overhead, hold the flag with one hand at each end until the substitution has been properly completed


Offside – hold the flag straight up overhead when the infraction occurs (if the whistle is not blown, take the flag down); after the whistle is blown, point the flag into the field according to the following locations:

      • Offside Location Near – 45-degree angle down
      • Offside Location Middle – 90-degrees (straight out)
      • Offside Location Far – 45-degree angle up

See the presentation:  Club Soccer Referee Program

© Copyright, John C. Harves