Fredrick is a freelance sports writer and soccer analyst. He specializes in football news and after-match analysis for sports portals.
If you are a football fan, you definitely know the work of a referee in a match. If you are usually keen on the match official, you will agree with me that their work entails numerous signals that make you wonder what they mean.
In this article, I will describe 23 signals performed by a soccer referee and their assistants. I will also include images to help you easily understand the signals which are usually accompanied by a whistle.
1. Raising One Hand
There are a number of incidents that a referee raises one hand. The most popular ones are to signal a kick-off, end of the game, start/stop time, and indirect free kick.
2. Hand Horizontal and Pointing Forward
This means a direct free kick and allows a player (from the fouled team) to kick the ball directly to the goal. It also signals a new start from the center of the field.
3. Both Hands Horizontal and Running
Dubbed "advantage" in football, this signals the player with the ball to keep playing after a less serious foul.
4. Raising Both Hands
This is a signal for a goal or to show another success in the field, for instance, a goalkeeper saving a penalty.
5. Crossing Hands
This is a signal for disallowing a goal, especially when there is a disagreement in the field.
6. Showing Yellow Card
This is a form of warning to a player who has committed a foul or has broken other football rules. It can also be given to a coach.
7. Showing Red Card
Given after a second yellow card or sometimes handed straight (if it is a serious foul), a red card dismisses a player or even a coach from a football match.
8. Pointing to a Corner
This is for a corner kick which is given when an opposing player kicks the ball out of the field especially in the direction of their goal.
9. Pointing Downwards Towards Goal Area
The referee points at this area to signal a penalty kick (or goal kick) which is given when an attacking player (or opposing player) is fouled in the area.
10. Raising a Flag
Done by an assistant referee, this shows an offside which is when an attacking player receives the ball in front of the second-last opponent (goalkeeper included).
11. Pointing Using a Flag
This is also performed by an assistant referee and shows the direction to play the ball after it goes out of the field.
12. Raising Both Hands With a Flag
The assistant referee does this to tell the main referee about a substitution, which is when a player is replaced by another.
13. Raising Both Hands and Crossing Them
This shows time-out and it signals the players to take a break or other officials to make a substitution.
14. Both Hands on the Chest
When a referee does this, it means that there was an obstruction. One player stood or came in the way of another in a wrong way.
15. Touching One Hand
This signals a handball which happens when the ball comes into contact with a player’s hand, except that of a goalkeeper. It can also be a way to show other match officials to start or stop their clocks.
16. Both Hands In Front of the Chest
When you see this signal, you should know that there is a player who pushed another, and therefore, committed a foul.
17. Showing the Elbow
When a player hits another with the elbow (whether accidental or intentional), the referee shows this signal.
18. Raising One Leg
There are a number of things that this signal shows but the most common include kicking, tripping, and clipping as offenses. Sometimes the referee may point at the raised leg also to show these offenses have been committed.
19. One Palm Facing Up and the Other Down
This is a signal for an illegal dribbling which is a soccer play that threatens the opposing players.
20. Hands on the Hips
When you see a referee with their hand on the hips, you should know that one player blocked another.
21. Pointing at a Player While Talking
This is usually a warning after a less serious foul or when some players are disagreeing with the referee’s decision.
22. Touching Headset and Drawing Square in the Air
The referee touches their headset to listen carefully to other match officials. On the other hand, they draw a square in the air to show that they want to consult the virtual assistant referee (VAR) or even to disallow a goal.
23. Raising the Referee Board
This is done by a match official (not the match’s referees), and it shows the players to be substituted or the added time.
Now you have it. Watching a football match is enjoyable but it is more enjoyable when you know everything that happens in the field including the referee signals. If you wish to expand your knowledge further on football, you can check out this article on common football abbreviations and what they mean.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Fredrick aka JS