These guidelines contain practical advice for match officials which supplements the information in the Laws of the Game section.

Reference is made in Law 5 to referees operating within the framework of the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’. Referees are expected to use common sense and to apply the ‘spirit of the game’ when applying the Laws of the Game, especially when making decisions relating to whether a match takes place and/or continues.

This is especially true for the lower levels of football where it may not always be possible for the Law to be strictly applied. For example, unless there are safety issues, the referee should allow a game to start/continue if:

  • one or more corner flags are missing

  • there is a minor inaccuracy with the markings on the field of play such as the corner area, centre circle etc.

  • the goalposts/crossbar are not white

In such cases, the referee should, with the agreement of the teams, play/continue the match and must submit a report to the appropriate authorities.


  • AR = assistant referee

  • AAR = additional assistant referee