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Return to Play Guidelines for Referees


The Assignment:
• You are not required to accept any game. As an independent contractor, you are not required to accept a game. It is your choice, and you should take into consideration your comfort level.
• Be conscious when accepting game assignments and do not accept a game if you are experiencing any symptoms.
• If you decline a game, be respectful to the assignor and notify them as soon as possible to allow time for a replacement.
• If you start to exhibit COVID symptoms after accepting a game, be in communication with your assignor and consider if you should decline the game at that time.
• If you are the assignor, please be understanding if a referee declines a game due to health concerns.

Before the Game:
• Before leaving for the field, Referees should ask themselves the following questions:
1. Have you knowingly come into contact with anyone who has, is being tested for, or is exhibiting signs of coronavirus? (Yes or No)
2. Are you exhibiting any of the following symptoms which are not caused by any other condition? (Yes or No)
• Fever or chills • Shortness of breath • Difficulty breathing • Fatigue • Muscle or body aches • Headache • New loss of taste or smell • Sore throat • Congestion or runny nose• Nausea or vomiting • Diarrhea

Suppose the referee answers yes to any of these questions. In that case, they should notify their assignor and refrain from officiating the game.

Personal Stations for referees
• The referee crew should set up their belongings in an area away from all others while maintaining 6-ft/2-yd space from each other
• Referees should not bring any unnecessary belongings to the field.
• Referees are expected to arrive at the field fully dressed. Gold referee jersey is the recommended color to avoid clashing. In case of a conflict with the teams, alternate color jerseys should be on hand.
• Assistant referees are expected to bring their flags to the field. The flags don’t need to match each other.
• Referee equipment should not be shared, but it should be sanitized before and after the match.
• Wear a mask at all times during the pre-game and post-game duties.
• Wear a mask as much as possible during the match.
• If you are not able to physically complete your duties while wearing a mask (breathing, etc.), lower your mask when necessary
• Use of electronic whistle is optional; lower mask to blow the whistle if needed (be aware that some participants in the game will struggle to hear the electronic whistle at times).
• Referees MUST carry hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for their personal use.
• During the referee crew pre-game discussion, continue to maintain 6-ft/2-yd space and ensure all COVID-19 protocols.

Field and Equipment Inspection:

• Referees should still walk the field. Visual inspection only of the goals, nets, and flags. If any item needs to be fixed or removed, notify the home team as soon as possible.
• The referee should inspect all game balls, but without handling them. For better efficiency, it is recommended there be more than one game ball. Referees are NOT BE RESPONSIBLE for sanitizing the game balls.

Player Check-In: Rosters

• If possible, try to receive the roster or match report electronically ahead of time.
• If not, have the coach place the roster at the end of the bench to minimize close contact.
• Leagues that require player passes and pictures printed on the rosters. Then have the coach (or team manager) read the player passes, AND HAVE THE PLAYER STEP FORWARD
• Uniform/Jewelry checks –should be visual check only maintaining proper physical distance between referee and players.

Coin Toss:

• No coin toss. While maintaining 6-ft space, the Home team picks the direction to attack. Away team gets kick-off.
• No player walkouts or handshakes prior or after the game OR OTHER PHYSICAL CONTACT

During the Game:

Technical Area (bench) and all others, COVID-19 protocol expects all players, team officials, and spectators to maintain at least a 6 -10 ft. distance from the touchline, dependent on the facility.
• This is NOT the referee crew’s responsibility to maintain.
• Communicate with the coaches if anyone is not maintaining the proper distance from the touchline.
• If the problem persists, have a conversation with the entire crew and both coaches to resolve the issue.
• If the referee crew does not feel safe because proper distancing by spectators from the crew is not followed, you can end the match due to safety concerns.
• Try to maintain recommended distancing during the match.
• Drop Ball, no referee handling, ensure all except one player maintain a 4.5 yd. distance from the ball and restart with a whistle.
• Penalty kicks –do not handle the ball. Monitor the placement of the ball on the mark by the kicker.
• Medical Situations –
• Remain 6 ft. away from the injured player while determining if medical attention is needed.
• If so, the team trainer or a coach from the player’s team should attend to the injured player.


• Masks should be worn during halftime.
• Referees should maintain proper distancing during the halftime conversation.
• It is recommended referees use hand sanitizer and sanitize all referee equipment again during halftime.

After the Game:

• No handshakes, fist bumps, or high fives after the game; they can be replaced with a wave.
• If a coach’s signature is required on the match report, lay the report on the bench and back up, allowing the coach to sign.
• If you are required to leave a match report for the team(s), leave it at the end of the team bench.
• When debriefing with the referee crew, find a space where everyone can be seen and heard while allowing proper distancing.
• If working multiple games, wipe down and sanitize your equipment between your matches.
• Once the game is over and the crew has debriefed, leave the field. Do not congregate around the field. • Should you encounter any difficulty implementing these protocols, please complete a supplemental report and notify your assignor.
• Assignors, please notify the proper club administrators if a referee crew should encounter any problems implementing the protocols.
• For contact tracing purposes, if a referee is to test positive for COVID after a match, they need to notify the assignor immediately. The assignor will be responsible for notifying the appropriate club official.

• Courtesy of USSF: USSF Phase 3: Additional Health & Safety Protocol for Referees (page 7 & 8).
• Courtesy of CNRA: “Return to Play Recommendations):
• Courtesy of Washington Soccer Referees:
• Courtesy of Cal-South:

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)