In the world of football, the dugout or technical area is the space that the coach and his assistants are allowed to occupy during the course of a match. These persons may stand or sit, as this area contains the bench, part of which is normally occupied by the substitutes and technical staff.
The Pittodrie Stadium, home of Aberdeen Football Club, a Scottish professional football club, was the first football stadium to have a technical area. In fact, the dugouts were installed by coach Donald Colman in the 1920s. He wanted to get as close as possible to the playing area so that he could better observe his players, and the installation of a technical area was a good way to achieve this. Until then, this action had to be carried out from the stands, which was certainly a challenge for the eyes.
The technical area is usually delimited by a white line, which may vary in size, but according to the rules of football it must always be one metre on either side of the area that has been designated for the bench, and may extend up to one metre from the sideline. Coaches may not cross the sideline during the course of a match, nor may substitute players warming up on the sidelines. The fourth official is the person in charge of restricting the passage of both players, so he must be vigilant to ensure that they do not come too close to the sidelines.
As mentioned above, the technical area or dugout may vary in size between stadiums, but also in location, as the rules of the game allow. It is advisable to use markings to delimit the technical area. The number of people allowed to occupy the technical area is defined by the competition rules. The assistant referee must check that the number of occupants on both benches is the same as the number of authorised persons: substitute players and coaching staff.
Therefore, each team’s bench is occupied by: the coach, the assistant coach, the assistant coach, the doctor, the physical trainer, the goalkeeping coach, the physiotherapist, the goalkeeper, the goalkeeper’s assistant and the substitute players, although it may also be occupied by substituted players, provided they are still wearing their team kit. All of these persons are required to identify themselves just before the match starts, as stated in the competition rules.
Thus, access to the technical area is totally restricted to all persons who have not been previously authorised, as well as to the space between the sidelines that serves as a boundary between the spectators’ fence and the pitch and to those areas that are only authorised to be occupied by photographers, journalists and other media, who must always provide their accreditation to gain access to these areas.
Players are also not permitted to receive medical attention near the dugouts. Only those personnel required to attend to or assess the condition of an injured player may leave the technical area and enter the field of play, i.e. only in special circumstances, but always with the referee’s permission.
Persons in the technical area may not throw balls onto the field of play with the intention of disrupting the normal course of a football match. The offender may be sent off, even if he or she is the team coach, as may anyone who engages in inappropriate behaviour, especially protests directed against the performance of the referees.
Therefore, both the coach and the other occupants of the bench must behave in a responsible manner, thus setting a good example for other teams and fans to follow. The person who has been sent off the bench must go immediately to the changing rooms, i.e. he may not watch the match even from the stands, with the exception of the doctors and physiotherapists, who, although they cannot sit on the bench in this case, may watch from the stands and even provide their services if required, always with the referee’s permission as mentioned above.
Requests for player substitutions must always be made from the bench area. Furthermore, only one person is authorised to give technical instructions, and once these have been transmitted, he must return immediately to his position. In Spain, this is the job of the coach alone.