In football, the referee is the person in charge of ensuring compliance with the rules of the game during the course of a match, which have been established by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA, as well as timing the duration of the match and recording everything that happens during the match. The referee can apply the rules before, during and after a match.
Their clothing must be of a different colour to that of the players taking part in the match. The referee is supported by two assistant referees, who are stationed on the touch lines. In professional football, there is also a fourth official, who replaces the other three men in the event of injury and is responsible for assisting the main referee by taking notes of substitutions, cautions and sending-offs of players.
Even if the ball is not on the field of play, the referee does not lose his powers, i.e. they start from the moment he enters the field of play until he leaves it, including breaks, stoppages and suspensions.
He is the highest sporting authority to direct matches, so players, coaches, officials and delegates must obey his orders and respect his decisions. He alone has the power to sanction and send off, and can only receive advice from the assistants and the fourth official in case of doubt, but the main referee will always have the final word.
Using his whistle, he starts and stops play. He also authorises the start of the match, the end of the first half, the end of the second half and injury time. He validates goals and signals fouls, and may caution or send off players if he considers them to have been violent or malicious, and also if they repeatedly infringe the rules.
The referee’s decisions are final, although he alone may change them if he considers that he has made a mistake or if he thinks it necessary, provided that play has not restarted or the match has not ended.
It is also the referee’s responsibility to ensure that the ball to be used complies with the requirements of the Laws of the Game. The referee may stop play in the event of a player sustaining an injury, giving permission for the medical attendants to enter the field of play and allowing the player to be transported off the field of play for further examination and treatment.
If a player suffers bleeding, the referee is responsible for signalling him to leave the field of play and he may only re-enter the field of play on his signal. He has the discretion to apply the law of advantage if he considers that the offending team benefits from the play.
Finally, the referee must not allow persons not involved in the game to enter the field of play, and once the match is over, he must submit a report with everything that happened, better known as the referee’s report, before, during and after the match to the competent authorities.