Touchline Obstruction and Interference
One of the biggest challenges facing assistant referees, especially in youth games, is to secure and keep a clear and unobstructed view of the touchline from one end of the field to the other.
Whether the spectators are located on one side and the team benches or on the other each team is stationed on the same side as its fans, the assistant referees are faced with constant interference and obstruction of the touchline they are responsible for.
The area two to three yards wide immediately alongside the entire length of each touchline should ALWAYS be free of coaches, coaching staff, substitutes, spectators and equipment.
Assistant referees and players should be the only ones allowed in that space during a match. Assistant referees must have an unobstructed view of the entire length of the touchline so they can make clear decisions as the ball leave the field. Throughout the match players need the space so that they can perform throw-ins, corner kicks and substitutions. During play, players are allowed to step off the field (which is allowed in soccer) and immediately return to the field without having to find their way between or through obstacles standing in their way.
The presence of unauthorized people in these areas prevents assistant referees, and players in some instances, from playing the game or doing their job without interference. Interference with the players and assistant referees within that “restricted space” can lead to challenges, and possible injuries.
When people are allowed to stray into these areas and the referee and assistant referees are not proactive in addressing the situation as soon as it arises, they are allowing the intruders to obstruct the view of the assistant referees and interfere with the players’ right to have the use of that space. It is the referee team’s responsibility and right to make sure that the area be kept clear during the entire match. Once the situation arises and the officials have repeatedly requested the intruders to refrain from encroaching into the area, it is fair and reasonable to expect that the referee can stop the match and issue cautions as deserved.