How Many Officials Are There In A Soccer Game? (Quick Read)

Soccer is a popular sport all around the world. It is enjoyed by many different cultures and nationalities and it really brings people together to enjoy a good match. 

When it comes to the game itself, there are many different roles that need filling outside of the actual soccer team. 

_How Many Officials Are There in a Soccer Game (Quick Read)

One of the most important of these roles is the head referee. He is the top dog on the pitch and any choice or decision he makes directly affects if the team wins or loses. 

There are also other referees and officials involved in a soccer game, but exactly how many officially are there per game? 

In this article, we will be looking into it and answering that question! 

How Many Officials Actually Are There In A Soccer Game?

Though it might look like there are quite a few officials scattered around the pitch, there are actually only four officials per game. 

They consist of the Head Referee, two Assistant Referees, and the final one who is referred to as the Fourth Offical. 

Each of the four officials is in charge of different aspects of the game and together they keep everything about the match and the players organized. 

Roles of The Match Officials

To understand a bit more about the four officials that make up the referee team in a soccer match, we will be going over their roles and responsibilities in this section of the article: 

1. Head Referee

Starting off at the top, the Head Referee is in charge of overseeing and enforcing the rules of the game in play. 

Soccer matches can get quite heated, sometimes resulting in an argument or even a fight.

Sometimes something can happen in a match and only a few players actually see it, such as an unfair tackle or the ball going offside and the Head Referee is there to ensure that the game is being played as fairly as possible with as little violence. 

The Head Referee’s main duties include: 

  • Assessing and judging fouls and penalty appeals
  • Deciding if any risk factors mean the game needs to be halted or completely stopped, such as severe weather. 
  • Issuing Yellow and Red cards to any players that are breaking the rules of the game, or playing too dangerously. 

The Head Referee also keeps track of the time and keeps any notes of time that needs to be added on to the end of the match. 

2. Assistant Referees

A referee team usually consists of two Assistant Referees. They are there to make the Head Referee’s job easier as one man cannot see every little detail and action that happens on the pitch. 

You can find the Assistant Referees on either side of the touchline. They help the Head Referee make any decisions by giving their input based on what they’ve seen, but ultimately, the Head Referee has the final say. 

Some of the Assistant Referees’ duties include: 

  • Determining if a goalkeeper moved off the goal line before the taking of a penalty kick. 
  • Indicating and alerting the Head Referee, other players, and other officials when a player has strayed offside. They have different colored linesman flags which will indicate this to those who know from a distance. 
  • Signaling when the ball has left the field and is out of bounds for a goal kick, corner kick, or throw-in. 

Having the Assistant Referees really helps the Head Referee in making calm and correct decisions. Having three Referees in full view of the action of the pitch makes the decisions more reliable and fairer. 

3. The Fourth Offical

Finally, we have the fourth official. This is the newest position of all the official types and their primary job is to keep everything calm and organized while the other officials watch the main bulk of the game.

Soccer can be quite intense and tempers can flare up really easily, especially when the game is getting heated. The Fourth Offical keeps the players’ manners in check and supervises substitutes.

Some of the Fourth Officials duties are: 

  • Indicating extra time at the end of the halves (usually with an electronic sign that has numbers on it).
  • Checking and inspecting the substitute’s equipment and making sure it is all correct and regulated. 
  • Supervising player substitutions, giving the go-ahead for the substitutions, and letting the ref know to stop play when the ball next goes out of the field so these subs can be made. 

Though they don’t spend much time on the pitch, the Fourth Offical is a key part of the game and act as the glue of the four officials, keeping them all together and keeping the players calm and collected. 

In some cases, the Fourth Offical is also the backup Head Referee. He will take the primary Head Referee’s position if he cannot fulfill his role for any reason. 

_How Many Officials Are There in a Soccer Game (Quick Read) (1)

How Many Officials Are Needed For A Game To Take Place?

The more heavily televised games and cups, such as the UEFA Champions League can have up to 5 officials present at all their games.

The lineup of officials usually includes the Head Referee, the two Assistant Referees, the Fourth Offical, and then a Video Assistant Referee. 

In the lower division cups, however, there sometimes aren’t even four officials. Sometimes there are only three.

It depends on the games and cups themselves. The heavily televised games usually have lots of officials and coverage in comparison to the less known and local games. 


So overall, the standard number of officials that are in a soccer game is four: the Head Referee, two Assistant Referees, and the Fourth Offical. 

Each of these roles is crucial to the match and helps to keep the game fair and the judgment accurate. 

Each of the officials’ roles works hand in hand with each other which means the Head Referee doesn’t have to worry about being in a dozen places at once. With each official focusing on their role, the game runs smoothly and without too much hassle. 

Next time you watch a match, keep an eye out for the four officials and watch them work their magic on the pitch! 

Steven Anderson