Dual System of Control

Published on November 4, 2014


By  John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer Referee. However, any soccer Referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.

All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on the dual system of control.

Many officials who work at the intercollegiate level also officiate amateur and even professional soccer.  During these games the officials assigned are required to use the diagonal system of control.  Being assigned as an assistant referee means the official must run up and down the touch line and assist the referee with game control by indicating the ball in and out of play, offside. and assist with foul recognition and overall game control.

On occasion, an official who primarily works the diagonal system of control is asked to officiate an interscholastic game where the dual system of control is used.  This means that the official must change how he/she runs up and down the field and overall positioning on various plays.

The dual system of control provides for two officials on the field with whistles.  While the NFHS Rule Book indicates that one official is the head official, both officials have equal jurisdiction on the field during play.  One is the lead official as play comes toward him/her and the other is the trail.  This changes as the play reverses.  This means that the two officials must be able to work together to ensure that foul recognition is consistent and the game is controlled so that the players and fans may have an enjoyable experience.  When one official is closer to play, he/she normally has primary responsibility for recognizing a foul or issuing a caution or ejection.  Making a call from a distance away when the play is near the other official leads to dissent and possible game control problems.  This  is especially so if the official who was not near the play issues a caution or ejection to the player who was very near the other official.  The near official’s credibility is challenged and future decisions will more than likely be questioned.

The second aspect of working the dual system requires the officials to move away from the touch line and on to the field when the play is across the field.  Assistant referees remain on the touch line but during a dual system the official must be able to “pinch in” to get closer to play and “box” the play with his/her partner.  This is especially so when the play is deep in the corner near the other official.  The trail official must pinch into an area that is almost in the middle of the field so that they can assist with any crosses or reversal of play.

The trail official in a dual system must be able to go as far as possible into the lead official’s half of the field to assist.  At the same time the trail official must be ready to reverse direction and be able to position himself/herself to deal with offside.  In other words, the official must sprint back while stile observing play and obtain a position even with the second from the last defender so offside can be judged properly.  The official must recognize his/her physical limitations but must not use that as an excuse as to not getting close to play.

There are several positions that officials in the dual system must be aware of on restarts and the start of play.  When the game is to begin, the lead official takes a position even with the second to the last defender and the trail official starts play by being near the halfway line and on the field of play.  During dynamic play the officials move up and down the field as described above and work as a team.  When a foul is awarded the lead official moves up to judge offside and the trail official moves down as far as possible to observe the free kick.  On a corner kick, the lead official takes a position on the goal line near the edge of the penalty area while the trail official moves up to the opposite far edge of the penalty area.  This allows both officials to have a clear view of the corner kick and any possible infractions.  In this instance the trail official must be ready to deal with a quick reversal of play and get back into position to see the play and judge offside.

The above positioning tips are not meant to be all inclusive.  These are only a few tips about positioning when working a game that requires the dual system of control.  If an official has not worked a dual system for awhile, he/she should review the positions and mechanics required so that the game is properly controlled.

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