A Soccer Referee Can Change A Decision (When This Happens …)

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Ultimately whether a decision is to be made is down to the main referee at the time. However, during certain times within a game, the main referee’s assistants will often play a pivotal role in getting to the correct conclusion.

So, can a referee change the decision?

Yes, the referee may change their decision if they realize that the original decision was incorrect or on the advice of his assistant’s referees during the game.

Another way that the referee can change a decision is via the assistant referee or the controlling VAR referee. If the referee has decided on a penalty, however, once VAR intervenes and sees no foul, the referee can change his/her decision.

This article will discuss whether a referee can change his decision when other referees can influence it and what role VAR can play.

Soccer Referee and Assistants on The Field e1630091228140 ○ Soccer Blade
KYIV, UKRAINE – SEPTEMBER 8, 2014: Referee Craig Thomson of Scotland (2nd from the Right) and his assistants go to the pitch before UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifying game between Ukraine and Slovakia

When a referee change decisions

A referee can change his decision in several ways during a game. First is the classic “did the ball go over the line”.

Since the introduction of VAR, we have seen this happen more often during games.

When a player shoots at goal and the ball cannons off the post and the defender slides in to clear the ball way, but it looks like it has crossed the line.

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The referee who is unsure if the ball crossed the line waves play on, only for his assistant to notify him or his watchband to let them know that the ball has crossed the line.

So therefore the referee will change his original decision which was no goal. They will then signal a goal has been given, and the original decision will be reversed.

Referee goes back on penalty decision

Can an assistant referee change the main referee’s decision?

Sure, assistant referees can change the main referee’s decision.

A classic example of this is during the course of a game, an attacking team has the ball and is driving forward.

A central midfielder is running towards a goal and plays the ball out wide to a winger.

The winger picks up the ball and drives into the penalty box before producing a low cross which finds the striker who slots home the ball. Players celebrate and the referee signals a goal.

However, the assistant referee has his flag up for offside and notifies the main referee that the winger was offside during the build-up to the goal.

After initially signaling that the goal will stand after the assistant intervenes, the original decision will be reversed, and no goal is given.

Another way that an assistant can change a decision is if there is a handball by any player that the referee does not see, so they call to play on, only for the assistant to signal with their flag that a foul has been committed.

KYIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 11, 20214 defender Pau Torres talking with referee during the match of UEFA Europa League Dynamo Kyiv vs Villarreal at NSC Olympic in Kyiv
KYIV, UKRAINE – MARCH 11, 20214 defender Pau Torres talking with referee during the match of UEFA Europa League Dynamo Kyiv vs Villarreal at NSC Olympic in Kyiv

Can VAR change the referee’s decision?

As stated above with the assistant referee, yes the VAR can change the referee’s original decision. Unlike the assistant referee, VAR is only used for goals that are scored and possible red cards, not everything else like an assistant.

VAR is mainly used to check to see if any player is offside in the build-up or if there is a possible handball by any player before the goal is scored.

As we saw last season, VAR produced some horrible decisions that many fans felt were “against” the way soccer is supposed to be played. Often saying a player is offside because a strand of hair was in front of the defender.

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However, now the rules are less strict and give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking team. VAR will always check for any fouls or potential offside when a goal is scored.

If the controlling referee signals a goal, VAR will immediately check to see for any possible fouls.

If there is a foul in the build-up to the goal, then the VAR referee will notify the controlling referee that there has been a foul (handball) or offside before the goal was scored.

The original decision which was a goal is then overturned and no goal is given.

Soccer Referee Showing a Red Card ○ Soccer Blade

Can a referee Reverse a red card?

Yes, they can as long as the ball has not been played after the decision.

Normally the only way this can happen is either the wrong player was shown the red card, or VAR intervenes and states that the foul was not red card worthy.

Can a referee overturn Their decision after the Game has restarted?

No, he or she cannot change a restart decision. Even if the referee does realize that the decision is incorrect or if another official notifies them it is incorrect if the game has restarted.

Or the controlling referee has signaled that the half or game has ended at which includes extra time and has left the field.

How long does a referee how do you reverse an advantage decision?

Yes, a referee can reverse a decision. However only if the play has not been restarted.

If the referee has played advantage and it was anticipated that the team taking the advantage is not gaining an advantage, the referee will stop, call it back and then issue a card if the offense is deemed serious enough.

Can a referee cancel a Game?

The referee can cancel a game for several reasons. One is darkness or bad weather, for a serious breach of the Laws or if the crowd has interfered in the game.

If this happens only the competition authority has the power to declare a winner, loser or if the game should be replayed.

What happens if the ball hits the referee in soccer 2021?

The laws of the game state that the ball is out of play if it touches a game referee and stays in the field of play and teams have an advantage in attack or the ball hits the referee and goes into the goal.

See also  Yellow Card Records In Soccer (Rules + History)

What happens if a referee scores a goal?

Should a ball strike a referee and result in a turnover, goal, or another opportunity, the play is to be stopped and the restart will be a dropped ball (to the team who last touched the ball).

This happens at the spot where the referee was struck. (The exception is if this happened in the penalty area, in which case the dropped ball will go to the goalkeeper).


So now you know what a referee can do during a game when it comes to changing a decision. Hopefully, you have gained some knowledge that you previously did not have. We hope you enjoyed the read!


  • Change decision as football referee – Ravshan Irmatov at Confed Cup (dutchreferee.com)
8e83cfb63d54c9260fa694b185c6bca8?s=150&d=mp&r=g ○ Soccer Blade
Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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Soccer Rules FAQ

How long is a soccer game?

Soccer games include two 45 minute halves, which is 90 minutes of play. Those who have ever watched a game know that, like many sports, real-time is longer than the match time.
In real-time, the length of a soccer game varies immensely. At the bare minimum, it will be 90 minutes of play + 15 minutes of halftime for a total of 105 minutes.

What is offside in soccer?

The offside rule in soccer is to stop player ‘goal hanging’ – standing near the opposition goal. This also stops soccer from being a long ball game, balls hit from one goal to another.

What are yellow card offenses?

+ Charging an opponent – caution if reckless.
+ Holding an opponent – When the ball is in play and the holding continues.
+ Handling the Ball – When a player handles the ball to break up attacking play. If an attacker + uses their hand to attempt to score a goal.
+ Dangerous play – If a player makes an action that can risk an injury to another player.
+ Impeding the progress of an opponent – If a player holds another player back or blocks a player on purpose, that prevents an attack.
+ Breaking up an attack - where there is the possibility of creating a scoring chance.
+ Simulation - where a player tries to con a referee into thinking that they are injured in order to punish the opponent. If a player tries to make out that they have been fouled.

What are the red card offenses?

+ Serious foul play
+ Violent conduct
+ Spitting at a person
+ Deliberate handball – denying a goal-scoring opportunity
+ Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
+ Offensive, aggressive, abusive language or gesture
+ Receiving a second caution

Soccer field size, size of goal, number of players and minutes played per age;

+ u17-u19 - Halves 2 x 45 minutes - Number of players 11 vs 11 - Goal Size 8 x 24 - Field size 50-100 by 100-130 yards
+ u15-u16 - Halves 2 x 40 minutes - Number of players 11 vs 11 - Goal Size 8 x 24 - Field size 50- 100 by 100-130 yards
+ u13-u14 - Halves 2 x 35 minutes - Number of players 11 vs 11 - Goal Size 8 x 24 - Field size 50-10 by 100-130 yards
+ u11-u12 - Halves 2 x 30 minutes - Number of players 9 vs 9 - Goal Size 7 x 21 - Field size 45-70 by 70-80 yards
+ u9-u10 - Halves 2 x 25 minutes - Number of players 7 vs 7 - Goal Size 6 x 18.5 - Field size 35-45 by 55-65 yards
+ u6-u8 - Quarters 4 x 10 minutes - Number of players 4 vs 4 - 4 x 6 Goal Size - Field size 15-25 by 25-35 yards

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