Soccer officials ensure that the rules of the game are upheld in every match. There are some nuances to the officials on the field, as not every official or referee has the same role. There are 17 laws of the game that officials work together to enforce throughout a soccer game.
The roles are as follows:
Referees are responsible for ensuring that the game remains not only fair, but also safe, for both teams.
They spend the entirety of the game either on the field with the players or running the sidelines monitoring out of bounds and offsides calls. They also watch for fouls throughout the game and dictate calls throughout the game.
The head referee stays on the field and moves with the run of play. They are responsible for enforcing the laws of the game, controlling the match, acting as timekeeper, reporting disciplinary actions, and supervising and restarting play. They are in charge of handing out penalty cards, calling fouls, and communicating with players on the field.
Linesmen stay on either side of the field, also running with the play of the game. While they each stay on their half of the field, they are in charge of calling out of bounds for the whole line on their side. They also can signal fouls when they see them and will call offside, goal kicks, and corner kicks. They will signal substitutions when they occur.
The fourth official stays off the field, but plays a key role in regulating a soccer game. They are responsible for supervising substitutions, checking player equipment, re-entering players to the field, supervising replacement balls, signaling extra time at the end of half and full time, and monitoring players and coaches in the technical areas.
At some levels of play, VAR (Video Assisted Review) is used to review plays that may have been missed or miscalled. There will be an official by the screen to recheck plays and call over the head referee to make the final call.
Yes. Like other sports, the referee makes the final call. A soccer match's ruling is up to the referee, which is why they are often victims of scrutiny from coaches, players, and fans. The referees are the ones making split second decisions that control when gameplay is paused, when a foul will be honored, and how the game will proceed.