Soccer Referee Signals: How to Understand

Understanding the various soccer referee signals will help you whether you are a professional player or a soccer fan. Which means you can be more involved in the sport. Soccer is truly a worldwide sport with about 200 million participants from the whole world. Even though soccer is played and watched by many people from different countries who speak different languages, the referee hand signals in soccer, for the most part, are the same.


Learning soccer referee hand signals involves identifying hand movements and the flag system. The system is practical, so you can easily understand the soccer referee signals. Once you learn what each signal means, you will be able to cheer your favorite team in a better way with a little bit more insight into the match.


How to Understand?


Take a look at the following to understand what each soccer referee signals mean:


Listen to Referee’s Whistle:


A referee in soccer often blows his whistle when he sees a foul in the game or a stoppage in play. The situation requires the referee to instantly stop the game and deal with the situation. Most of the time, the referee blows the whistle at the time of the foul.


If the referee blows the short and quick whistle, it indicates the lesser foul and is only punished by a free kick. In contrast, the harder blasts mean a serious foul in the game and are punishable by cards or penalty kicks.


Pay Attention to the Advantage:


A referee who sees a foul but chooses to play advantage will point both arms out without blowing his whistle. The referee delays making the call because he thinks the fouled team still has the advantage. Usually, the referee will take about three seconds to decide on the winner.


The referee shall ignore the foul if the team that committed the foul maintained possession or scored a goal after three seconds. But he will display the card at the subsequent pause in play if the foul warranted the card.


Pay Attention to Direct Free Kicks:


To indicate a DFK (direct free kick), the referee will blow his whistle and raise his arm to point to the goal that the team receiving the free kick is attempting to attack. A direct free kick is given when a soccer player commits one of the ten penal fouls against the rival. A direct free kick can also result in a goal.


Pay Attention to Indirect Free Kicks:


The referee is signaling for an IFK (indirect free kick) if he keeps his hands raised after indicating a free kick. An indirect free kick is given for any foul not coming under the penal foul category or a foul which is not committed against rivals.  


An IFK cannot be used to score a goal unless it makes contact with another player. The referee holds up his hand while indicating an IFK until the soccer ball has been kicked and touched by another player.


Pay Attention to Penalty Kick:


A soccer player has committed a direct free-kick fault within his penalty zone when the soccer referee signal points directly to the penalty spot or the location halfway between the penalty area line and goal area line, signaling that a penalty kick has been awarded.


Pay Attention to Yellow Card:


When a player receives a yellow card from the referee, the soccer referee signals that the player has engaged in one of the seven cautions-able violations. The referee notifies players when they receive a yellow card, and if they receive another one, they are dismissed from the game. 


According to National Federation regulations, upon obtaining a yellow card, a player is required to leave the field. The player who has been warned may be substituted or allowed to come back in on the following opportunity for substitution.


Recognize the Red Card:


When a referee issues a red card to a player, the soccer referee signals that the player has committed one of the seven “deadly sins” dismissal offenses, the player needs to immediately leave the area around the field of play. 


Watch for Goal Signals:


For a goal, there is no official signal. When the soccer ball has crossed the goal line between the goal posts, the soccer referee signals at the center circle with arms pointed in a downward direction.


The referee blows the whistle to indicate a goal because the whistle is utilized to start and stop a game. However, the match will be automatically stopped when a goal is earned, so sometimes the referee does not blow the whistle.


Soccer Referee signals give visual indications to communicate with soccer players, coaches, and spectators about their decisions. Visual signals show the multiple aspects of the sport and teach everyone about the referees’ responsibilities. So to fully enjoy the game, it is very important to understand the meanings of referee hand signals in soccer.