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  1. Introduction
  2. Availability
  3. Laws of the Game
  4. Key Points
  5. Before the game
    a) Arrival
    b) Match Card
    c) Pitch / Equipment Inspection
    d) Warm-Up
    e) Start of play
    f) Flags for assistant referees and club linespersons
  6. During the game
    a) Social distancing
    b) Issuing of sanctions
    c) Dealing with mass confrontations
    d) Substitutes and Technical Staff
    e) Injuries
    f) Spitting
  7. After the game
    a) After the final whistle
    b) Post-match Debrief
  8. Contact Tracing

  9. Introduction

  10. Referees are an integral part of football and we must ensure that we are well prepared prior
    to our return to play. This ‘Safer Return To Play – Match Day Protocol’ provides guidance and
    direction to match officials on how to manage the administration and the refereeing of
    games. The ‘Laws of the Game’ provide referees with all the necessary authority to deal
    with all on-field issues, whilst other matters should be reported to the leagues who run the
    The primary aim of this protocol is to minimise risk of transmission of the COVID-19 virus to
    as low a level as possible. The principles of risk mitigation are identical for training and for
    refereeing. This protocol must be followed in conjunction with all FAI Protocols which can
    be found here
    All guidelines are underpinned by the principle that individual referees should only engage
    with practices that protect their health and safety as they return to refereeing in line with
    Government and HSE directives. We must take personal responsibility around our own
    health when making our decision to return to play.
    The exact date of a return to play will be determined by the league you are assigned to and
    this will be guided by the Affiliate body and Football Association of Ireland. In the meantime,
    it is recommended that you continue to take some preparatory steps to be ready for a
    return to football.
    • To facilitate the resumption of football it is important that referees advise the
    ‘allocations officer’ in their league and their Lead Observer of their availability.
    • Some referees will be eager to referee immediately, whilst others may adopt a ‘wait &
    see’ approach. Whatever your choice is, it is imperative that you communicate this.
    • When you return it is important to keep the ‘allocations officer’ in your league up to
    date with any changes in your circumstances and copy this to your Lead Observer.
    Laws of the Game
    • If your season is resuming its 2019/20 season, then the 2019/2020 Laws of the Game
    will apply to the matches in your league until the season concludes.
    • If your season is starting its 2020/21 season, then the 2020/2021 Laws of the Game will
    • A full version of the 2020/2021 Laws of the Game can be downloaded from the following
    link LOTG
    • Training will be provided by the Referee Department for referees that will be operating
    under the new laws.
    Key Points
    • Clubs are permitted to resume full contact training and training games between teams
    from the same club from June 29th. Referees are not permitted to referee these games.
    • Clubs are permitted to resume friendly games from July 11th and leagues are permitted
    to organise competitive fixtures from July 18th
    • If you are unwell, stay at home and contact your GP
    • Adhere to social distancing of 2 metres, where possible
    • Practice good hand hygiene with regular hand washing and the use of hand sanitiser
    • Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette – HSE Coughing and sneezing Guidelines
    Before the game
    If you are unwell stay at home, notify the allocations officer that you cannot attend the
    match and contact your GP. The symptoms include:
    • Temperature of 38C or greater
    • Sudden onset of cough or shortness of breath
    • Sudden loss of the sense of taste or smell
    A Risk Assessment of the venue must be carried out and all equipment including goalposts
    must be sanitised before and after every game. The protocols are available at the following
    This is the responsibility of the club. Referees will have no part in policing this.
    The club must appoint the COVID-19 Compliance officer or a designated club member to act
    as the first point of contact for the match official on arrival. The coordination of the pre
    match protocol should be discussed (team sheet, equipment check, coin toss etc.) and
    The referees fee should be placed into an envelope and sealed. This fee should be paid on
    a) Arrival
    • Referees should arrive as close to kick-off time as is feasible, no later than 15 minutes
    before kick-off
    • All match officials should travel to games in line with HSE Guidelines
    • Consult with your league about their policy regarding appointment of three match
    officials in the current circumstances
    • Referees are advised not to use dressing room facilities. Referees should travel in
    tracksuit and match kit
    • Bring your own hand sanitiser
    • Bring your own labelled, food and water if needed and seal them in a plastic bag
    • On arrival, observe and obey the COVID-19 signage
    • Match officials should observe 2 metres social distancing where possible (warm-ups,
    meetings, pre-match discussions)
    • Avoid greeting players, coaches and other match officials with handshakes, fist bumps,
    high fives
    • Spectators must adhere to 2 metres social distancing at all times
    b) Match Card
    • Where applicable team sheets / match cards should be completed by each team prior to
    kick-off and placed into a sealed envelope after the referee has reviewed them.
    • Local league arrangements may differ, and you may wish to consult your ‘allocations
    officer’ in this regard.
    c) Pitch / Equipment Inspection
    • Inspect all players and substitutes, listed on the match card prior to the start of the
    match. Inspection should be carried out in open space, outdoors and respecting social
    • Any issues with the field of play or equipment (goal posts, nets, corner flags, markings
    and match balls etc) should be referred to the home club compliance officer or
    designated person to be corrected.
    d) Warm – Up
    • Observe 2 metres social distancing at all times
    • Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette
    • Avoid contact with players, coaches and other match officials (handshakes, fist bumps,
    high fives)
    • Only consume liquids and food from your own labelled supplies
    • Use hand sanitiser before and after you have completed the warm-up
    • No spitting is permitted
    • When operating in a team of officials, match instructions must take place on the pitch
    and must not last more than 10 minutes
    e) Start of play
    • Use hand sanitiser before entering the field of play
    • Respect 2 metres social distancing at coin toss
    • If photographs are being taken, 2 metres social distancing must be respected
    • Hand greetings are not permitted (handshakes, fist bumps, high fives)
    • At the coin toss do not allow others to touch the coin
    f) Flags for assistant referees and club linespersons
    • Match officials should not provide flags to club linesperson. The club linesperson should
    indicate ball out of play by raising their hand or by using an agreed item.
    • Each match official should bring their own flag that only they will use when operating in
    a team of officials
    During the game
    The following protocols apply to all participants in the match.
    It is not the referee’s responsibility to ensure that all participants, players, managers,
    spectators adhere to this protocol.
    • Players and Match Officials should adhere to social distancing of 2 metres where
    • Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette
    • Use hand sanitiser at half time and before the commencement of the second half
    • The referee should sanitise the whistle at half time and again at the end of the game
    • No hand greetings are permitted (handshakes, fist bumps, high fives)
    • No spitting is permitted
    a) Social distancing
    • Players and Match Officials should adhere to social distancing of 2 metres where
    possible, particularly at any breaks in play
    b) Issuing of sanctions
    • When delivering a public warning or any form of sanction, adhere to 2 metres social
    c) Dealing with mass confrontations
    • Referees should adhere to the following guidelines for dealing with a mass confrontation
    o Respect 2 metre social distancing guidelines
    o Do not touch any players
    o Do not get in between players
    o Do not get in close proximity to players
    o Avoid excessive use of your whistle to deter any escalation
    o Stay back, observe and make a mental note of any offending players who may
    receive sanction
    o Once the confrontation has subsided, sanction the offending players from each
    d) Substitutes and Technical Staff
    • Substitutes and technical staff must adhere to 2 metres social distancing. The confines of
    the technical area should be extended to facilitate social distancing requirements
    • Substitutes are allowed to leave the technical area to warm up. The referee determines
    exactly where they may warm up and how many substitutes are allowed to warm up
    • Due to social distancing requirements substitutes may warm up behind their own goal
    • Substitutes must adhere to 2 metres social distancing during warm-ups
    • Match officials should check substitutes equipment prior to the game and practice social
    distancing guidelines when a substitution is being made
    • Where leagues have sanctioned the use of 5 substitutes in line with the IFAB’s
    temporary law change the following guidelines apply
    o Each team will be permitted to use a maximum of five substitutes
    o Each team will have a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions
    during the game
    o Substitutions may also be made at half-time. This does not count as one of the
    three opportunities for each team
    o If both teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as one of the
    three opportunities for each team
    o Unused substitutions and opportunities to make substitutions are carried
    forward into extra time
    o Where competition rules allow an additional substitution in extra time, teams
    will each have one additional substitution opportunity
    o Substitutions may also be made before the start of extra time and at half-time in
    extra time
    e) Injuries
    • A Coach or Club Physiotherapist can attend to an injured player or match official on the
    pitch. They should wear a face mask and gloves
    • A designated room – where applicable – can be used for treating an injured player. A
    changing room may be used for this purpose
    • Referees should follow the following guidelines for dealing with an injury:
    o Ask the injured player if they want treatment while maintaining 2 metres social
    o Signal for the Coach or Club Physiotherapist
    o Take up a position adhering to 2 metres social distancing and monitor the
    treatment of the injured player in accordance with the LOTG
    f) Spitting
    • “Spitting at someone” is a sending-off (red-card) offence under the Laws of the Game
    • Players and match officials have been advised that spitting is not permitted. However,
    referees should only act if a player breaches the LOTG by committing an offence in this
    • Disciplinary sanction regarding “spitting at someone” is a matter for the competition
    • Where a competition organiser wishes to enforce protocols regarding spitting, any
    disciplinary decision should be taken by the relevant competition organiser or member
    association after the match
    After the game
    a) At the final whistle
    • Players and Match Officials must adhere to 2 metres social distancing at the final whistle
    and when exiting the pitch and venue
    • No hand greetings are permitted (handshakes, fist bumps, high fives)
    • Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette
    • No spitting is permitted
    • Use hand sanitiser after the game
    • The referee should sanitise the whistle after game
    • Wash your hands when you get home
    b) Post-match debriefs
    • Observers and referees have the option of conducting the debrief by phone or video call,
    when possible
    • If the match official(s) and observer agree, the post-match debrief may take place at the
    venue but must be outdoors and must not exceed more than 10 minutes
    Contact Tracing
    • Contact tracing is a key component to all activities around the game
    • The COVID-19 Compliance Officer must keep a register of ALL Players, Match Officials,
    Coaches, Parents/Guardians, Volunteers and Administrators attending the match
    • Each club is responsible for providing its own COVID-19 Compliance Officer with a list of
    attendees for every game, home or away
    • This will include name and contact details
    • Referees must comply with this requirement
    • This register should be kept electronically and be updated continually
    This is a live document and is subject to change on a regular basis as Government and FAI
    updates are announced.

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Eamon Scott


Eamon Scott


Eamon Scott