What Happens When A Referee Gets Injured In Football

What Happens If A Referee Gets Injured In Football?

Last updated on March 3rd, 2022

Every football match is supervised by a referee, who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game during the game.

Since he has to be fully alert during the 90 minutes or more, refereeing can be really demanding.

There may even be situations when the delegated referee can not start the match, or he/she can get injured during the match. 

What will happen in this scenario? Will the match continue without the referee?

Here’s what you need to know:

What happens if a referee gets injured in football?

In the situation in which a referee gets injured, he/she will be replaced by another match official, who holds a referee’s license. This official will take over and ensure that all the rules associated with football are correctly observed during the game.

In the Laws of the Game, it is mentioned that each competition must have its own rules as to who replaces the referee if he is injured.

Referee Injured Laws Of The Game

The 3 main officials that can take over from the referee include:

  • The fourth official
  • Senior assistant referee
  • Senior additional assistant referee

The assistant referees are sometimes known as linesmen or lineswomen.

Here are some of the roles of the fourth official:

Fourth Official Roles

If the injury is not so severe, the referee will take the role of the fourth official.

This is generally not a physically demanding position, and the injured referee will be able to supervise the game from between the two technical areas.

Who replaces an injured referee in football?

If the referee is deemed unfit to continue refereeing the match by the medical staff, he or she will need to be replaced. In most cases, the fourth official will take over from the referee.

For most competitions, the fourth official will replace the referee if he gets injured.

Are there many examples when referees are injured?

It is a rare occurrence in football for a referee to be unable to start a match, or to be forced to exit the pitch after picking up an injury. However, it’s still quite possible!

Here are some examples of referees getting injured:

#1 Lee Mason (Premier League)

In the Premier League, referee Lee Mason suffered a calf injury during West Brom’s 1-0 win against Brighton

He managed to remain on the field for the full 90 minutes, but was not able to start as the fourth official as was planned for his next duty, a match between Sheffield United and Liverpool at Bramall Lane.

#2 Bobby Madley (Premier League)

On another occasion, on the 5th of November 2017, referee Bobby Madley subbed himself off due to injury during the first half of the Premier League game between Stoke and Leicester.

Bobby Madley pulled up with an apparent thigh injury at the Bet365 Stadium and he had to be replaced by the fourth official, Jon Moss. 

During the substitution, Madley had to give his fellow official his notepad for the match, including his red and yellow cards.

Even with his injury, Madley was still able to lift the board for substitutions and added time.

Technical referee shows 3 minutes added time during the football match. Licensierad min

#3 Paolo Valeri (Serie A)

In Serie A, referee Paolo Valeri was injured during the match between Inter Milan and AC Milan and was substituted by the fourth official.

Here is a short video with the moment:

#4 Ted Unkel (MLS)

In the MLS, referee Ted Unkel collided with San Jose centre back Nathan, which resulted in him needing to be substituted.

You can find out what’s the differences between a centre back and a full-back with this guide.

The fourth official took over as the referee, and it was actually his debut as an MLS referee!

You can find out whether MLS teams can play in the Champions League with this article.


A referee is an authority responsible for regulating a football match according to the Laws of the Game.

If he/she is declared unfit to continue, someone with similar expertise should take over so that the match can continue.

Depending on the competition rules, the one who replaces him/her can be either: 

  • The fourth official 
  • The senior assistant referee 
  • The senior additional assistant referee

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