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4 Soccer Referee Secrets for the Ceremonial Coin Toss

Posted by Jason Sholl on April 28, 2016

Soccer Referee Howard Webb conducts a coin toss

Before a match, the first formal interaction soccer referees have with team captains results in a coin toss. Based on the Laws of the Game, Law 8 states that: 

"...the team that wins the toss of a coin decides which goal it will attack in the first half..."

If you dig in your pocket and have no coin, and your referee team comes empty handed expecting you to carry a coin, the situation can be quite embarrassing for the assembled group. Players are eager to play and gain what they consider a starting advantage. Assistant Referees may be expecting the referee to carry a coin. The formality of a coin toss exhibits a 50/50 chance for the players, and that the referees are applying fairness to the match.

There are a number of tricks referees use for the coin toss. These work at the youth, college, indoor, beach, adult, and professional levels. 

Metal vs. Plastic Flip Coin

Using a metal referee coin can mean using a monetary value coin, a tournament coin, a Federation coin, or any other commemorative device that has two different sides. Just about everyone can recognize "heads or tails" as an instruction. Just be sure to identify each to the captains. Earn their trust!

If you're working with international players or perhaps there is a language barrier, a plastic soccer referee coin can be handy. These devices have two contrasting colors: black and white, yellow and black, red and yellow, etc. This will throw off captains when you introduce, "call a color." Some will still stick to "heads or tails" because of luck or superstition. 

Tuck the coin behind your badge

Have the coin in your hand as captains approach you for the introduction and toss. This adds professionalism points. They're ready, you're ready. A secret trick to never losing your coin is to secure it behind your referee badge, between velcro layers. This will harden and can add a slight bubble to your referee badge appearance, but it is quite secure for the course of the match. 

Most referees have not considered this, so the sound of ripping velcro and the presentation of a coin can be quite a surprise. 

Catching the flip vs. letting it drop

Flipping a coin up in the air is a thrill. The chance of either team winning the toss provides a short burst of adrenaline for the players. You may want to instruct them before you flip it, that you're going to catch it in the air or let it drop. If you catch it in the air, you can do the quick reveal and display it towards the captain that wins the toss. If you happen to drop it on the ground, and you just told them you'll catch it, nothing is stopping you from repeating a new coin flip and being fair! Players appreciate that.

Now if you are intending to flip the coin in the air and let it hit the ground, make sure the ground is even enough for a fair landing. Long grass or imperfections on the pitch will make it hard for everyone to see the coin. Once it drops and you can read it outloud, gesture for the winning captain to make a decision of which goal they will attack. Let that coin stew there on the ground. Sometimes the other captain will pick it up and hand it to you! 

That leads us to...

Never Bow!

Your referee team is the authority on the field. Coaches, spectators, and other players may have eyes on the coin toss to see what the result is. If you bend over to pickup your coin or drop anything during the course of the ceremonial flip, leave it for now! 

Imagine this: you're watching a referee conduct a coin toss infront of two rival teams. The referee bends over to pickup the coin from the ground and it looks like he's bowing infront of the team that ends up winning the game. Now think back: did the referee bow down to that team with this gesture? 

If your coin is on the ground, or a pencil, a card, anything from your person; leave it! Wait for the captains to part ways. 


Let us know what you think of these secrets! Tell us what works for you, or if you have others that we didn't name here!

Download the 2016-2017 Laws of the Game