A referee or simply ref is the person of authority in a variety of
sports who is responsible for presiding over the game from a neutral
point of view and making on-the-fly decisions that enforce the rules
of the sport, including sportsmanship decisions such as ejection. The
official tasked with this job may be known, in addition to referee, by
a variety of other titles as well (often depending on the sport),
including umpire, judge, arbiter, arbitrator, linesman, commissaire,
timekeeper, touch judge or Technical Official (by the International
2.1 Australian rules football
2.3 Baseball and softball
2.7 Cue sports
2.10 Field hockey
2.11 Figure skating
2.13 Football (American and Canadian)
2.14 Football (association)
2.15 Football (Gaelic)
2.19 Ice hockey
2.22 Lawn bowls
2.23 Mixed martial arts
2.27 Roller derby
2.29 Rugby league
2.29.1 Touch football
2.30 Rugby union
2.34 Underwater hockey
2.36 Wrestling (amateur)
2.37 Wrestling (professional)
4 See also
The term "referee" originated in association football. Originally the
team captains would consult with each other in order to resolve any
dispute on the pitch. Eventually this role was delegated to an umpire.
Each team would bring their own partisan umpire allowing the team
captains to concentrate on the game. Later, the referee, a third
"neutral" official was added; this referee would be "referred to" if
the umpires could not resolve a dispute. The referee did not take his
place on the pitch until 1891, when the umpires became linesmen (now
assistant referees). Today, in many amateur football matches, each
side will still supply their own partisan assistant referees (still
commonly called club linesmen) to assist the neutral referee appointed
by the governing football association if one or both assistant
referees are not provided. In this case, the role of the linesmen is
limited to indicating out of play and cannot decide off side.
Australian rules football
Main article: Umpire (Australian rules football)
An umpire is an official in the sport of Australian rules football.
Games are overseen by one to three field umpires, two to four boundary
umpires, and two goal umpires.
Referee in bandy
A game of bandy is officiated by a referee, the authority and enforcer
of the rules, whose decisions are final. The referee may be assisted
by one or two assistant referees.
Baseball and softball
Main article: Umpire (baseball)
In baseball and softball, there is commonly a head umpire (also known
as a plate umpire) who is in charge of calling balls and strikes from
behind the plate, who is assisted by one, two, three, or five field
umpires who make calls on their specific bases (or with five umpires
the bases and the outfield). On any question, the head umpire has the
Main article: Official (basketball)
In international basketball and in college basketball, the referee is
the lead official in a game, and is assisted by either one or two
umpires. In the National Basketball Association, the lead official is
referred to by the term crew chief and the two other officials are
referees. All of the officials in a basketball game are generally
accepted to have the same authority as the lead official and therefore
they are collectively known as the officials or sometimes,
misleadingly, the referees.
In boxing a referee is the person who enforces the rules during the
fight. He gives instructions to the fighters, starts and stops the
count when a competitor is down, and makes the determination to stop a
fight when a competitor cannot continue without endangering his
Match referee and Umpire (cricket)
In cricket, the match referee is an off-field official who makes
judgements concerning the reputable conduct of the game and hands out
penalties for breaches of the ICC
Cricket Code of Conduct. On-field
decisions relevant to the play and outcome of the game itself are
handled by two on-field umpires, although an off-field third umpire
may help with certain decisions.
Main article: Cue sports
In cue sports, such as billiards and snooker, matches are presided
over by a referee. The referee will determine all matters of fact
relating to the rules, maintain fair playing conditions, call fouls,
and take other action as required by these rules. (Source: World
Main article: Commissaire (cycling)
A commissaire is an official in competitive cycling.
Main article: Fencing (sport)
A fencing match is presided over by a referee.
Main article: Umpire (field hockey)
An umpire in field hockey is a person with the authority to make
decisions on a hockey field in accordance with the laws of the game.
Each match is controlled by two such umpires, where it is typical for
umpires to aid one another and correct each other when necessary .
A referee in figure skating sits in the middle of the judges panel and
manages and has full control over the entire event.The referee
represents the International Skating Union at international events.
Referees for international events are trained by the International
Skating Union. There are two levels of referee, International Referee
and ISU Referee, with ISU Referees ranking higher.
In Synchronized Ice Skating, there are two Referees. One, sits with
the Judges as with ordinary competition and operates a touch screen
computer, inputing deductions and marking the skaters. The other,
known as the Assistant Referee — Ice, stands by the barrier
where the teams enter the ice. The ARI monitors ice conditions,
communicates with the event
Referee and supervises teams.
A floorball game is controlled by two referees with equal power.
Football (American and Canadian)
Official (American football)
Official (American football) and Official (Canadian
American football (or Canadian football) referee is responsible for
the general supervision of the game and has the final authority on all
rulings. The referee is assisted by up to six other officials on the
field. These officials are commonly referred to as "referees" but each
has a title based on position and responsibilities during the game:
referee, head linesman ("down judge" in the NFL), line judge, umpire,
back judge, side judge, and field judge.
Referee (association football), Assistant referee
(association football), and Fourth official
An association football (soccer) match is presided over by a referee,
whom the Laws of the Game give "full authority to enforce the Laws of
the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed"
(Law 5). The referee is oftentimes assisted by two assistant referees,
and sometimes by a fourth official. In UEFA football 2 additional
assistant referees are used, each one standing next to a goal post and
directly behind the goal line, to watch for fouls occurring within the
penalty area and to see if the ball enters the goal.
There are usually 7 officials in Gaelic football. A main referee
follows the play around the field and has the final authority on
decisions such as fouls, throws and card-issuing, un-desputable by
players. The main play referee is assisted by two linesmen, who make
decisions on who gains possession when the ball goes out of the field
of play, and can also advise the referee on off-the-ball events such
as a fight or an illegal tackle. As well as the referee and two
linesmen, there are two umpires at each end of the field of play who
stand on either side of the goal post and raise a white flag for a
point, or a green flag for a goal respectively, also calling wides and
square-balls. An umpire can also advise the referee on off-the-ball
incidents, but does not hold as much authority as a linesman. In
recent times, technology called 'Hawk-eye' can be used if both the
umpires and referee are unsure of whether a point has been scored or
not, though this technology is not widely available.
Golf is often played without referees. According to the Middle
Atlantic Section of the PGA of America, "few golfers are fully
qualified to serve as referees." A golf referee must remain alert
during matches and enforce the rules of golf.
According to the International Handball Association, team handball
games are officiated by two referees with equal authority who are in
charge of each match. They are assisted by a timekeeper and a
scorekeeper. (Source: International Handball Association, Rules of the
Game, 1 August 2005).
There are usually 7 officials in hurling. A main referee follows the
play around the field and has the final authority on decisions such as
fouls, throws and card-issuing, un-desputable by players. The main
play referee is assisted by two linesmen, who make decisions on who
gains possession when the ball goes out of the field of play, and can
also advise the referee on off-the-ball events such as a fight or an
illegal tackle. As well as the referee and two linesmen, there are two
umpires at each end of the field of play who stand on either side of
the goal post and raise a white flag for a point, or a green flag for
a goal respectively, also calling wides. Any umpire can also advise
the referee on off-the-ball incidents, but does not hold as much
authority as a linesman. In recent times, technology called 'Hawk-eye'
can be used if both the umpires and referee are unsure of whether a
point has been scored or not, although this technology is not widely
Referee (ice hockey)
Games of ice hockey are presided over by on-ice referees, who are
generally assisted by on-ice linesmen. The combination of referees and
linesman varies from league to league. A few leagues, including the
NCAA, are starting to refer to linesmen as assistant referees. In
addition, off-ice officials administer to specific functions such as
goal judge, penalty timekeeper, game timekeeper, statistician,
official scorer and, at the highest professional levels, instant
In korfball, it is the referee's responsibility to control the game
and its environment, to enforce the rules and to take action against
misbehaviour. He is assisted by an assistant referee, who alerts the
referee to out balls and fouls and may have other tasks determined by
the referee, and where possible by a timekeeper and scorer.
A lacrosse match is presided over by a crew of either two, three, or
in some cases four on-field officials. In two-man crew, a
an Umpire are utilized. In a three-man crew, a Referee, Umpire, and
Field Judge are utilized. The
Referee shall always have the final
ruling on any and all matters. For games of significance a four-man
crew can be used which includes a three-man crew plus a Chief Bench
Official who has jurisdiction over the bench area including the
timekeeper. The professional outdoor league in the United States
utilizes four on-field officials in order to be able to better keep up
with the increased pace of play.
A lawn bowls match is presided over by a bowls umpire or technical
official. In games where single players compete, a marker is required
to direct play and assist players with questions relating to the
position of their bowls.
Mixed martial arts
Rules in mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts are enforced by a referee who
can give warnings and disqualifications should the rules be broken.
The referee is also in charge of stopping fights when a fighter
"cannot intelligently defend himself" in order to prevent him from
incurring further damage, as well as making sure that submissions are
released following a tapout and to pull fighters off an unconscious
opponent. The referee is advised by a doctor and assistant referee who
The primary concern and job of an MMA referee is the safety of the
Main article: Motorsport marshal
Aside the race control who are responsible for the start, running and
timekeeping of the race, each section of the circuit is presided by a
team of marshals led by an observer, who also report incidents and
technical mishap of the race.
Main article: Rules of netball
In the game of
Netball the match at hand is Presided over by 2
umpires, typically female, with a comprehensive knowledge of the
rules. There are also 2 timekeepers and 2 scorekeepers who inform the
umpires, and players of time remaining, and scores.
Main article: Muggle Quidditch
Quidditch is governed by a Head Referee, who issues penalties for
fouls and misconduct and has the final say over any dispute of the
rules. The head referee is assisted by up to 7 assistant referees,
each with specific responsibilities. 2 Goal Referees, one behind each
set of hoops, are to rule whether a goal has been scored or not, as
well as to watch for proper substitutions. Up to 3 Bludger Referees
position themselves around the action and rule on beats by Bludgers. 1
Referee follows the Seekers and rules on catching of the
Snitch, ruling the Snitch Runner down, and counting off a 3-second
head start when necessary. In the absence of a snitch referee the
Snitch Runner should act as the Snitch Referee. The Head
also assisted by a scorekeeper who keeps track of match time, penalty
time, goals scored, and time of Snitch snatch.
The game of roller derby is governed by a team of up to seven skating
referees. (Only three are required due to the grass-roots nature of
the sport, though the full seven are used whenever possible). The
required referees are a head referee, who oversees the running of the
entire game and has final say in any disputes, and who doubles as an
inside pack referee, following alongside the main pack of skaters from
inside the track and issuing and enforcing penalties for fouls or
infringements of the rules; and two jammer referees who follow the two
point-scoring players known as jammers. Additional referees fill the
roles of a second inside pack ref and up to three outside pack refs,
who perform similar duties to the inside pack refs, but from the
outside of the track, and who rotate active duty in a relay-race style
to avoid fatigue caused by the extra speed needed to keep pace with
the pack from the outside. Non-skating officials complete the team by
recording and communicating points and penalties and ensuring skaters
serve their time accordingly. Only the team captains may engage in
discussions with the referees by way of the head referee, over calls
made. Referees are also responsible for ensuring the skaters are
correctly wearing all regulation safety equipment.
In a regatta an umpire is the on-the-water official appointed to
enforce the rules of racing and to ensure safety. In some cases an
umpire may be designated specifically as starter, or otherwise the
umpire starts the race from a launch and follows it to its end,
ensuring that crews follow their proper course. If no infringements
occur, the result is decided by a judge or judges on the waterside who
determine the finish order of the crews.
Rugby league match officials
Rugby league games are controlled by an on field referee assisted by
two touch judges, and often a video referee during televised games.
With non-televised games in rugby league, the referee has 2 touch
judges and 2 in-goal judges to assist. The referee and the touch
judges cannot be contradicted by any player, but captains may discuss
calls with them. In some rugby league competitions, most notably
Australia's National Rugby League, public criticism of officials by
players or coaching staff can result in fines being levied against the
National Rugby League
National Rugby League is also experimenting with a two-referee
system: the control referee is primarily in charge of the play and
calling penalties, and the assist referee, who communicates with the
control referee but should not blow the whistle. The two referees
exchange roles on changes of possession.
Touch football/touch rugby (commonly known as "touch") has a unique
refereeing concept. As in most team sports, there is an on-field
referee and referees on each of the two sideline. However, in touch
football, the referees may interchange, similar to players, at
appropriate times. Appropriate times may include when the play has
moved close enough to the sideline for the referees to swap without
the interrupting the play. This may occur during a set of six or
during a change of possession. Other times that referees may
interchange include after the awarding of touchdowns and penalties.
Touch is also one of the few remaining sports where referees wear
metal badges on their chests to represent their official level within
their governing organisation. In Australia, the highest referee level
is 6, the lowest being 1. In New Zealand, the highest level is 4, the
lowest being 1. Prior to level 1, there is an elementary level
beginners. In Europe, the highest level is 5, the lowest being 1.
Rugby union match officials
Rugby union games are controlled by an on field referee assisted by
two Assistant Referees (AR's), and often a Television Match Official
(TMO) during televised games. The referee and the touch judges cannot
be contradicted by any player, but captains may discuss calls with
Referee are rarely present during sailing races as decisions are
normally referred to a jury-style protest committee after the race.
However, sometimes in match race and in team racing an "umpire" is an
on-the-water referee appointed to directly enforce the Racing Rules of
Sailing. An umpire is also used in fleet racing to enforce Racing Rule
42 which limits the use of kinetics to drive the boat rather than the
Gyōji and Judge (sumo)
A sumo match is overseen by a referee (行司, gyōji) in the ring and
five judges (勝負審判, shōbu shimpan) seated around the ring. All
dress in traditional Japanese clothing, with higher-ranked referees
wearing elaborate silk outfits. The referee oversees the pre-match
rituals and the bout itself, including ruling on the winner of the
bout and the winning technique used. If one of the umpires disagrees,
then all the umpires confer to determine the winner of the bout.
Tradition holds that if one of the two top ranked gyōji has his
decision overturned, he is expected to tender his resignation,
although the Chairman of the Japan
Sumo Association usually rejects
Main article: Official (tennis)
In tennis an umpire is an on-court official, while a referee is an
Octopush or underwater hockey match is presided over by two or
three water referees in the pool, a chief referee on deck, and at
least one timekeeper and one scorekeeper. Additional timekeepers can
be used to track penalty times in highly contested matches. A
tournament referee will arbitrate for chief referees, whilst protests
will be adjudicated by at least three independent referees.
A volleyball match is presided over by a first referee, who observes
action from a stand, providing a clear view of action above the net
and looking down into the court. The second referee, who assists the
first referee, is at floor level on the opposite side of the net—and
in front of the scorers' table. They are often referred to informally
as the "up referee" and "down referee," respectively.
The international styles of amateur wrestling use a three-official
system in which a referee conducts the action in the center of the mat
while a judge and a mat chairman remain seated and evaluate the action
from their stationary vantage points.
Collegiate wrestling uses a single referee in the center of the mat,
or a head referee and an assistant.
Referee (professional wrestling)
In professional wrestling, the referee's on-stage purpose is similar
to that of referees in combat sports such as boxing or mixed martial
arts. However, in reality referees are participants in executing a
match in accordance with its pre-determined outcome as well as any
other events that are scripted to take place during the match. They
also function as a conduit for communication between the wrestlers and
backstage officials during matches.
See also: Kit (association football) § Referee
An ice hockey referee, wearing vertical black and white stripes
Referees typically wear clothing to distinguish themselves from the
players. Such uniforms may be distinctive, and some traditional
uniforms have come to be symbolically associated with the position
(even if newer, alternative uniforms are increasingly used). Notable
examples include the traditional black uniform worn by association
football referees, or the vertical black and white stripes worn by
referees in many North American sports. These two traditional
uniforms have led to the informal terms "the man in black" and
"zebra," respectively. It is also not uncommon for referees
to wear bright reflective shirts.
^ "How to Referee" (PDF). PGA of America, Middle Atlantic Section.
Retrieved 19 February 2016.
^ "The Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby - Women's Flat Track Derby
Association". Wftda.com. Retrieved 2016-07-18.
^ "Football: The Men in the Striped Shirts". Time. Letters. 3 January
1969. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
^ Kennedy, Pagan (1 November 2013). "Who Made That
The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2015. When Olds first wore the
black-and-white-striped shirt in 1921, he “received plenty of boos
from the crowd,” he told an interviewer.
^ Hyde, Marina (26 March 2014). "Andre Marriner debacle highlights
Fifa aversion to video technology". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 July
^ O'Hagan, Simon (28 January 1996). "Rosy future for man in black".
The Independent. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
^ Gruley, Bryan (24 October 2014). "Better Referees: Why College
Football Needs to Herd Its Own Zebras". Bloomberg. Retrieved 18 April
^ Lukas, Paul (10 March 2004). "Uni Watch: How the zebra got its
stripes". Slate.com. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
^ Andy Griffith, in his routine "What It Was, Was Football,"
derisively and laughably referred to them as "convicts" for that
^ Alex Yannis (1 March 1994). "Soccer: The Name Game". The New York
Times. Retrieved 8 January 2015. Another first for World Cup '94 will
be a change in the color of the officials' uniforms from basic black
to lighter colors
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