What is a Sports Referee?

Also known as: Technical Official, Linesman, Sports Official, Umpire, Referee.

Sports referees preside over competitive athletic or sporting events. They detect infractions and decide penalties according to the rules of the game. They work indoors and out, in all types of weather. They often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Those who work full time usually work more than 40 hours per week for several months during their sport’s season. Some officials must travel to sporting events.

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What does a Sports Referee do?

Referees typically do the following:

• Officiate sporting events, games, and competitions
Judge performances in sporting competitions to determine a winner
• Inspect sports equipment and examine all participants to ensure safety
• Keep track of event times, starting or stopping play when necessary
• Signal participants and other officials when infractions occur or to regulate play or competition
• Settle claims of infractions or complaints by participants
• Enforce the rules of the game and assess penalties when necessary

In officiating at sporting events, umpires, referees, and sports officials anticipate play and put themselves where they can best see the action, assess the situation, and determine any violations of the rules. Some sports officials, such as boxing referees, may work independently. Others, such as umpires, work in groups. Regardless of the sport, the job is highly stressful because officials often must make split-second decisions, sometimes resulting in strong disagreement expressed by opposing team players, coaches, and spectators.

What is the workplace of a Sports Referee like?

Referees work indoors and out, in all types of weather. Some workers must travel on long bus rides to sporting events. Others, especially officials in professional sports, travel by air.

Because sports officials must observe play and often make split-second decisions, the work can be filled with pressure. In some instances, strong disagreements may take place between officials, on the one hand, and competitors and coaches, on the other, resulting in additional stress.

Referees often work irregular hours, including evenings, weekends, and holidays. Those who officiate sports in schools typically work part time; about 19% of referees are self-employed.


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