Questions about the application and enforcement of rules and regulations by the officials engaged in a sport. Questions must also be tagged for the specific sport and/or competition.
Most sports, especially those played professionally, call for the involvement of at least one non-playing person whose role is to impartially interpret and enforce the rules. Depending on the sport in question these people can be called "referees", "umpires", "judges" or simply "officials".
Typically, sports at the recreational amateur level have fewer officials for cost reasons, while interscholastic, collegiate and professional leagues have more to ensure the game is "called" properly and fairly.
The stereotypical referee outfit for many sports is a highly-visible black and white vertical striped shirt and long black pants, with additional equipment as may be required for the sport (such as ice skates, shin guards and a helmet for ice hockey) or official's placement on-field (such as a face cage and chest protector for the baseball umpire), and this pattern is seen in most sports at some level. Some sports have other traditional dress for officials, such as a solid white dress shirt and white wide-brimmed hat for cricket, and all-black shirt and slacks for baseball at most levels. Some professional sports leagues that traditionally used striped referee outfits have since changed to other attire to reduce distraction while remaining distinguishable from players; the NBA, for instance, uses a grey shirt with short black sleeves, while other FIBA-sanctioned professional leagues commonly use an orange shirt. In association football, the referees' colors commonly change from game to game, ensuring that the referees are distinguishable from the uniforms of players of both sides (made more difficult in many professional leagues by rules allowing stripes and other patterns on player uniforms, and mandating a contrasting-color uniform for the goalie of each side, requiring the referees' attire to contrast all four uniforms).
Most sports officials use a whistle, usually to signal a stoppage of play. Gridiron football, basketball, association football and hockey variants all use whistles, with most of these also having hand gestures to indicate penalty calls. Gridiron football variants also uses a system of weighted cloth markers called flags to signal penalties (yellow), challenges (red) and ball position (typically black, sometimes blue). Associations football primarily uses a system of flags (of more traditional construction, with a rectangular cloth anchored to a flagstick) and cards (red and yellow) to indicate penalties and changes of possession, which the whistle indicating starts and stoppages in play. Baseball does not use a whistle or flags/markers, with officials relying instead on hand gestures and verbal calls.
Officials often have traditional positions on-field; sometimes required by the rules, in other situations simply the most efficient place for the officials to be:
Baseball requires one umpire at a minimum, located behind the catcher at home plate to make calls ("strike" or "ball") on pitches. If he is the only official, as seen in youth and recreational leagues, he is also responsible for other calls such as fair or foul balls, safe/out at each base, and keeping score; however, at higher levels of play up to and including Major League Baseball, a up to three additional officials are assigned to each base and are responsible for calls regarding their base and/or baseline, and for handling appeals from the "battery" (pitcher and catcher) on decisions made by the home plate umpire on balls strikes and checked swings.
Basketball typically uses one "referee" or "crew chief" and two "umpires", who all have roughly equal power on the court to whistle fouls and violations occurring anywhere on the court. The officials form a rough triangle on the court, with a "lead official" near the basket, a "center official" at about the free-throw line on the sideline nearest the scoring bench, and a "trailing official" closer to half-court on the opposite sideline. The "lead" and "trailing" officials trade roles when possession changes between the two teams.
Gridiron football uses a cadre of officials, typically at least three in youth leagues and up to seven at the Division I collegiate and professional levels. The head referee wears a white cap and is normally positioned behind the offensive side, with a linesman and line judge positioned on the sideline at either end of the line of scrimmage, an umpire behind the defensive side, and side, field and back judges located further downfield behind the defense on the two sidelines and the center of the field.
Ice hockey at the recreational level uses two officials, either both roughly equal in authority or with one "referee" who makes most penalty and goal judgments, and a "linesman" who assists in making offsides calls. At the higher-level amateur leagues, a referee and two linesmen are used, one for each blue line with the referee following play, while the NHL and most other professional leagues now use two referees (leading and trailing) and two linesmen.
Association football typically uses one referee and two assistant referees, formerly called linesmen. Sometimes a fourth official is used. The assistants are typically assigned to patrol one half of one sideline (touchline) of the field, each beginning at opposite corners, and make judgments of onrushing, out-of-bounds, and any penalty calls occurring in their "quadrant" that the referee cannot see. The referee patrols through the center of the field, in a diagonal line between opposing inside corners of the two penalty boxes, crossing the line formed between the two assistants, always facing the ball and the primary action, and primarily calling penalties and goals. This system is known as the "diagonal system of control" and is nearly universal in the sport.
Mark the question with this tag if it's about the application and enforcement of rules and regulations by match officials.
Usually, this tag will go well together with rules tag, except if the question is solely interested in match officials' general behavior or in rule enforcement methods rather than the rules themselves. In these cases don't include the rules tag, e.g:
- What is the upside in allowing players to argue with referees in football?
- What do football (soccer) referees do during halftime?
Questions must also be tagged for the specific sport and/or competition.