3 Things Football Referees Have in Common with Basketball Officials

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Football and basketball are two sports that are played differently. But they are both officiated by referees to ensure fair play and the game’s rules are followed. Referees have things in common. 

The types of officials in sports come in different packages. Some are fair, others are good, and a few are great.

Check out this material for information about the referees that make football and basketball exciting.

How Many Referees are There in BasketballHow Many Referees are There in Basketball?

The NBA, WNBA, and NCAA have a three-person crew, and FIBA has two acting as referees in a basketball game. Today, you can see female referees in a once male-dominated spot in basketball. Three officials in an NBA game monitor players’ movements on the court: the crew chief, referee, and the umpire. 

Basketball Referee Roles

Pre-game Responsibilities

Before the game starts, referees see that the balls are correctly filled up. The jerseys worn by players meet regulations, the team’s roster is checked, and the court’s surface is examined for debris and wet spots to avoid slippage.

Crew Chief

The crew chief or the lead referee is at the helm of the calls in a game. Usually, they position where the ball is located on the court. You’ll see the three refs in a huddle when different calls are made then the crew chief goes to the scorer’s table to announce the final call.

They serve as a communication channel with coaches, timers, scorers, and statisticians.


The referee stands at the top of the three-point area and serves as the trail official. They call fouls, violations, and technical fouls when coaches’ and players’ tempers run high and they act poorly.


An umpire is positioned near the free-throw lane. Their duties include monitoring the clock, ensuring it pauses when there is a play stoppage, and it runs when the ball is live, and calling basic fouls.


NBA refs wear light gray shirts, college officials wear black-and-white striped shirts with black side panels, and FIBA officials don gray torsos with black sleeves. Every official pair the shirt with black pants, socks, shoes, and a whistle around their neck.

Other Basketball Officials

The referees are assisted by the Replay Center, an official scorer, two trained timers, and a courtside administrator. Here is a brief description of the duties of each official.

Replay Center

When referees are undecided on a ruling, they turn to the replay center official for assistance. The replay official has access to several televisions showing the play from several angles in slow-motion replay. He’ll make the final decision on all replays, excluding flagrant fouls and brawls.

Courtside Administrator

The courtside administrator positioned at the scorer’s table expedites the communication between the replay center official, referees, scorer, and timer.


The scorer keeps track of the stats related to the game, like the points scored and free throws that went in and missed. Each player’s personal and technical fouls are recorded, and referees are notified when a player reaches his sixth foul. They note down timeouts, inform a team when they called their sixth timeout, and alert the referee of an excess timeout.


There are two timers, one is the official timer operating the game clock, and the other is the 24-second clock timer. They’ll notify coaches and referees five minutes before the half starts. Stopwatches are provided to both timers in case the official timeout clock, official clock, or 24-second clock malfunctions.

How Many Referees are There in FootballHow Many Referees are There in Football?

Football officials in a professional or college football game enforce the rules to ensure fair play and the safety of the players. Football fields cover one of the largest areas in any sport, with 22 athletes on the field. Due to the vast area and the number of players, seven football officials are assigned to every NFL game. Here are the NFL officials and their responsibilities.

Football Referee Roles

Referee (R)

The referee is referred to as the crew chief and regarded as the head official. This position has the final say over all decisions and controls the game. In the offensive backfield, the referee is stationed on the right side of the formation, 15 yards deep.

The referee will announce every penalty. He’ll inform the offending team’s captain and coach about the violation and the player concerned. Before the play starts, the referee is in the backfield 10 yards behind the quarterback. Also, the referee looks for fouls on the quarterback, illegal blocks close to the quarterback, and whether yardage chains are required for field measurement.

For replay reviews, the referee talks with the replay official, watch the play on a monitor and announces his call over a microphone.

Umpire (U)

In the offensive backfield, the umpire is positioned facing the referee. 

Controls the game by advising players and monitoring the integrity of play on the line of scrimmage (LOS). The umpire assists the referee in decisions about ball possession. The umpire watches the center’s actions, left guard, left tackle, and defenders with a keen eye on infractions and the position of linemen. He keeps a record of scores, timeouts, and the coin toss winner and wipes the ball to keep it dry.

Head Linesman (HL)  

The head linesman stands at the opposite end of the line judge. 

The HL looks for scrimmage offenses like offsides and looks at blockers and defenders for penalties. The HL monitors the sideline for out-of-bound plays, keeps track of receivers, and tracks the forward movement of the ball. He directs the chain crew and marks the spot for measurement reference.

Line Judge (LJ)

The line judge assists the HL on calls about illegal motions and shifts or offside. Also, the LJ helps the umpire with calls on the illegal use of hands and assists the referee on a false start.

The LJ ensures the quarterback throws the ball behind the LOS, observes LOS on punts, in charge of the timing of the game, and team substitutions.

Field Judge (FJ)

The field judge stays on the same side as the LJ and 20 yards at the back of the LOS. The FJ monitors the play clock and ensures there are 11 defensive players. The FJ determines if there is defensive interference when a player runs his route, marks the spot where a play goes out of bounds, and if a field goal attempt is successful.

Side Judge (SJ)

The side judge is on the same sideline as HL and facing FJ. They monitor players’ movements near their sidelines and make decisions on the actions of receivers, defenders, and running backs. Eyeballs pass interference and illegal use of hands.

Back Judge (BJ)

The back judge is positioned deep in the defensive backfield in the center of the field.

The BJ keeps a tab on the number of defensive players and the game clock. He oversees the area between the FJ and the U. The BJ decides whether kicks during kickoffs are allowed and whether catches and pass interference penalties are legitimate.

Other Football Officials

Chain Crew

The chain crew or the chain gang is usually composed of three members depending on the team. Other franchises include crew chief, clip guy, down-and-distance, auxiliary box man, and an O guy. The members are selected by the team and not by the league; women are considered for the position. They are under the supervision of the HL and don’t make their own decisions.

Rod men

Two rodmen are holding a rod, or stick, at each end. The two rods, often orange, are attached to a 10-yard chain at the bottom.

The first rodman holds a rear rod where the play begins, and the second rodman holds the forward rod at the first down spot. 

Box man

The box man holds a large stick called a down indicator box and is used to mark the LOS. A switch on the side of the stick allows him to change the down mark after each play.

Replay Center

When a coach challenges a call, on-field replay officials coordinate with the game’s referee and senior staff members at the NFL’s Art McNally Gameday Central (AMGC) in New York.

The on-field replay official will bring the referee a tablet to evaluate the play. After the review with the AGMC officials, the referee announces the final decision.

7 Similarities Between Football and Basketball Officials7 Similarities Between Football and Basketball Officials

1. Both sports have referees, coaches, and replay centers.

2. The NBA and the NFL have commissioners as the figurehead.

3. Disputed calls need the assistance of replay centers.

4. Coaches huddle with players on the sidelines of the game area during timeouts.

5. Referees wear uniforms and use a game whistle to make a call or start and end a game.

6. Referees must be in excellent physical shape because the games require officials to be physically and mentally active.

7. Referees have crew chiefs.

Which Sport is More Difficult to Officiate_ Basketball or FootballWhich Sport is More Difficult to Officiate: Basketball or Football?

The NFL has 22 players and seven referees, and the NBA has ten and three, making about three players for every referee.

Football has 19 rules, and basketball has 14. Calls in football follow the rules; basketball refs make judgment calls because of many interpretations of the game. Part of the referee’s job is to be familiar with the rules, and they are trained for conformity in implementing all contexts.

Football refs have time to think before making a call, and they can throw a flag and pick up some more. Basketball refs must make a call the moment they blow the whistle.

Football has a 25-second break between plays, and basketball has none.

Determining which sport is challenging to referee depends on which side of the fence you are.

Wrapping Things Up: 3 Things Football Referees Have in Common with Basketball Officials

Although football and basketball are two different sports, we came up with three things football referees have in common with basketball officials.

  • Referees wear uniforms and use a game whistle to make a call or start and end a game.
  • Referees must be in excellent physical shape because the games require officials to be physically and mentally active.
  • Referees have crew chiefs.

A great referee makes the right calls when situations are not covered by the game’s rules, which separates them from the rest.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.


Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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