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Football Officials And Referee Types

What are the referees in football? Here is a course about referees and their roles and responsibilities in a game.


Football Official

An official is responsible for interpreting the rules of the game and enforcing them on the football field. Because of the size of a football field and the number of players on the field at once, there are seven referees for one game.

The seven officials in an NFL game include:

Football Referee

The referee is the head official and has the final say with all rulings on the field. If there is a disagreement between officials, the referee will step in and make the decision. This referee positions himself behind the line of scrimmage, around ten feet into the defensive backfield.


The umpire stands opposite the referee, also behind the line of scrimmage. They are responsible for watching over the line of scrimmage, reviewing player equipment, and counting the number of players on the field. They will also be in charge of marking off yardage for penalties.

Down Judge

The down judge is positioned on one side of the field along the line of scrimmage. They give instructions to the chain crew and keep an eye on offsides players and possible encroachment. They also keep the referee informed on what the current down is, as well as ruling on sideline plays that are on their half of the field.

Line Judge

The ling judge is on the opposite side of the field from the down judge. They also line themselves up with the line of scrimmage. Similar to the down judge, they also watch for offsides players and encroachment, and rule over plays on their side of the field.

Field Judge

The field judge stands on the sideline in the defensive backfield, about 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage. This judge keeps track of the wide receiver on their side of the field to watch for any fouls on the offensive or defensive side. They also watch the sideline to determine if a player is in or out of bounds.

Side Judge

The side judge is in the same position as the field judge, just on the other side of the field. They have the same responsibilities as the field judge, keeping track of the wide receivers on their side of the field and checking for out of bounds.

Back Judge

The back judge stands in the defensive backfield in the middle of the field. They usually are closer to the side the tight end is on. They are responsible for counting defensive players on the field and keeping track of any action around the tight end in order to call any fouls.

Football Flags

A flag in football is a yellow flag that is thrown onto the field by an official if a rule is broken. Any of the seven referees can throw flags onto the field.

Football Flag Throw

If a flag is thrown onto the field in football, fans and players refer to this as: A flag was thrown on the play. When the flag is thrown, the referee that threw the flag must explain what foul was called. Each referee has several flags in case several fouls were made in one play.

Football Challenge

A challenge is a way for a coach to ask for an official to review the previous play with instant replay. To ask for a challenge, the coach will throw a red flag on the field after a play.

Football Referee Signals

A referee signal is a way that the officials communicate with teams and fans during a game. After a flag is thrown, officials will signal the reason for the flag. The referee will use his hands to define the penalty as he makes an announcement.

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