Volleyball Referee

Like any sport, volleyball has its own unique set of rules and regulations and that requires officials to make sure such rules are followed during official play. Every organized game of volleyball, whether amateur or professional, has referees that run the match and make sure players and coaches are following the rules. Read on to learn all about referees in volleyball.

Types of Referees in Volleyball

In volleyball, referees are officials who control gameplay by awarding points and declaring faults. There are seven types of officials in a volleyball match:

  • 1st Referee
  • 2nd Referee
  • Scorer
  • Assistant Scorer
  • Two or Four Line Judges
  • Reserve Referees
  • Challenge Referees

Each official and referee is responsible for interpreting the rulebook for a different part of the volleyball game, but the 1st referee always has the final say.

Roles and Responsibilities

When players or teams break any rules or make mistakes, the referee will call a fault or violation. They usually result in a side out: possession of the ball and a point for the opponent. 1st referees and 2nd referees will call faults or violations on a player or a team as they happen during the game, the authority of the 1st referee definitively deciding what is or is not a fault. Referees also reward points to each team throughout matches. Meanwhile, line judges help call out whether a ball is in or out of bounds. 

Specific responsibilities of each referee position are discussed below.

1st Referee

The 1st referee is the head authority during each match and makes final calls on faults and delays. The 1st referee is positioned on one side of the net during play and issues warnings to each team while also making calls on any player or team misconduct and declaring delays. 1st referees also inspect the conditions of the playing area, the balls, and all other equipment before the match starts and perform the toss with team captains.

2nd Referee

The 2nd referee is essentially the assistant to the 1st referee and can even replace the 1st referee during certain circumstances. The 2nd referee is positioned outside the playing court near the post and on the opposite side of the 1st referee. 2nds referees signal faults they witness, control the scorers, supervise players on the bench, supervise warm-up areas, authorize regular game interruptions, control the number of time-outs and substitutions, and authorize any exceptional substitutions or recovery time.


The scorer’s main responsibility is to keep the score of the volleyball match and keep records on the score sheet. They are seated at the scorer’s table on the opposite side of the court from the 1st referee. The scorer also uses a buzzer or other sound device to alert the 1st referee of any scoring discrepancies or give them other signals.

Assistant Scorer

The assistant scorer is primarily responsible for keeping track of libero replacements in the match. They also assist the scorer with any administrative duties. Assistant scorers will announce other substitutions as well to the officials and teams.

Line Judges

The line judges are responsible for using flags to signal whether a ball that hit the ground in bounds or out of bounds. A volleyball match will either feature two or four line judges. They stand on either side of the net in opposite corners (or all four corners if four are used). The first referee will use the signals from the line judges to make the official call.

Reserve Referees

In official FIVB competitions, a reserve referee is required to potentially replace the 2nd referee. This generally occurs when the 2nd referee becomes unavailable or when the 2nd referee replaces the 1st referee for some sanctioned reason. Reserve referees also control substitution paddles, control substitute players, help guide the work of the moppers, and assist the 2nd referee in keeping the free zone clear and instructing dismissed/disqualified players to leave the dressing room.

Challenge Referees

Challenge referees are responsible for overseeing the video challenge process. Challenge referees advise the 1st referee on video review decisions. They are located in an area off the court known as the challenge booth. Challenge referees are only present at official competitions where the video challenge system is in use.

Official Signals

The 1st or 2nd referee will blow a whistle when a rule is broken. The referee will then announce why play has stopped. As in other sports, the referee will then use hand signals to indicate which rule was broken. Line judges, meanwhile, stop play by raising a flag. This means that the ball or player has gone out of bounds.


What is a referee in volleyball?

A referee in volleyball is an official that controls play by awarding points and assessing faults. The 1st referee leads the officiating crew, and is responsible for making the final decision on calls. Other officials assist the 1st referee in specific areas, such as line calls and scorekeeping.

How many referees are in volleyball?

There are five main types of referees in volleyball. These main types include the 1st referee, the 2nd referee, scorer, assistant scorer, and line judges. Though all officials interpret and enforce the rules, each type of referee has unique responsibilities and areas of the court over which they are responsible. FIVB competitions also have reserve referees and challenge referees present at each match.