Netball Have A Referee Or Umpire? » (Learn The Difference)

Netball is a popular sport most played by women that looks very similar to basketball. Without dribbling or running the ball, the teams aim to shoot into a net on each end of the court.

This sport is played mostly in Commonwealth nations and is played by upwards of 20 million people worldwide.

There are many unique rules that separate netball from other sports and make it an exciting game to participate in.

Does netball have a referee or umpire? Netball is governed by an umpire. They are crucial to the proper playing of the game and responsible for knowing the rules, adhering to these rules, and ensuring the players play within these guidelines by making calls and decisions. Some sports, including netball call their officials “umpires,” while other sports use the term “referee.”

There are subtle differences between referees and umpires in certain sports, but all are responsible for making objective judgment calls in order to uphold the rules and fairness of the game.

Netball’s umpires must be impartial and knowledgeable in the game in order to properly protect players and manage the match. This article dives into the details of what an umpire does, how they differ from a referee, and what it takes to officiate this popular game.

Read Also: What Do You Need To Play Netball?

Netball: Umpire vs Referee

In netball, there are two umpires, each responsible for one half of the court. Each umpire is in charge of making necessary calls for infractions, upholding the rules of the game, and placing importance on player safety. They move up and down their end of the court to keep up with the play and make necessary decisions to adhere to the rules of the game.

What’s the Difference Between an Umpire and Referee?

In general, there is very little difference between an umpire and a referee. Both are terms used to describe one (or more persons) who officiates a sport and is in charge of making decisions to uphold the rules of a sport. The word umpire is derived from the French and then English word “noumpere” which means arbitrator.

An arbitrator is someone who intervenes to settle disputes, in this case, calls in a game. 

A referee describes one who is referred to in making a decision and more modernly the title of the decision maker in a sporting match.

Both words have essentially the same meaning, with some sports preferring one term over the other. English-speaking countries have established many different names for sports officials, while the same positions are simplified across almost all sports in other languages. 

You can use umpire and referee almost interchangeably with subtle differences in the origin of their meanings. Memorizing what term each sport uses will make you appear knowledgeable across sports and for netball, you’ll use the term umpire.

What Does A Netball Umpire Do?

We know that an umpire controls the game to uphold the rules, but there are more specific things that an umpire must do before, during, and after each game.

  • Inspections: Before a game, the umpire must inspect the court for proper sizing and to make sure the nets are of correct size and place. The umpire also inspects the players for proper uniforms, no jewelry, and short fingernails.
  • Make Calls: The umpire is in charge of making decisions when a player or team violates a rule. This results in a penalty for the team and the ball is awarded to the non-offending team. When the ball goes out of bounds, it is the umpire’s job to determine who had possession beforehand and give them the ball. Calls are made by blowing a whistle and describing the situation that just occurred.
  • Safety: If a player is injured, the umpire must blow the whistle to stop the game. The player is evaluated to ensure they are okay or if medical attention is needed before resuming.
  • Record score: The umpire is responsible for keeping an updating scorecard during the match. This details players who scored, fouled, and additional statistics about the game. This should be submitted after the game for official results.

Becoming a Netball Umpire

If you are interested in becoming a netball umpire, there is a series of trainings and certifications one must obtain. Like most sports, these classes ensure you are knowledgeable of netball rules and know how to properly officiate in a competitive environment.


Across all netball associations worldwide, there is an award program for accrediting umpires. There are training courses one must take in order to umpire in competitions. Different levels of accreditation allow for more competitive umpire opportunities. These award programs are similar from country to country to maintain a standard set of rules and practices.

The Netball America award program is currently being restructured, but the Netball Europe system gives good insight into the steps you need to take worldwide. Netball originated in England and is largely played across Europe and the Commonwealth (countries original under rule of British Empire) worldwide. The courses offered are typically around 6 hours of education each.

Netball umpire award program:

  • Intro Officiating Courses: Offered locally for those who want to umpire in local or school competitions. This course will teach you the rules and skills required to umpire, how to keep a scorecard, and learn more about progressing as an umpire in the sport.
  • C Award Course: This course gives you the qualification to umpire in local or junior leagues. You will build upon your knowledge in the intricacies of the rules, show your skills in positioning and vision, and develop an understanding of game management.
  • B Award Course: Must have gained C Umpire Award to umpire in local and regional leagues. This will qualify you to umpire in a competitive environment, learn hand signals associated with calls, continue to develop court vision and movement, and learn to make more advanced calls.

Umpire Tips

In addition to accreditation, there are also helpful things to consider if you want to become an umpire and things you should do to maximize your performance.

  • Proper gear and uniform: You will need to get a uniform that is clearly a different color from the teams competing. You will also need a whistle and good shoes. You can buy netball shoes that the players wear or any tennis shoes will work well.
  • Fitness: Being an umpire is an active role. You will need to run up and down the court quickly to keep up with the players and make calls from a proper vantage point. This will require having enough energy for games with proper nutrition and outside exercise depending on fitness level.
  • Assertiveness: Being an umpire requires making calls assertively and defusing potential arguments and confrontation. Players may argue with calls you make and you must deal with these situations in a professional manner.

Netball Umpires

Being a netball empire is a great way to stay active and involved in the sport. As an empire, it your job to make fair and assertive decisions to maintain the integrity of the game. It requires knowledge of the game, skills in managing players and coaches, and overall good judgment. Keeping the game fair and safe makes it enjoyable for all parties and promotes the highest level of competition.

Read Also: What Do You Wear For Netball?

Hi, I'm Simon, and I am passionate about "other sports".

There are many other (and much more fun!) sports than football, soccer and hockey.

If you are looking for inspiration beyond the most popular sports in the world, then you have come to the right place.


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