Do Referees Get Punished For Bad Calls?

We’ve all been there – something serious has happened in a sports game and we saw it happen, the commentators saw it happen, but for some reason, the referee refuses to accept it and make a decision. 

All referees are human and just like the rest of us, they can make a bad call now and then – but do they ever get penalized for it? Or do they get away with potentially swaying a game’s results over due to one huge misjustice? 

Do Referees Get Punished For Bad Calls

Here, we are going to be looking at what happens if a referee makes a bad call in a range of sports. So, buckle in and check out the information below to answer all of your burning questions regarding referees! 

Do NFL Referees Get Punished For Bad Calls?

Most of the time, a referee only makes a bad call now and again and because it isn’t a common occurrence, most referees are not faced with any kind of penalty or punishment. 

However, if a referee’s performance throughout the season is riddled with mistakes and bad calls, then they will probably be penalized in postseason play.

This means that they won’t be able to officiate playoff games due to their poor judgment calls and will have to do better next season in order to make up for those previous bad calls.

This is enough of an incentive to get a referee to do better in their next game.

This doesn’t mean that the NFL is beyond taking action straight away. In 2018, the NFL fired referee Hugo Cruz after he missed a very obvious false start against one of  the Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive linemen.

The Chargers went on to win the game, and Cruz was reportedly fired the next day. 

So, it all depends on how bad the ‘bad call’ is.

Do Soccer Referees Get Punished For Bad Calls?

With soccer referees, they aren’t really ever punished for making a bad call. 

Every referee gets to review their work with senior officials and then they get feedback regarding their bad calls. In some instances, they are given training to help the referee avoid making such a mistake again. 

In very extreme cases, a referee may be demoted for making a very serious bad call but this is super rare. An even rarer occurrence is if a referee is banned for life. 

This rare occurrence happened in the 2018 World Cup qualifying rounds when FIFA banned a referee for ‘influencing the result of a World Cup Qualifying match’ after making a very, very bad call.

The referee called ‘handball’ even when playback footage clearly showed that the ball had hit the player’s leg – and the call then allowed the opposing team to score and qualify for the World Cup. 

The decision was such a bad call that FIFA then banned the referee for life. However, it could have been external influences that caused the referee to make the call (such as betting or bribery), but this was never confirmed. 

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Do NBA Referees Get Punished For Bad Calls? 

Typically, NBA referees will not get called out or punished for making one bad call, especially if they have a good history of being a fair and accurate referee. 

However, in recent years, more and more fans have been complaining about the consistently poor performance of NBA referees with late whistles and bad calls.

What’s worse is that if an NBA player tries to call out a bad call as unfair or unjust, then they can be slapped with a huge fine for their actions. 

But the NBA referee who made the bad call in the first place? They don’t face such punishment.

This is why so many NBA fans have been calling for a fining system for referees who make bad calls.

They believe that this would lead to better refereeing performances but as of right now, there is no punishment or fining system in place for NBA referees who make bad calls.

Do Baseball Umpires Get Punished For Bad Calls? 

Even baseball is not safe from bad calls ruining a game but do umpires in the MLB receive any kind of punishment or fine for making a bad call during a game? 

Officially, no – as far as we know, there is no punishment or fining system in place for umpires when they make a bad call. However, what goes on behind closed doors is unknown. 

There have been instances when huge mistakes have been punished with a suspension for the umpire but this is not a regular occurrence.

For example, an umpire was suspended when they allowed one team to break a rule regarding pitcher changes and some other members of their team were fined but this is not a set punishment for all. 

In the above example, the punishment came down because it was such an extreme case – even the manager of the other team knew that it was a rule break and was ignored when he called out the umpire and their team for it. 

But most umpires are usually suspended for arguing with managers and players rather than for making bad calls.

This kind of poor behavior is not tolerated by the MLB and they’re not afraid to slap a suspension on an umpire for acting disgracefully – but for making a bad call? Not so much. 


Clearly, there seems to be no sport that accurately punishes their referees for making a bad call. 

In part, it’s understandable – we all make mistakes from time to time and it’s likely that every referee will make a few bad calls in their career. However, many sports fans will say that players are not given that kind of leeway so neither should the referees. 

Although serious cases of ‘bad calls’ are often dealt with punishments including suspensions, there is no set ‘punishment’ system for referees in the main leagues of baseball, soccer, basketball, or American football – despite the growing calls from fans for such a system to be put in place. 

Steven Anderson