The Hardest And Easiest Sports To Officiate

It’s no secret that officiating a professional sports game can be pretty difficult.

Not only do officials have to be laser focused on the game they’re watching, but they also have to make split-second decisions that affect the outcome of the game.

The Hardest And Easiest Sports To Officiate

Not to mention you have to deal with objections from the players and fans!

Officials know their stuff, so why is there always debate about rule interpretations?

This is because while rules are detailed, there are a few ways to interpret them, especially if an official has come to an unpopular decision, and what one official rules, another might dispute.

But which sport is the hardest to officiate? Most people agree it is professional football, and this is because there are a lot of moving parts that keep the game running smoothly.

If you don’t believe that officiating football is difficult, it takes seven officials to officiate a professional football game! These are the referee, the umpire, the head linesman, a line judge, a field judge, a side judge, and a back judge.

But what about the other major sports? How hard are they to officiate? Let’s find out!


Basketball is certainly a physically difficult sport to officiate, as you’re always on the move.

There is no time to rest when you’re officiating a basketball game, as you have to move around constantly to keep an eye on the action as the players shift around. In fact, basketball officials run around 1 and 4 miles during a game.

Professional basketball games are played indoors, but due to how much they move around, basketball officials are serious about keeping hydrated.

Basketball games are officiated by two or three partners, who move between the lead position and the trail or center position multiple times throughout the game.

This means their responsibilities alter constantly.

Basketball officials are often closer to the coaches, players, and even the fans when compared to the officials of other sports.

Therefore, basketball officials need to be able to focus on the game and drown out any objections from the crowd and coaches.

Officials new to basketball can join a local officials association where they can attend lectures and take part in demonstrations, so they’re prepared for the job they’re about to undertake.

At the very least they can attend their local officials association to keep up to date with any changes to the rules.

They may also have to take a written test that has a minimum passing score, and they may also have to pay a fee for the season.


What makes baseball difficult to officiate is the speed of which the ball is flying through the air! Officials hardly have any time to make a call.

Plus, when baseball officials need to decide to call someone out they have to keep their eye on what’s happening on the bases.

They need to keep an eye on the ball in the fielder’s glove, if the player’s foot is on the base, and they also need to keep an eye on the runner touching the base before they catch the ball.

The Hardest And Easiest Sports To Officiate

In a baseball game, every pitch and play is reliant on what the officials decide, and they have a huge impact on the outcome of the game.

There is a lot of pressure on baseball officials because a wrong call can affect the course of the whole game.

Managers often get kicked out of the game because they’re fighting with an official over a call! It is very common to see a coach yelling in an umpire’s face over a call.


Hockey is often sarcastically referred to as ‘the fastest game on ice,’ and it is one of the most difficult sports to officiate.

However, over the years the NHL has made a few changes to the rule book to help officials make correct calls, as well as protect players from getting too hurt.

Video review is very controversial in sport, and hockey is not exempt from this.

Ahead of the 2015-2016 season, the NHL said the coach could challenge decisions regarding goalkeeper interference, and any offside calls that result in goals.

The speed of the game means NHL linesmen and referees have to be super sharp, but the game is so fast-paced and without any regular stoppages that it is very difficult to officiate.

An NHL game has two referees that call penalties, and two linesmen who call infractions like icing and offsides.

Despite this, there have been a few occasions in NHL games where officials have made the wrong call and this had an effect on a game’s outcome.

But video review is used to help officials make confident, accurate calls.

Along with the speed of the game and the lack of stoppages, the fact that players can use their stick to impede a player on the opposite team also makes hockey a very complicated game to officiate.

Final Thoughts

So which is the easiest major sport to officiate?

Many believe it is football, but while there are a lot of components to consider the fact that there is a team of eight officiating a football game means that officials have someone else watching the game closely to defer to if they’re unsure about a decision.

Basketball can be a physically demanding sport to officiate, and baseball officiating involves keeping your eye on fast-flying balls, but we believe the hardest sport to officiate is hockey.

This is due to the fast-paced nature of the game, the blur of hockey sticks, and how the game has little to no stoppages.

No matter the sport however, officiating has become easier over the years due to instant video replay.

Like with anything, practice makes perfect, and the more games referees officiate, the more confident and accurate their calls will be.

However, no matter the advances in technology, officiating will never become ultra simplified and will always be a source of controversy.

Steven Anderson