Difference Between Umpire and Referee

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    Umpire vs Referee

    An umpire refers to sports officials who apply their services in various kinds of sports competitions, whereas a referee is the person who ensures that all the rules and regulations of the game are correctly followed while the game is in progress. The decisions of the umpire are often called forth to make a call for judgment on whether the rules are being maintained. This brings us to the similarity of the nature of their jobs, the difference fundamentally lying in the fact that different sports choose to use one term or another in order to denote the identity of the people in power who exercise the final authority.

    Generally, an umpire or a referee is called upon to determine the legality of a given act that needs arbitration. The umpire takes into account the participation of the players in case the players behave illegally or in an inappropriate manner. For example, in the US, various sports activities prefer using the term ‘umpire’ for sports officials and ‘referee’ for officers who regulate the way the game functions. Baseball happens to be a game in which the sports official is referred to as the ‘umpire’, both for the minor as well as major leagues. The Little League also refers to their sports arbiter as ‘umpire’ in the college level and high school leagues as well.

    In soccer, authorities use the term ‘referee’ for denoting their sports official, although the rules of the game do not preclude the presence of a referee. In the initial days of the game, there would be two captains to resolve opinions and conflicts that arose in course of the game. This changed as the game evolved into settling for a referee to protect the interests of both teams in an impartial manner. It was also noticed that the teams and players needed a non partisan approach to ensure that either team had an equal opportunity in complying with the game rules.

    Indeed, the role of a referee is to act as a third party negotiator for resolving conflicts. The sports industry these days has decided to have multiple umpires to look after various aspects of the match, for proper observation of the rules and stipulations of the game, level or league. However, there may be several umpires required for several games. While an umpire is just known as the term itself, a referee can be indicated by multiple names like: linesman, commissaire, judge, touch judge or timekeeper.


    1. An ‘umpire’ is used in baseball, while football games have ‘referees’
    2. The umpire settles disputes that mediators could not; a referee is the person players refer to for ensuring maintenance of quality
    3. There can be field umpires, boundary umpires etc. Referees are known as linesmen, timekeepers etc.

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