American Football Rules - Officials


The game is officiated by a crew of three to seven officials. Every crew will consist of a referee, who is generally in charge of the game and watches action on the quarterback and in the offensive backfield; an umpire, who handles spotting the ball and watches action on the offensive line; and a head linesman, who supervises placement of the down box and line-to-gain chains. The crew may also consist of a line judge, back judge, field judge and side judge, in the order listed: i.e. a crew of five officials has a referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge and back judge.

Officials are selected by the teams in advance or appointed by the governing league. Note that unlike some other sports, no football officials—not even at the NFL level—are full-time employees of the league; they all officiate on a part-time basis. In the other three major North American professional sports leagues--Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL--officials are employed by their respective leagues. The sheer volume of games in the other three sports necessitates full-time officials; the NFL regular season is only 16 games long, compared to 162 games for MLB and 82 for the NBA and NHL.

During the game, the officials are assisted in the administration of the game by other persons, including: a clock operator to start and stop the game clock (and possibly also the play clock); a chain crew who hold the down indicator and the line-to-gain chains on the sideline; and ball boys, who provide footballs to officials between downs (e.g. a dry ball each down on a wet day). These individuals may be provided by the teams involved—it is common for a high school coach's son or daughter to act as ball boy for the team.

Read more about this topic:  American Football Rules

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