This depends on the level that is being played on. For beginners, there will be typically only one referee. For college-level or professional games, there are 4 referees per match: a first referee on a platform to get an overview of the action, an umpire who is standing on the floor, and 2 line referees. During the Olympics and international tournament, 2 more line judges are added and we have a total of 6 referees per match. The goal is to avoid discussions and make sure that the decisions are clear. Let’s take a deeper look at each of these roles to see what they have to do.
Types of referees and their duties:
First referee volleyball (R1, 1 in the image): the up referee
The first referee is standing on a height next to the net so that he or she can get a better overview of the action. This referee is using hand signals to indicate a decision. They need certifications and training to be able to do this. There are a lot of nuances in the volleyball rules and referees have to know these very well. For example, it is not allowed to touch the net in volleyball but you can do so between the antenna and the poles. This doesn’t happen often during a match but a referee has to know this and all of these things need to be learned.
This referee uses the input of the other referees but makes the final decision. In general, volleyball players are not allowed to protest the decisions of the referee. It is still possible that they make some mistakes though, as can be seen in the video below:
This referee also has to keep out an eye on rotations. This makes sure that players stay in their required position during the rally. Beginners often make mistakes against this and the referee has to make sure that this is noticed.
They also have to allow substitutions when the game is paused. If a player is injured, they also have to pause the game immediately.
Players are not allowed to slow down the game too much and they will get a warning from the referee if they do.
During the match, teams have to switch courtside so that they both can play on each side of the net. The first referee has to indicate this change.
Second referee in volleyball (R2, 2 in the image): the down referee
This is the referee that is standing on the ground. This provides a different perspective and allows them to see what is going on the floor. Their main role is to focus on the net. They have to make sure that players don’t touch it and that the ball goes over it. To do this, they move from one side of the net to the other. They communicate with the first referee to come to a final decision and provide input if a point is scored or not.
This referee does not have a whistle but can indicate faults to the first referee. If the first referee is unable to continue, the second referee can take over this role.
Volleyball players often sweat a lot and the second referee checks that the floor is not too slippery to play on.
The players on the bench and in the warmup area are under the supervision of this referee.
They also have to track the number of timeouts and substitutions that are being left to make sure that teams don’t make mistakes here. The timeouts are also timed by this referee.
Line referee (3 and 4 in the image)
Volleyball is very fast-paced and it can be hard for the referees to see everything. During a lot of professional matches, 2 line referees are used. These are placed opposite to each other. These referees have to make sure that the ball is over the line if a point is awarded. If the ball is on the line, it is still considered to be in the court. There are also nuances as the ball can go over the line if the defender touched the ball and the team is still in play. The International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) notes that 4 line judges are required during Olympic and International competitions. This makes sure that the rules are being followed.
The first referee and umpire are not able to check these things as a volleyball court is quite big and small differences are hard to see. The line referee can overrule the decision of the first referee when it comes to lines as they have a closer view. In most instances, the first referee will look at the line referees anyway before making a decision. When there are four line referees, each has their own part of the court that they are responsible for. People are still not infallible and it is possible that mistakes happen. In the years to come, we could see more camera technology being used so that it is possible to see everything in slow motion to make decisions based on this. This is already being used in some soccer and tennis matches. There is a limit on how many times a team can ask for a camera review to keep the match moving forward. It is possible that line referees can be replaced by software and cameras in the years to come as these are even more precise and can give the first referee a quick signal.
Tournament manager: big trouble ahead
This person might be present during bigger tournaments. In some instances (for example when something breaks in the sports arena during the match), they have to make decisions about what needs to happen. Generally, they can just follow the game without having to interfere. If they have to take action, something serious is going wrong and they have to fix it so that the match can keep going on.
Scorekeepers: more than just statistics
There are a lot of statistics that are being kept during each match. These provide coaches and players with unique insights about the individual players and team. It also makes sure that there are no discussions after the match about who won and what players scored points. To keep track of this and the scoreboard, there are often 2 people working on this during matches for beginners. Given that professional teams play very fast, 4 people are working on this during professional tournaments. This allows 2 people to track the stats per team. These people have to be trained really well so that they can take notes very fast. There is a standard form to record all the actions.
The first and second referees check the scoresheet at the end of the match and sign it.
To conclude, we can state that there are a lot of people involved in officiating a volleyball match. In lower-level matches, we often see one referee. During professional matches, we can see up to 6 people doing this at the same time. This requires a lot of teamwork and it is not easy to do this.