Tuesday, January 3, 2012

‎9.1.2 One referee is designated Head Referee; the Head Referee is the ultimate authority in the game. The Head Referee will assign positions and duties to the other referees and non-skating officials.

Today's rule discusses the role of the Head Referee. The Head Referee (HR) is an important position. HRs need to know the rules better than any other referee on their squad in case of disputes and official reviews; they need to be more aware of what is going in the entirety of the game, including skaters in the penalty queue, skaters who have quit the jam, etc; they need to maintain their own professional demeanor and inspire the other referees to do the same; most importantly they need to make sure that the rules of the game are followed so as to ensure a safe and fair game for both teams.

Certainly there will be times when the HR is not the most experienced ref on the floor, but that's ok. Every HR needs to start somewhere. When I work with HRs less experienced than myself I always let them know that I'm right behind if they need some advice, but I make sure not to be over their shoulder.

Something from this rule that has been misconstrued, as evidenced by a few comments from past rule discussions here, is the part about the HR being the ultimate authority of the game. While this is true, that the decision of the HR is final, it is important for the HR not to overstep the bounds of their position. Every sport has an ultimate authority so as to make sure decisions get made. However, being the ultimate authority does not grant an HR the ability to either make up rules or ignore existing ones. Several anecdotes include HRs penalizing skaters in the penalty box for communicating across to their bench, non-captains talking to the referees, and other such activities. These things are not enumerated in the rules as penalties, nor do the rules say anywhere that they are illegal. Other anecdotes include HRs always penalizing the back or front group for destruction, issuing majors for cutting the foremost Blocker always, and other such errors. These are situations where the HR has altered a rule that is clearly written. Both making up rules and altering existing ones is not something a Head Referee, not any referee, may do. I have heard it said that in situations where the HR was clearly violating the rules that the other referees went with it because the HR is the ultimate authority. Again, although their decision is final, refs are only allowed to use discretion in situations where the rules are not clearly spelled out. If an HR is violating the rules they need to confronted by the other referees, not obeyed simply because they are the ultimate authority. After all, the teams playing have entrusted the HR with making sure the rules are followed, not granted them with the license to do with the rules as they wish. A confrontation of the HR should be done so respectfully, as all communication to and from officials should be.

Another aspect of this rule is that the HR assigns the positions to the other refs and NSOs. While the rule may say this, it is not exactly the practice, in my experience, that the HR assigns every position. In many cases the HR is Not affiliated with the host league and comes in knowing their own position and entrusting the assignments to other people. So while the rule puts the responsibility of assignments to the HR, it is in the best interest of the game to make sure the most qualified individuals are put in the appropriate positions. That being said, as the ultimate authority, if the HR chooses to change the assignments they certainly may do so. I have been in such a situation myself as a visiting HR in the past.

The Head Referee is a designation given to one of the referees officiating the game. Head Referee is not a position unto itself. In the past leagues have had a floating or standing HR, either on or off skates, in addition to the other seven referees. Doing this would violate the maximum seven referees (9.1.1) and also the requirement for all refs to be on skates ( Some leagues have had a Jammer referee be the HR. This is not technically against the rules, but generally frowned upon, as both the HR and Jammer referee are positions of great importance and responsibility, and shirking one for the other is not a good idea. There's a reason why the WFTDA Officiating Standard Practices suggest that the HR be one of the inside pack refs.