For clubs and associations


Why do so many sports at all levels spend time in finding replacement officials? The answer can be that they were not able to keep the ones they had from the last season.

Satisfied, valued and recognised officials are less likely to leave the club/association.

Sports need to develop and implement strategies in recruitment and retention of sports officials to maintain and increase athlete participation in sport.

Abuse and harassment may not be the only reasons that the number of officials is declining. Other reasons may include lack of support, mentoring, respect, leadership, understanding and high expectations from sporting organisations.

In 2003 the ASC commissioned a research study that concluded:

  • The resources devoted by national and state sporting organisations to sports officiating are disproportionately low in comparison to coach and player development
  • The facilities and resources available to sports officials at the grassroots level are inadequate
  • The integration of sports officials within the operation of sport governing organisations is inconsistent within sports
  • There are shortcomings in the training provided for sports officials to deal with abuse and conflict situations
  • The feedback provided to practicing officials at the grassroots level is generally inadequate
  • The skills and abilities of sports officials’ coordinators is a key determinant in the recruitment, development and retention of sports officials at the local level.

Key recommendations of the study were that:

  • Sports should attempt to build a stronger and more positive public image for sports officiating
  • Sports should adopt a tough stance on abuse
  • Sports should be encouraged to increase their recognition of officials
  • Clearer and more transparent career paths should be developed and communicated
  • State sporting associations should be encouraged to appoint officials’ coordinators at association level
  • Sports should adopt more flexible approaches to the rostering of officials
  • Coach and player education should include modules on working with sports officials to minimise incidents of abuse.
  • Training for officials should be designed to include hands-on conflict resolution sessions
  • There should be formal recognition of prior learning to enable experienced officials to make the transition from sports official to officials’ coach or coordinator.

SportAus Club

The SportAus Club Health Checker online tool is the recommended tool for club growth, viability and sustainability for our Northern Territory Sport and Active Recreation clubs.

Developed by Sport Australia, the Club Health Check tool assists clubs and organisations look at a number of factors key to success and provides a report showing the overall picture of how your club operates.

The tool may take 30 minutes to complete and it is suggested you have two or three people from your club to complete the assessment together.
You can access the online assessment tool at the SportAus Club Health Check website

Official recruitment

Is your club in desperate need of more officials? You’re not alone; this is a common problem for many clubs. Being able to recruit enough officials is extremely important for clubs and associations to operate, develop and grow. Research states 80% of all sports officials begin officiating shortly after leaving their sport as a participant or started officiating while still participating in their sport.

Promote the positive aspects that YOUR club or organisation offers to volunteers:

  • Enjoyment & fun
  • For money/cash
  • Keep fit
  • To challenge yourself
  • To stay involved in the game
  • Help support and develop your sport and competition
  • To help out the team and sport
  • Help out your child’s sport and team
  • Comradery and friendship

For more information and help with volunteers, visit Volunteering Australia.

Ideas and strategies to help you recruit officials:


Club help

Official retention

Officiating in Australia and elsewhere, tend to have a high rate of turnover, particularly at the grass-roots level of sports, some as high as 50-60% and 30% overall.

Retention and long term commitment is actually depended upon their perception of how the organisation supports them. This means the degree to which officials believe the Sporting Organisation values their contribution as well as caring about their well-being and helping them fulfill their role with respect to them being an official.

Several factors are believed, to combine, to cause the high turnover rate. Not all things are in your sports control eg. An official’s obligations to their full-time career or job take priority over officiating, or for a young official entering tertiary education in another state for the first time and they don’t know how to contact the new organisation or don’t have the time or energy to continue. However the following factors sports do have control to make the officiating environment suitable and enjoyable.

  • Poor support mechanisms in place by clubs and sporting associations (i.e. lack of ongoing training, support, recognition).
  • Too much time away from family, friends and social activities.
  • Low pay or insufficient reimbursement for personal expenses.
  • Fear of liability and other legal issues.
  • Lack of opportunities to advance as an official.
  • Mental and physical stress (i.e. injury or too high a workload) that may lead to burnout.
  • For young officials poor sportsmanship exhibited by players (i.e. verbal abuse, etc.) or not getting paid regularly/on time.
  • Pressure to perform at a high level of proficiency.

Perception of organisation support can best be achieved in the following ways:

  • Clear, transparent and objective evaluation of your officials.
  • Human resource investment are you committing to your officials
  • Opportunities to be included in the relevant decision making process
  • Organisational commitment to formally implement officiating development
  • Are there formal or structural recognition mechanisms in place within your organisation e.g. official committee, someone from officiation on your board
  • Providing awards that recognise their contribution to your sport’s organisation
  • Clear policies and procedures with respect to the advancement of your officials

See below for a few tips that will help to retain officials for your organization;

Official recognition

For most officials the enjoyment of being involved can be diminished by the significant cost to stay involved.

Clubs/Associations can assist in retaining officials in the following ways:

  • Smile, say hello and thank your officials regularly
  • Send welcome letters when officials are first recruited
  • Write letters or postcards of thanks to officials
  • Provide identification pins, badges, shirts or caps
  • Provide a distinct uniform on and off the field/court
  • Acknowledge and profile officials in newsletters and on websites
  • Present annual volunteer awards
  • Nominate officials at NT Sports Awards or NSO Officiating Awards
  • Send get well, birthday and Christmas cards to you officials
  • Award life memberships for long serving officials
  • Present special awards for 1, 5, 10, 15 and more years of service or 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300 matches officiated
  • Farwell officials when they move away from the area or leave the organisation
  • At end of season provide a ceremony of thanks to the officials, provide flowers, gift certificate or sponsored nights accommodation at a local motel
  • Thank officials in speeches
  • Name an event, an award or facility after an official
  • Make a personalised USB for officials with photos of them in action set to music
  • Offering to write a personalized reference (especially appreciated by young volunteers)
  • For every hour or service allocate one raffle ticket for a raffle draw at the end of season or event
  • Download official recognition certificates from government or sport website, personalise and present to officials at a public forum eg. Grandfinal

Preventing abuse of officials: Through R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

There is no one sure way to improve the satisfaction and retention rates of officials in sport. Every official will have their own personality and expectations which will dictate what they need from their chosen sport in order to satisfy them as individuals. Group wide satisfaction is a complex issue, an officiating strategy which meets the personal needs of one official may not necessarily be the approach that satisfies all officials.

A good place to start when developing a system which encourages long-term commitment from an officiating group is the Australian Sports Commission’s Preventing abuse of officials - through R.E.S.P.E.C.T. PDF (35.4 KB) guidelines. The guidelines highlight seven key steps to implementing a systemic respect culture towards officials and within the official group.

  • Recognise - recognise and reward the invaluable contribution that officials make to running sport.
  • Encourage - Encourage and create an inclusive environment through induction processes, training and development and make officials feel needed and valued.
  • Support - Provide adequate resources, fund/supplement costs of travel, uniforms and training, cater to a diverse population and provide referee mentors and coaches.
  • Plan - plan strategies and programs to recognise and support the role of officials by setting goals and outcome-based actions.
  • Educate - Support training and development to improve the competencies, skills and confidence of officials at all levels. Promote codes of behaviour for players, officials, parents, coaches, teachers, administrators, spectators and the media to encourage fair play and appropriate behaviour in sport.
  • Communicate - Communicate openly with officials and the wider sport community, including updates on the organisation and involve officials in relevant decision making processes. Provide a safe and welcoming environment where officials feel empowered to provide their feedback.
  • Thank - Thank officials for their time, contribution and overall importance to the sport.

Rewarding officials

Rewards are vital in the recruitment and retention of officials. For most officials the enjoyment of being involved can be diminished by the significant cost to stay involved.  Such costs include; travel to training and matches, entry costs to enter the match arena, mobile phone calls, fees to attend training courses, purchase of report resources, and in kind costs - eg; time away from family and friends.  

Clubs/Associations should:

  • Provide discounted memberships to officials
  • Provide complimentary tickets to officials for special events or functions
  • Arrange discounts at local sport stores or restaurants for your officials
  • Reimburse out-of pocket expenses for volunteers
  • Provide meal and petrol vouchers to volunteers
  • Arrange for free entry or discounted use of facilities
  • Provide a free social event at the end of the competition or season
  • Provide a financial reward based on level of grade and/or accreditation level
  • Nominate a local official for a suitable overseas or interstate event or Championship

The keys are to:

  1. Match the reward to the person
  2. Match the reward to the achievement
  3. Provide the reward in a timely and specific manner

Officiating Advisory Group terms of reference

Each Club or Association responsible for the recruitment, management and appointment of officials to their local competition needs to have an individual, committee or group responsible for overseeing officiating development in order to build or maintain an appropriate number and quality of officials to adjudicate at your competitions.

The Advisory Group is not a panel that appoints umpires to the regular local competition but a Panel that provides policy and strategic advice to the Association and Member Associations.

Sample Officiating Advisory Group terms of reference DOCX (19.1 KB)