Learning how to communicate is an important attribute for all referees. Appropriate communication helps to deliver high quality officiating as well as prevent and manage issues such as conflict and abuse. As such, it is important to acknowledge the main forms of communication available for referees and how they can assist them to deliver good officiating. The Australian Sports Commission has compiled a comprehensive resource for all sport officials, with key concepts highlighted below.

Forms of communication:


  • Introductions to participants, coaches and others prior to the competition
  • Explaining a breach of the rules/laws to participants during the competition
  • Relating an account of an incident to a judiciary/tribunal after a competition



  • To award a free kick or penalty
  • To end a period of play



  • A flag/indication is used for fouls/law infringements, substitutions and when the ball goes out of the field of play.


Body language:

  • Eye contact
  • Stance
  • Hands


Communication Tips:

  • As a general rule, communication will be most effective for everyone when the official uses more than one method of communication to convey a message eg. verbal and a visual signal (flag)
  • A confident and decisive verbal communication style assists officials in managing all parties, characterised by a clear voice, appropriately chosen words and a firm manner
  • Confident and decisive body language. This shows a person in control of themselves and the competition
  • Court presence is an effective selling tool for officials. Officials should look good and come across as someone with authority and in control of the situation.
  • Good body langue involving eye contact, a comfortable stance, hands behind the back, a nod of acceptance all give the impression of being approachable, and always looking to be in control.
  • Varying the whistles tone, volume and length of sound is an often underutilised but effective conflict management tool.



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