Can Sports Officials Change The Way The Game Is Played?

Every single game or sport in existence has some sort of referee or official to delegate the rules of the game and to make sure no one is cheating. However, officials can cause a lot of controversy in sports and can sometimes change the entire way a game is played. Many people have problems with the way certain sports are officiated or with certain calls an official will make. Officials can generate a lot of violence or aggression from players, fans coaches etc, of a team is a call is not made in their favour. Officials are also human like all the players on the field and therefore cannot see certain things or may have different ideas about what is right or wrong concerning the game play or players actions.dysonbatflip

When playing a game a player has to accept that there will be certain rules to follow that are delegated by an official. Officials can make a lot of mistakes, they are only human! However, this can affect the way a game is played or a game outcome, or whether an athlete wins a race or not. For example, I am a varsity athlete myself playing a variety of sports growing up, however focusing on field hockey in university. During one of our games this year a goal was rewarded against the rules after the ball hit a players foot and went in. In the game field hockey, if the ball hits your foot it then automatically must go to the other team, therefore the goal would have been called off and my team would have got the ball. However, the official did not see the ball hit the players foot, therefore the goal was rewarded and my team lost an important game 1-0. These kind of things matter, especially in games that really count and could have decided a team’s fate in the season. Another example from a professional sport is a basketball game between the Celtics and the Lakers. A ball is hit out of bounds, but it is hard to tell which team hit it out. On the video replay it is evident that the Celtics player hit the ball out, however the official still gives the Celtics the ball and keeps the call them same. Is that ethically right to do so even with video replay evidence?


Doping in sports has always been considered something bad and those who do are called cheaters. It is thought that one is not playing the game if they are cheating because they have an unfair advantage over everyone else involved. However, people always have problems with officials and how their performance affects the game play. What if officials started doping instead of athletes? They could take performance enhancing drugs that could improve their eyesight, their reaction times and their memory on game rules. They could also become fitter and depending on the sport be able to get up and down the field or ice or whatever playing surface quicker to chance more mistakes and/or rule breaking without missing anything. Is this ethically okay, because technically these officials are not playing the game they are officiating it, therefore it would not be cheating to dope. However, this is an interesting subject because some official sport organizations such as Fifa believe that officials are considered “part of the game” and therefore should also be drug tested just like the players. For example Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of Fifa’s medical committee, added: “The referee is an athlete on the field so I think he should be subjected to the same rules” (Referees set for performance-enhancing drug tests, says Fifa, the So really it depends on the game that is being played, however I believe having referees who are more aware would definitely change the game for the better.

Officials all make mistakes, sometimes causing a lot of violence or aggression from fans, players, coaches etc. Is it ethically okay to be mad at an official who makes a mistake when they are only human? People make mistakes all the time daily, some big and some small. However it seems when an official makes even a small mistake people can get very violent and upset. Many sports are meant to be played violently, for example football and rugby, however it when coaches or players get mad at officials the game can become dangerous.

Is it really fair play when officials can decide the way the game is played and could be biased against a certain team? Research has found that home advantage really is a thing and sometimes when officials support a certain team they are biased towards making calls against the other team. According to “The social atmosphere in the stadium leads referees into favouritism although being impartial is optimal for them to maximize their re-appointment probability” (Dubner, Stephan, This is an interesting point because is it really fair play or ethical that a crowd manipulates a referee to think a certain way?

Therefore, yes it is believed that officials can manipulate and change the way a game is played and there are many ethical dilemmas and concerns associated around the entire topic, all very interesting to look into. The most interesting I believe is whether or not it is okay for officials to dope and whether that is ethical or not towards the game as a whole. Many officials get a bad rap because everyone makes mistakes and sometimes mistakes can be made at the wrong times. Thus, I believe that officials should get get cut some slack because it is such a crazy and stressful job when you could decide whether a team wins or loses.

Additional information:

Works Cited

“Practical Ethics.” Practical Ethics. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.

“Referees Set for Performance-enhancing Drug Tests, Says Fifa.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 24 May 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.

Dubner, Stephan. ““Football Freakonomics”: How Advantageous Is Home-Field Advantage? And Why?” Freakonomics RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.


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