Sunderland v Durham Ultimate frisbee

Would the introduction of a referee help the sport of Ultimate Frisbee?

Ultimate Frisbee is not refereed in a traditional sense, but this hasn’t stopped some people calling for the introduction of technology into the sport.

By ‘technology’ it means technological aids to help players decide a contested decision (e.g. did the player score before they moved?) From some perspectives it is easy to see why this would be a boon to a sport that it still striving for complete acceptance.

The first argument that is made for it is the most compelling: by introducing an element of an impartiality into the sport it would help it to be seen as more ‘mainstream’. This argument hinges on the idea that all ‘big’ sports have a referee who is completely impartial.

Purists who are against the introduction of anything but the ‘Spirit of the Game’ say that the sport shouldn’t be comprimised for the sake of trying to push it into the mainstream; some even argue that ‘Spirit of the Game’ makes Ultimate the sport that it is.

University of Sunderland Ultimate Frisbee captain Daniel Venton even suggests that the self-refereeing aspect of the sport helps to promote “honest and sportsmanlike play.”

This is an attitude echoed at many levels of the sport, but particularly at the grassroots level.

Whilst Venton acknowledges that the current system is designed well, he goes onto say that the “introduction of an impartial referee would be useful.”

So there are some divisions even amongst those who are against the introduction of technology into the sport.


1 Comment

  1. Does Ultimate need Refereeing? Consider a continuum from No to Yes.

    1) Teaching youth the basics of Ultimate should not include referees because Spirit of the Game and Simple rule 10 are cornerstone aspects of recreational ultimate. With this, Ultimate teaches youth the broader life skills of regulating their own behavior and rapidly conflict resolution on and off the field. See

    2) High level club play already has ‘Observers’ as defined by USA Ultimate. And having observers is currently the right fit between complete self-officiating and full-on referees. Observers hold the balance between players’ responsibility for fouls and the need to step in to resolve an issue.

    3) The professional Ultimate league of the AUDL already has referees. In Pro Leagues it really makes sense to bring in the non-player call. The AUDL tunes the game for spectator entertainment and referees keep the action on the field moving without long negotiations for contested calls. [commentary = AUDL rules make a good model for NCAA and Olympics for spectator focused play]

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