Urban Rec On-Site Staff vs Referee Policy

Urban Rec continues to strive towards our goal to provide a fun, social and safe environment for our members to enjoy recreational sports. It is always our expectation that each participant plays with great sportsmanship and a fun first attitude to be outstanding members of our sports community!

On-Site Staff vs Referee Overview

While our on-site staff are not referees, they are there to facilitate this goal, and be attentive so that all participants are playing in line with our rules, policies and expectations to foster the fun, social and safe environment for our members.

It is important to remember that our on-site staff ARE NOT REFEREES! They are there to facilitate a game to the best of their ability and doing so with a coaching attitude and our fun, social and safe environment in mind.

Why don’t we have referees?

We actually do! Every single player is a ref of their own actions and the actions of their teammates!  Self-officiated play puts the responsibility on each individual to know the rules and intended spirit of play, and work within that in terms of determining their own behaviour. A ref can’t know or see everything each individual does, but each individual knows exactly what they have done and in a self-officiated league like Urban Rec provides, each player has the onus squarely on them to make calls on themselves accordingly. We have found that the vast majority of participants in our leagues have embraced this system and err on the side of good sportsmanship while playing.

In our experience, a ref acting as “oversight” has the opposite effect of that which we intend to be the experience in Urban Rec play. Having a ref allows players to SHIFT the accountability for their actions from their shoulders and place it on the shoulders of the ref. In other words, instead of playing to the level their conscience/better judgment and spirit of the play, the presence of a ref allows the players to push the envelope and test the ref on how much they can get away with before being disciplined.  The mindset that IF a player’s behaviour is unacceptable, the ref will call them on it, and if the ref doesn’t see it… tough luck- IS EXACTLY THE MINDSET WE DON’T WANT to perpetuate in Urban Rec play.

Urban Rec On-Site Staff vs Referee Comparison

Urban Rec On-Site Staff


In Charge of the Game

Our staff are on-site to facilitate play for our members and use the ‘Spirit of Urban Rec’ to help guide and positively impact the game experience.

In Charge of the Game

Referees are present to police players at their discretion. The enjoyment of the game for participants is not at the forefront of their efforts.


Our staff are there to build rapport with players, and take care of their wellbeing. They want to see everyone succeed, and care more about the experience everyone is having than the outcome of the game. They may even come out with your team to a clubhouse if invited 😉


Referee’s have no personal involvement with the players, nor are they generally concerned with their overall experience. They are there to do the job of officiating and nothing more.

Sport Enthusiast

Our staff love sports! They often play in our leagues, are familiar with the game, enjoy watching sports, and are there as a part time job because they love fun sporting environments 😊


Referees are trained, accredited, certified and may have a full-time officiating career. They have a job to do, and that job is to enforce adherence to a rule book

Work with Teams to Make the Right Call

Our staff are familiar with the rules, are there to facilitate the game, and help to interpret the rules to make the right call with input from both teams. If they make a mistake, they can consult with the players involved in the play to come up with the right call!

Rigid in Making all Calls

Referees make calls only on what they see based on their own discretion. Once their decision is made, it is final and are not empowered admit a mistake if they are wrong.

Rely on Self-Officiating

Our staff assume you know the rules, and if you break them by accident, you will be playing with great sportsmanship, admit your fault, and change your playing style so it does not happen again.

If there is a play that they cannot see, they will rely on the players that are involved to make the call, or work with them to come up with the right call.

No Self-Officiating

Referees make calls and let players ‘play to whistle’ often leading to an escalation of poor behavior if calls are missed.

Coaching Mentality

Our staff will help coach and educate teams so they can play in a style that is a benefit to our sports community!

Disciplinarian Mentality

Referees will make a call, and do not need to explain why a call was made, nor try to correct the inappropriate behavior other than by issuing a penalty.

Has Final Decision

Our staff will work with teams to come to the right resolution, however if an amicable resolution is not found, their decision will be final.

Has the Final Decision

Referees will make the final decision period.

Main Objective

Our staff is there to be a guide for our members so they are following our rules and policies in order to create a fun, social, and safe environment.

Main Objective

To uphold the standard of the game to the letter of the rule book, potentially at the expense of the game experience for participants.

In Game Management

There is a fine line between competition and intensity/aggression. Competition is great, and why we want to offer our members a chance to continue to play the sports they love and compete each week in a fun, social and safe environment! Unfortunately, it can only take one player that takes things too seriously or plays with an aggressive or overly intense attitude to have a fun competitive game escalate to a point where the experience is not enjoyable.

What happens if someone does not know or follow the rules in a game?

We sincerely hope that all of our members know where this line is, and are able to self-police themselves. However, should our on-site staff witness a breach of our rules, policies or expectations, they are instructed to intervene during a game, and help to educate participants on the rules or appropriate behavior, deescalate and moderate any issues that arise, and help interpret any misunderstood rules or plays.

In Game Management Tools

Team Management

Individual Management

Cool Down Break

If on-site staff notices one or both teams becoming overly intense beyond reasonable competitiveness, they will stop the game and ask teams to take a Cool Down Break to gather themselves and return to style of play that is in line with our fun first culture.

Acknowledge, Coach, Call

On-site staff are trained to use three methods to help facilitate a game:

  1. Acknowledge – If a foul is called on the field/court, they may acknowledge or confirm that this is a proper call so all participants are aware and can use this as example of an appropriate call.
  2. Coach & Educate – If on-site staff observe a certain play where breach of a rule takes place, or style of play that they feel is not suitable and is not called, they may stop the game to educate the player(s) on what the rule is, or why the style of play observed was not in line with Urban Rec expectations.
  3. Call – If on-site staff sees a foul of concern, they may stop the game to make the call, to help set a standard on what is and is not appropriate. On-site staff are not the referee, and they are not there to make foul calls throughout the game; however if there is a play that they have reason to believe was dangerous or could cause harm, they will make a call.

Team Captains Meeting

If teams are increasingly antagonistic or unenjoyable, the on-site staff will stop the game and call the Team Captains (and only the Team Captains) to hold a meeting to discuss what issues they have observed. This is to be a constructive meeting where concerns can be raised in a calm manner for our on-site staff to help moderate. At the end of the meeting, Team Captains will be expected to talk to their teams and inform them on what the expectations are for the game to continue

5-Minute Break

If a participant appears to be playing with unnecessary intensity or aggressive style, on-site staff will stop the game and issue a 5-minute break for this player. During this time, our on-site staff will address why they removed the player, either directly to them or through the Team Captain, and let them know why the conduct or style of play was inappropriate. A warning will also be issued that if they see them engage in this type of conduct again, they will be removed permanently from the game and be reported.

End The Game

If the on-site staff feels the game has become out of their control, or is causing safety issues, they will end the game. This game will not be replayed.

Game Ejection

If a participant is involved in a play or behaviour that our on-site deems to be a blatantly dangerous or disrespectful OR a participant continues to display inappropriate behaviour after they have been warned and/or been given a 5 minute break, they will be ejected from the game and reported