USA Racquetball Rules: B - Officiating

A designated Tournament Director shall identify the various officials and manage every USAR sanctioned tournament.

The Tournament Director shall appoint several qualified persons to a Tournament Rules Committee to handle any escalations as required. It is advisable that this committee be comprised of five or more persons. The committee should be comprised of qualified individuals who are likely to be in attendance and will be prepared to gather on short notice.

Whenever an issue arises that cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of a player by the referee, or through escalation to the Tournament Director, the Tournament Director will form an Ad Hoc committee from the Tournament Rules Committee. The Ad Hoc committee must be comprised of an odd number of persons (three or more), who have no conflict of interest regarding the outcome. The referee and Tournament Director cannot be members of this Ad Hoc committee.

The principal official for every match shall be the referee who has been designated by the Tournament Director or a designated representative who has been agreed upon by all participants in the match. The referee's authority regarding a match begins once the players are called to the court. A non-certified referee may be removed from a match upon the agreement of all participants (teams in doubles) or at the discretion of the Tournament Director or the designated representative. However, a certified referee shall not be removed if line judges are being used or unless the tournament director or his designated representative has observed the match and determined that referee’s replacement is necessary for the fair conduct of the match. If a referee's removal is requested by one player or team and not agreed to by the other, the Tournament Director or the designated representative may accept or reject the request. It is suggested that the match be observed before determining what, if any, action is to be taken. In addition, two line judges and a scorekeeper may also be designated to assist the referee with officiating the match.

Before every tournament, all officials and players should be briefed on rules as well as local court hinders, regulations, and rule modifications the Tournament Director wishes to impose. The briefing should be reduced to writing or posting at the tournament website. The current USAR rules will apply and be made available. Any rule modifications the Tournament Director wishes to impose must be stated on the entry form and posted at the tournament website and be made available to all players at registration.

Before each match begins, it shall be the duty of the referee to:

  1. Check on adequacy of preparation of court with respect to cleanliness, lighting, court hinders, and temperature.
  2. Check on availability and suitability of materials to include balls, towels, scorecards, pencils, and timepiece necessary for the match.
  3. Check the readiness and qualifications of the line judges and scorekeeper if used. Review appeal procedures and instruct them of their duties, rules, and local regulations.
  4. Go onto the court to make introductions; brief the players on court hinders (both designated and undesignated); identify any out-of-play areas [see rule 2.1(a)]; discuss local regulations and rule modifications for this tournament; and explain often-misinterpreted rules, such as screen serves and calling hinders.
  5. Inspect players' equipment; identify the line judges; verify selection of a primary and alternate ball.
  6. Toss coin or use another equally random method and offer the winner the choice of serving or receiving in the first game.

During the match, the referee shall make all decisions regarding the rules. Where line judges are used, the referee shall announce all final judgments. If both players in singles and three out of four in a doubles match disagree with any call made by the referee, the referee is overruled, except for technical fouls and match forfeitures.

Any decision not involving the judgment of the referee will, on protest, be accorded due process as set forth in the By-Laws of USAR. For the purposes of rendering a prompt decision regarding protests filed during an ongoing tournament, the stages of due process will be:

  1. first to the Tournament Director,
  2. then to the Tournament Rules Committee.

In instances when time permits, the protest may be elevated to the state association or, when appropriate, to the National level as called for in the USAR By-Laws.

A match may be forfeited by the referee or Tournament Director when:

  1. Any player refuses to abide by the referee's decision or engages in unsportsmanlike conduct.
  2. Any player or team fails to report to play 10 minutes after the match has been scheduled to play. The Tournament Director may permit a longer delay if circumstances warrant. One possible circumstance would be when there is no open court on which to play the match in question. However, after the scheduled time, the players/teams must remain readily available until a court is assigned to them at which time a final 10- minute forfeit time will begin. See Rule 3.17(a)6 for guidance on delays.
  3. Note: game will be forfeited by the referee for using an illegal racquet as specified in Rule 2.4 (b).

A player or team may be forfeited by the Tournament Director or designated official for failure to comply with the tournament or host facility's rules while on the premises between matches or for abuse of hospitality, locker room, or other rules and procedures.

The referee shall have jurisdiction over the spectators, as well as the players, while the match is in progress.

The referee may rule on any matter regarding the match that is not specifically covered in the USAR Official Rules. However, the referee's ruling is subject to protest as described in B.5 (c).

Two line judges shall be used for semifinal and final matches, when (1) requested by a player or team or (2) the referee or Tournament Director so desires. However, whether line judges will be used or not is subject to availability and the discretion of the Tournament Director.

If any player objects to a person who will be serving as a line judge before the match begins, all reasonable effort shall be made to find a replacement acceptable to both the referee and players. If a player objects after the match begins, any replacement shall be at the discretion of the referee and/or Tournament Director.

The players and referee shall designate the court location of the line judges. A standing position is usually preferable -- if possible. The Tournament Director shall settle any dispute about the line Judge placement. They should obtain as different a perspective of the court as possible from each other and the referee.

Line judges are designated to help decide appeals on calls that may be questioned. In the event of an appeal, and after a very brief explanation by the referee of what his/her call was, the line judges must independently indicate their agreement, disagreement, or “no opinion” about the call in question.

Line judges shall extend their arm horizontally and give a hand signal as follows: (i) thumb up to show agreement with the referee's call meaning “I observed and know what play is being appealed and AGREE with the Referee's call relative to it", (ii) thumb down to show disagreement meaning "I observed the play that is being appealed, but DISAGREE with the referee's call relative to it", and (iii) hand open with palm facing downward to indicate either "no opinion" or that the play in question wasn't seen meaning “I am NOT SURE about the play being appealed or I did NOT SEE the play clearly enough to be sure, so I have NO OPINION about the referee's call." Figure B.6-1 illustrates the three possible line judge hand signals. Consider printing multiple copies of this figure so that line judges can use it as a ready reference during a match.

Illustration of Figure B-1.6 - = A thumbs up indicates that "I observed the play being appealed and I AGREE with what the referee called regarding it." A thumbs down indicates that "I observed the play being appealed, but I DISAGREE with what the referee called regarding it." A flat hand indicates that "I cannot express an opinion about the referee's call because I am not sure what play is being appealed or else, I did not observe the play clearly enough to be certain about what the right call should be."

Line judges must not signal until the referee announces what his call was and asks for a ruling from them. When responding to the referee's request, line judges must try to not see each other’s signal and indicate their opinions quickly after the referee’s request is made and display it promptly in clear view of the players and referee. If at any time a line judge is unsure of what is being appealed or what the referee's call was, the line judge may ask the referee to repeat and identify the call being appealed. If there is no mutual agreement (player, referee, and both line judges) about the specific call or play being appealed, then the appeal is cancelled.

The referee's call stands if at least one line judge agrees with the referee or if neither line judge has an opinion. If both line judges disagree with the referee, the referee must reverse the call. If one line judge disagrees with the referee and the other signals no opinion, the rally is replayed. Any replays, except for appeals on the second serve itself, will result in resumption of play at first serve.

Figure B-6.2 illustrates referee hand appeals. Two thumbs up = Ref's Call Stands/Appeal Used. 1 Thumbs Up and 1 Flat Hand = Ref's Call Stands/Appeal Used. Two flat hands = Ref's Call Stands/Appeal Used. 1 Thumbs up and 1 thumbs down = Ref's Call Stands/No Appeal Used. 2 thumbs down = Ref's Call is Reversed/No Appeal Used. One thumb down and a flat hand = "Rally is Replaved/No Appeal Used

In any match using line judges, a player may appeal any call or non-call by the referee, except for a technical foul or match forfeiture.

A verbal appeal by a player must be made directly to the referee only and immediately after the rally has ended. A player who believes there is an infraction to appeal should bring it to the attention of the referee and line judges by raising the non-racquet hand at the time the perceived infraction occurs. The player is obligated to continue to play until the rally has ended or the referee stops play. The referee will recognize a player's appeal only if it is made before that player leaves the court for any reason including timeouts and game-ending rallies or, if that player does not leave the court, before the next serve begins.

A player or team forfeits its right of appeal for that rally if the appeal is made directly to the line judges or if the appeal is made after an excessive demonstration or complaint.

A player or team can make three appeals per game. However, if either line judge disagrees (thumb down) with the referee's call, that appeal will not count against the three-appeal limit. In addition, a potential game-ending rally may be appealed without charge against the limit -- even if the three-appeal limit has been reached.

Everything except technical fouls and match forfeitures can be appealed. The following outcomes cover several of the most common types of appeals, but not all possible appeals are addressed. Should the appeal encompass the possibility of there being more than one outcome (such as it being “no hinder”, “replay hinder”, or “penalty hinder”), the referee should state what he called and that he said it was not the others. Therefore, referee's discretion and common sense should govern the outcomes of appeals that are not covered herein:

If the referee makes a call of "skip ball," and the call is reversed, the referee then must decide if the shot in question could have been returned had play continued. If, in the opinion of the referee, the shot could have been returned, the rally shall be replayed. However, if the shot was not retrievable, the side that hit the shot in question is declared the winner of the rally. If the referee makes no call on a shot (thereby indicating that the shot did not skip), an appeal may be made that the shot skipped. If the "no call" is reversed, the side that hit the shot in question loses the rally.

If the referee makes a call of “fault serve” and the call is reversed, the rally is replayed – unless the referee considered the serve to have been irretrievable, in which case a point should be awarded to the server. If an appeal is made because the referee makes no call on a serve (thereby indicating that the serve was good) and the "no call" is reversed, the result will be a “fault serve” serve”.

If the referee calls an "out serve", and the call is reversed, the first serve will be replayed, unless the serve was obviously a fault, instead, in which case the call becomes a “fault serve”. However, if the call is reversed and the serve was considered an ace, a point should be awarded. Also, if the referee makes “no call” on a serve--thereby indicating that the serve was good--but the "no call" is reversed, it results in an immediate loss of serve unless it is declared a “fault serve”.

If the referee makes a call of “two bounces”, and the call is reversed, the rally is replayed, except if the player against whom the call was made hit a shot that could not have been retrieved, then that player wins the rally. (Before awarding a rally in this situation, the referee must be certain that the shot would not have been retrieved even if play had not been halted.) If an appeal is made because the referee makes “no call” thereby indicating that the get was not “two bounces”, and the "no call" is reversed, the player who made the two-bounce pickup is declared the loser of the rally.

If the referee makes a call of “encroachment” by a receiver, but the call is overturned, the serve shall be replayed unless the return was deemed irretrievable in which case a “side out” (or possibly a “handout” in doubles) should be called. When an appeal is made because the referee made “no call”, and the appeal is successful, the server is awarded a point.

If the referee makes a call of court hinder during a rally or return of serve, the rally is replayed. If the referee makes no call and a player feels that a court hinder occurred, that player may appeal. If the appeal is successful, the rally will be replayed. If a court hinder occurs on a second serve prior to the receiver hitting the ball, play resumes at second serve.

If a player feels the referee has interpreted the rules incorrectly, the player may require the referee or Tournament Director to cite the applicable rule in the rulebook. If it is determined that a misapplication or misinterpretation of a rule has occurred, the referee must correct the error by replaying the rally, awarding the point, calling “Side out”, or taking appropriate corrective measures. While there is no time limit specified for this process, it should be used sparingly, and the referee may assess whether it is being abused and call the offender for a delay of game.

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