Netball Umpire Rules

Updated March 23, 2017

Netball is played around the world by over 20 million athletes in 70 countries. The primary function for an umpire is to make sure that participating athletes remain safe during the course of a game. Starting at beginner levels up to seasoned referees, the officials must call competitions fairly and in keeping with established game rules.

Court Umpiring

Each netball game is umpired by two officials who stand out of bounds on opposing long sides of the court. The umpire is responsible for umpiring the entire side of the court he is standing on. He will umpire from the court's centre circle and to his right. As the game progresses he will follow and officiate the action down the court toward the goal end.

Center Pass

If you are the umpire who had a goal scored in your goal end, blow the whistle for the next centre pass. Hold your whistle in the hand that is on the side of the team that has the next centre pass. This will make it easy for you to remember who has the centre pass. For example, if you are officiating the right side of the court and the team on the opposite side of the court has the centre pass, hold your whistle in your left hand.

Penalty Infringements

Study and understand penalty infringements and free passes. Penalties received for infringements are free and penalty passes, a shot, toss up or a throw in.

Free Pass

A free pass is credited for an offside penalty or an over a third. If the ball in each third of the court is not touched by a player, access an over a third to the team at fault and credit the opposing team with a free pass. Free passes are also given for stepping, a replayed ball or for holding a ball longer than three seconds. Award the free pass at the area of the court where the infringement occurred.

Penalty Pass

Call a penalty pass for a member of an opposing team that comes into contact with the ball or a player. A penalty pass is also to be assessed for being within 0.9m of a player who is holding the ball. After the penalty has been called, have the player at fault stand next to and away from the passer. The player who is at fault can only move after the ball has been released. As with a free pass, any player from the opposing team is allowed to take the penalty pass in the area where the penalty occurred.

Umpire Development Pathway

As an umpire you have a total of six levels or development awards that you can progress through. You must fully complete the current level of training that you are at before you can move on to the next development level. Each country has a specific set of training that must be completed at each level. For example, if you umpire in the United Kingdom, the six levels or awards that you must complete are the England netball Beginner Award, England netball Youth Umpire Award, Federation of European Netball Associations (FENA) C Award, FENA B Award, FENA A Award, Country Accreditation and finally the International Federation of Netball Association (IFNA) Award. To start umpiring practice and training netball game sessions, take a beginners course offered through a local netball association.


The sport which is widely popular amongst women and men uses match and training netballs that are similar in appearance to a soccer ball. The International Federation of Netball Associations is one of the major governing bodies for the sport. The game which is broken into four 15-minute quarters with three minute intervals between each quarter originated in 1895 when a New Orleans coach named Clara Baer accidentally adjusted basketball court boundaries and game rules until they mirrored current netball rules. The first netball game was officially played later into 1895 at England's Madame Ostenburg's College.

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Rhonda Campbell is an entrepreneur, radio host and author. She has more than 17 years of business, human resources and project management experience and decades of book, newspaper, magazine, radio and business writing experience. Her works have appeared in leading periodicals like "Madame Noire," "Halogen TV," "The Network Journal," "Essence," "Your Church Magazine," "The Trenton Times," "Pittsburgh Quarterly" and "New Citizens Press."