As a "swimming parent‟ you spend a great deal of time at the pool whether during training or at a competition. Becoming involved as an official may seem like a daunting prospect if you have never done this before but you will be instructed in all you need to know with regard your duties and you will be supported by experienced officials until your confidence builds. You may enjoy the experience so much you may wish to become a qualified official, although this is by no means essential, and courses are held on the Island on a regular basis.

Do not worry - you cannot disqualify a swimmer. If you see an infringement all you do is report it to the Referee or Chief Inspector of Turns. The only person who can disqualify a swimmer is the Referee. If you only think you saw an infringement then you must give the swimmer the benefit of doubt.

The roles and responsibilities of officials

There are a range of different people involved in running a swimming competition including technical and non-technical officials. Technical officials, usually wearing white, are responsible for ensuring that the rules of swimming are upheld and that all swimmers have the opportunity to compete fairly in whatever events they swim. There are a number of different roles including referee(s), starter, judges (stroke, finish and turns) and timekeepers. All our officials are volunteers and in general we need from 15, across the different levels of qualification, to run a meet.

Licensing of Registered Swimming Officials

In 2006 the ASA introduced a licensing scheme for swimming officials and from September 2011 all officials at Level 1 or 2 meets have been required to hold a minimum qualification of Licensed Judge 1.

This means that in order to organise licensed meets at these licensing levels Isle of Man Swimming must ensure that sufficient numbers of licensed officials are available. If the promoter cannot fulfil these requirements the meets cannot take place. There remains a shortfall of suitably licensed officials on the Island and IOMSA and IOMSC are keen to encourage applications for both officials training courses and Licensing. If you are a registered officials currently holding the qualification of Judge 1 or above and not yet applied to be licensed, please contact the Isle of Man Swimming Development Officer, email for more information and assistance.


Apart from the Referee course there are no written exams. There are 4 grades of officials as follows:- (a) Judge level 1; Judge level 2; Judge level 2 & starter and (d) referee. No prior knowledge of swimming rules is assumed at the start of training to become an official. All you need is a clipboard, a stopwatch, a pen and an enthusiasm for swimming.

Judge Level 1

  • Timekeeper - You record the time the swimmer takes to complete the race using a stopwatch and record it on the heat sheets. If the meet is working with Automatic Officiating Equipment (AOE) ie electronics then there will also be a secondary back-up button that you need to push when the swimmer completes the race. If the meet is using manual times the Chief Timekeeper will collect the time sheets for each event.
  • Chief Timekeeper – to ensure the timekeepers perform their role. If the meet is manual (ie not electronic - AOE) they collect the time sheets from the timekeeper after each event and work out the finishing times for the swimmers based on the order of the finish in agreement with the referee.
  • Inspector of Turns – as a J1 you are also expected to be responsible for looking at the swimmers turns and finishes. This part of J1 requires knowledge of the rules relating to the turn and finish for each stroke but a novice inspector or turns will be placed with more experienced officials who will explain what you should be looking for.
  • Chief Inspector of Turns – is the link between the Inspector of Turns (J1) and the Referee. Takes the report from the time keeper to the referee.
  • Relay Take-Off Judge – another role that J1s are expected to do is to watch the take-over when the incoming swimmer touches and the swimmer on the blocks dives in. If you see an infringement you report it to the Chief Inspector of Turns/Referee.

Judge Level 2

This is the second level of qualification. It encompasses the role and duties in relation to all aspects of judging and the theoretical role and duties of Starter.

  • Judges of Stroke - J2 officials are responsible for ensuring that all stroke rules are complied with. As with J1, stroke judges do not disqualify swimmers. Rather they report observed infringements to the Referee who will disqualify the swimmer.
  • Finish Judge - writes the lane order of swimmers as they finish and passes these to the Referee. An important role even in the meets with electronics as sometimes these systems fail!

Judge Level 2 - Starter

This role is the most visible and easiest to understand role. The starter‟s role is to ensure that the start is fair for all swimmers.


This role is the highest level of qualification in British Swimming and combines several theory sessions, an exam and assessed practical sessions. The Referee is in overall control of all aspects of the meet and is responsible for health and safety as well as ensuring that the competition is fair. It to the Referee that judges report observed infringements and who decides whether these will be accepted.

Find Out More

Find out more about becoming a qualified official

If you are aged 25 and under find out more about how you can be involved