Ref with Us

Ref with us

Reffing can seem intimidating on the face of it, it often feels like those in the black and white stripes know everything about roller derby and make it look easy. But every ref has had to learn, from first strapping skates to their feet to the intricacies of calling a penalty in the middle of a tournament-winning game. If using your brain muscles while using your skating muscles is your thing, then reffing is exactly what you’re looking for. So, if you’re interested in learning and then earning your stripes, North Wales Roller Derby is the league for you.

Our Head Ref wants to grow our officials team to something extraordinary because, as a ref, you are a desperately needed and highly respected part of our league. We don’t underestimate how many hours and how much experience it takes to make a great ref and we want to help you get there, which is why we’ll help you by giving you the safe and encouraging space you need to learn.

Refs aren’t just for games though, they help skaters learn the rules of the game so they can play better, they minimise time lost to penalties and they strengthen the relationship between skaters and officials. Honestly, NSOs and refs are the backbone of the sport and whether you’re looking to transfer or start learning, we’d be very happy to have you as part of our league.

Putting aside the skills and knowledge refs learn, it’s also a really exciting and fun role to be in; you get to watch roller derby up-close, build your confidence speaking up in a group and watch your league-mates be brilliant, talented humans on track. Becoming a ref means you find a community of supportive, like-minded people who love roller derby and bring passionate professionalism to every game.

What ref roles can you learn?

Officially, there are four different types of reffing position and each has a different job, but all of them require great knowledge of the rules. The good news is, each role can be broken down into different levels of ability, so when you start, you won’t be expected to know or look for all the complicated pieces of gameplay – you’ll be introduced to basics, then given extra bits to look for as you progress until you’re performing the role fully. Now you’re not intimidated, let’s take a look at what positions make up a typical ref crew (with abbreviations, because of efficiency):

Jammer Referees (JR) – There are two per game, one assigned to each team. The JRs focus on the jammers and track the points they score. They also call penalties their jammer might commit or penalties other players make on their jammer. They work with Scorekeeper NSOs who write down the points for them. They are in the middle of the track.

Back Inside Pack Referee (BIPR) – This ref is also in the centre of the track and at the back of the pack of skaters on track. They look for penalties being committed by anyone on track and also keep a sharp eye on pack definition. This person usually supports the FPR.

Front  Inside Pack Referee (FIPR) – Also in the centre of the track, this ref does a similar job to the BPR, but at the front of the pack of the skaters. This ref doesn’t usually call pack definition, but does support the BPR with their role.

Outside Pack Referee (OPR) – There are three OPRs in a game and they are positioned on the outside of the track. Their job is to look for penalties on the outer portion of the track that refs on the inside won’t be able to see. They usually take up front and back pack positions too.

Bonus role – Head Referee (HR) – The Head Ref not only organises all the refs on game days but also acts as the main authority on the rules as sometimes due to interpretation or what was actually seen by refs on track, a decision is difficult to make. They can decide whether a penalty is awarded or not, and is the only official that can expel a player or member of the bench team from a game.


Do I have to be able to skate to be a ref?

Yes. All roller derby referees are accomplished skaters, and many began their journey as players. Some of the skating skills you need to ref might be slightly different from the skills needed to play, but we can help you develop the right skating ability to perform the role.

If you don’t want to skate, then becoming an NSO, or Non-Skating Official, would be ideal for you. However, if you can’t skate but want to learn, we can teach you the skills you need to be a safe skater – learning to skate with those becoming roller derby players will also help you understand the game and rules.

I’m a player, can I learn to ref as well?

Yes. Learning to ref and delving into the rules around gameplay can really help your knowledge and develop you as a player. We have a number of players who are also learning to ref in NWRD and their commitment to two roles helps everyone learn and let’s us put on events.

I’m an NSO, can I learn to ref as well?

Yes. Learning to ref and NSO would make you a fountain of roller derby rules knowledge. What you’ve learnt from watching roller derby while NSOing will translate into what you learn when you ref, giving you an excellent basis for becoming a great ref.

Do I need my own equipment to ref?

Yes. You will need your own skating equipment, just like roller derby players, but instead of a mouthguard, you’ll need a whistle. If you’re looking to learn to skate, we can lend you equipment to get you started so know that this is something you want to invest in.

Do I pay subs as a ref?

If you join our league as a referee, you do not pay any subs. If you choose to ref and NSO with us, you don’t pay anything either. However, if you skate with us as a player and a ref, you do have to pay – unfortunately, reffing does not cancel out your participation as a skater.

Can I gain any certifications as part of your league?

Yes. We are looking to help our refs gain governing body certifications over the next year. We can also help you put together a Bout CV to apply for more prestigious games that could take you all over the country or even the world.