Athletics officials

Find out what officials do and how you can become one.

Cliff and Andrew timekeepers

For anyone to take part in track and field athletics at whatever level there need to be teams of people to manage and supervise their events. Most of these people are volunteers; many of them are already involved in athletics in some way, and often also compete themselves.

Why become an official?

  • It's fun!
  • Helps you, your family and friends compete.
  • Supports the club.

Types of official


Using accurate timekeeping watches they time each competitor in the race. They cross-check, to ensure results are accurate. If electronic timing (photo finish) is used, they act as a back-up.

A minimum of four timekeepers are needed (small meetings), but preferably eight or more for larger matches.

Track judges

They note the order athletes finish as well as:

  • count the laps in longer races
  • check different aspects: relay changeovers; position of hurdles
  • check that athletes don’t impede others.

A minimum of four timekeepers are needed (small meetings), but preferably eight or more for larger matches.

Field judges

There are four jumps – high jump, long jump, pole vault, triple jump and four throws – discus, hammer, javelin, shot.

Field judges:

  • measure distance or height, and mark each on field card
  • check take-off and landing of jumps
  • check jump or throw is done correctly
  • retrieve implements.

There are up to five field judges per event. There can be six events taking place simultaneously depending on the layout of the stadium. That’s a lot of judges however few competitors!


The officials’ courses, usually a half-day or evening, will give you the knowledge to start you at the first level.

The course is often run alongside a sports health and safety course. It is not just ‘red tape’ – speeding javelins and sprinters can be dangerous!

Visit the England Athletics website for details about available courses.

Paying for courses

Courses are financed by the club in return for some commitment.

Other ways to volunteer

Volunteers without qualifications are also welcomed to ‘officiate’ as not all roles outside the throwing sector require the H&S certificate.

So come and volunteer: it will also give you an idea of what’s involved – and see the action close-up!