Most sports use people who officiate during competitions, enforcing all rules, making judgment calls, keeping track of scoring or results and performing other duties as needed. In some sports, such as baseball, softball, cricket and tennis, these officials are known as umpires. American football also has an umpire among the many officials that typically are used during games.
Baseball and Softball
In baseball and softball, each of the officials is called an umpire, or "ump." The umpires are more specifically referred to by their position on the field, such as a home-plate ump, first-base ump or third-base ump. Most games use at least two umpires. At higher levels of baseball, such as in professional leagues, three or four umpires typically are used. In some games, such as those in championship series, as many as six umpires might be used, including two in the outfield — one along the left-field line and another along the right-field line.
A home-plate ump's primary job is to call balls and strikes on pitches. The umpires also call base runners safe or out, rule whether batted balls are fair or foul and make other judgment calls. Their other duties include enforcing the rules of the game, keeping track of player participation and lineups and ensuring that the score is kept properly.
There are two umpires in most cricket matches, although some matches might use as many as four. The bowler's end umpire stands directly behind the bowler — who is like a pitcher in baseball — and the striker's end umpire stands near the batsman. Cricket umpires make judgments about bowler's deliveries and whether batters are out. Their duties also include announcing the end of each over — similar to an inning in baseball — and enforcing the rules of cricket.
In tennis, the officials positioned around the outside of the court are called umpires. The chair umpire sits on a raised chair next to the net in the middle of the court, is the final authority on all judgment calls and announces the scoring during the match. Line umpires stand around outside of the court, near the walls or fences, and judge whether balls land inside or outside the lines as well as whether a player has committed a foot-fault by stepping on the service line while serving. In local and amateur matches, only a chair umpire might be used, but other matches, such as those in professional tournaments, might also use as many as nine line umpires. For some tournaments, the person who is in charge of all of the umpires is called a chief umpire.
Games in American football typically use two to seven officials, depending on the league and level. In advanced leagues, such as those for colleges and professional teams, one of these officials is an umpire. This official's primary duty is to watch the offensive and defensive lines and call penalties, such as holding and illegal blocks, although he or she also can make other rulings or judgments as necessary. The umpire usually stands near the middle of the field, either a short distance behind the defense's linebackers or behind the offense's backfield, depending on the particular rules being used and the game situation.
Among the other sports that use umpires are field hockey, Australian rules football and sailing. Field hockey typically uses two umpires during competition, and Australian rules football uses four. In sailing, umpires in boats follow the racing boats and watch to make sure that all rules are being followed.