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Times recorded by the Automatic Officiating Equipment determine the winner, all places and the time applicable to each lane. It may also score the results of each event. The places and times of the Automatic Officiating Equipment have precedence over the decisions of timekeepers. Referees must be satisfied that the equipment operated correctly (Technical Swimming Rule TSR10.1.3).

Semi-Automatic Officiating Equipment starts by the same starting equipment as the Automatic Officiating Equipment but terminates by a timekeeper or Finish Judge depressing a "push-button" at the end of the race. Semi-Automatic Officiating Equipment times become official times in case of the failure of the Automatic Officiating Equipment (TSR10.1.5).

If the Automatic Officiating Equipment and Semi-Automatic Officiating Equipment break down, or the Equipment clearly failed, or a competitor failed to activate the Equipment, the recordings of the human timers become the official time (TSR10.1.6).

By TSR10.2.1, three (3) timekeepers must take manual times, and by TSR10.2.2, official manual times will be determined as follows:
    • If two of the three watches record the same time and the third disagrees, the two identical times is the official time;
    • If all three watches disagree, the watch recording the intermediate time is the official time.
    • If only two watches are used and if the times recorded do not agree, the average of the two recorded times is the official time.

Referees are responsible for ensuring that the Chief Finish Judge /Timing Equipment Operator, Chief Recorder/Computer Operator and Chief Timer understand and follow these Rules. This is particularly important should the touch pads or starting horn malfunction or cease working altogether and the Referee resorts to manual times for official times.

Similarly, the Referee is responsible for ensuring that the Chief Finish Judge/Timing Equipment Operator and Chief Recorder/Computer Operator have a common policy and understanding of how to deal with the recording of light touches and backup times from the touch pads and pushbutton(s), based on the timing system in use at the Meet.

The Referee should instruct the Chief Finish Judge/Timing Equipment Operator and Chief Recorder/Computer Operator on the differences between equipment malfunction/breakdown, operator error, light touches and delayed reactions depressing the pushbutton(s). Touch pads that fail to register any touches, timing equipment ceasing to function in the middle of a race or starting horn failure are examples of equipment malfunction or breakdown, requiring the use of manual times from some or all lanes. Failing to initialize a lane for the start or turning off a lane in the middle of a race are examples of operator error, requiring the use of backup pushbutton times from that lane. A light touch usually occurs when the swimmer hits the top of the touch pad and fails to register a time, then touches the pad again, requiring the use of backup pushbutton times from that lane. No difficulty arises when the swimmer touches the pad in the centre and registers a time, even if the Lane Timer or Turn Judge was late in depressing the pushbutton. The problem occurs when the swimmer registers a light touch and the Lane Timer or Turn Judge was late in depressing the pushbutton, requiring the use of manual times from that lane.


Pool Deck:

The surface area surrounding a swimming pool for a distance of not less than 1.0 metre on all four of its sides is called the Pool Deck. The only persons allowed to enter the pool deck area while a sanctioned competition is in progress are the meet officials, a competitor whose individual or relay event has been called to the start or is already in progress, such persons as the Referee may permit, and counters as defined in Competition Rule CR10. No spectators or unauthorized persons are allowed in the pool deck area (see Technical Swimming Rule TSR13.12).


The following conditions apply at all BSF sanctioned competitions:

Swimsuits/Swim Caps:

The competitor is permitted two (2) logos not exceeding 16 sq. cm. each in area, one of the manufacturer and one of another sponsor, on each article of swimwear.

Pool Deck Equipment:

Towels and bags may carry two advertisements. Track Suits and Officials' uniforms may carry two advertisements on the top and two on the trousers or skirt. The logo of the manufacturer may be repeated, but the same name may be used only once on each article or garment.

Advertising which is disallowed:

  • Body advertising of any form.
  • Advertising for tobacco or alcohol.

At all BSF sanctioned competitions, the Referee is solely responsible for all issues relating to suitability, taste, size, location and positioning of any and all advertisements (see Competition Rules CR15.1 - 15.4).


The Referee may disqualify any competitor, coach, official or individual from further attendance at the sanctioned competition who swears; uses lewd, indecent, profane, abusive or offensive language; acts in an unsportsmanlike manner; or, conducts himself or herself in a manner likely to embarrass or disgrace any competitor or official participating in the sanctioned competition (CR21.1).

The Referee is entitled to eject or remove or cause the ejection or removal from the competition site of any person in breach of Rule CR21.1. The Referee must file a report with the BSF Secretary within Seven (7) days of the conclusion of the Meet, detailing the circumstances under which a person was disqualified from further attendance, ejected or removed from a sanctioned competition (CR21.2).


Before the Meet begins, the Referee, Meet Director and Announcer should establish safety procedures for evacuating the pool or meet venue in case of lightning, fire or other hazards. They should agree on how to handle the announcement and what the Announcer should say. Similarly, they should agree on how and where the competitors and spectators will exit the meet venue.

Competition Rule CR18.13 provides that a physician must be present during the competition, or on call. However, the Referee, Meet Director and Announcer should also find any other persons attending the Meet with experience in CPR and/or First Aid. If there are medical or physical emergencies, instruct the Announcer to summon one or more of these persons to provide assistance in the absence of a physician.


By Competition Rule CR10.1.1, competitors in individual events of 400 metres or more (except the individual medley) for Short Course pools, or 800 metres or more for Long Course pools, may appoint one Counter to call lengths or indicate lengths by visual sign. The persons acting as Counter should take up position at the end of the course opposite the starting end (CR10.1.3). One-lap counters may be lowered into the water at the end of the competitor's lane. In the opinion of the Referee, they cannot physically aid the competitor, interfere with another competitor, or present any safety hazard. Semi- electronic equipment may be used, including under water display (CR10.2.2). If there is official or counter error, it is the competitor's responsibility to complete the prescribed distance (CR10.3.1).

If sufficient Turn Judges are present, the Referee should instruct those at the turning end of the pool to carry out the additional duties of the Counter. The Referee should instruct the Turn Judges to hold the lap-counting cards at an angle on the edge of the pool deck, NOT in the water. Instruct them to count down to "1" for the last lap.


Clearly, the Referee has multiple duties and responsibilities before, during and after a Meet. Knowing the Rules, knowing the duties and responsibilities of the other Meet Officials and attending Officials Clinics are all very important facets of becoming a "good" Referee. Swimmers and Coaches have a right to expect Referees to know the Rules and interpret them correctly, fairly and courteously. Following the practices and procedures set out in this Manual will make the Referee more proficient and consistent in the position. Work hard at it. Take officiating seriously and always exercise good judgment when officiating. Always thank the other members of your officials "team" at the end of every meet.

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