Become a water polo referee

The role of the water polo referee is to ensure that all matches are played fairly and in accordance with the rules of the game.

Wherever possible, all games should have two referees, although many local games end with a single referee.

What should be remembered is that much of the action in the game is under the water. As such, it is beyond the sight of the referee. Also, water polo is a physical sport and players often consider anything to be fair game, and feel unlucky to be caught by the referee.

A water polo referee needs therefore to have a thick skin, a robust mentality and a sense of fair play.

Click for the role of a water polo referee in the FINA rules.

We suggest referees, coaches and players who are not yet aware of the latest FINA rules and how they are to be interpreted view this Water Polo Rules Update.

Swim England Water Polo Leadership Group has agreed a new qualification structure for referees which includes a clear development pathway from club to international level

The Club Referee course is the first step on the Swim England Water Polo Referee Pathway. It is aimed at Swim England members who wish to gain an initial understanding of Water polo FINA Rules and apply this within their club.



The new qualification structure for referees replaces the previous A, B, C, D and P grades of water polo referee in Great Britain, which depended on an individual’s ability and experience. For reference these were:

  • P grade – the grade all new referees become after passing their theory exam and for the first year / until a referee has successfully passed their practical examinations.
  • D grade – the lowest level for a qualified referee, and indicates that the referee has been through tutoring, though may be lacking in experience, or wishes to remain a referee only at a local level.
  • C Grade – the next step, and essential for aspiring referees who show a keen inclination to continue on to higher grades. It can be awarded at a local level, and shows that the referee has a good level of practical competence as well as theoretical knowledge.
  • B Grade – the level at which referees are able to officiate regularly at national level competitions, and have a minimum of one year as a C grade referee. To be a B grade referee, candidates must also be qualified regional table officials. Award of a B grade includes practical assessment at national events
  • A Grade – the highest domestic level of qualification for a referee. Referees at A grade should be able to officiate at all levels of the game, show detailed knowledge of the rules and their application. They must also have at least one years experience at a B grade.
  • I Grade – reserved for those referees that have successfully been nominated and passed refereeing exams for both FINA and LEN.


Water Polo Referee Training

Referees Course

Interested? View Water Polo Referees Course: Part 1, Rules and application 

Water polo referee courses take place across the country each year.

Click for a more in-depth look at the development pathway.

Head to the dedicated Swim England Courses Calendar to search for an upcoming water polo referee course near you.

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