DON’T OFFICIATE AN “UNOFFICIAL” GAME
Games can be over before they begin. Some officials fall into the trap of officiating the extra inning after a run rule, or starting a game at the urging of coaches and players when one team doesn’t have enough players or the conditions are not playable. Teams give reasons why they want to start/continue a game despite those deficiencies. “Just one more inning,” or, “Don’t worry — we will still pay you,” are common pleas or promises directed toward officials to get them to stay and officiate an “unofficial” game.
When something goes wrong in those situations or a player gets hurt, the official who agreed to start the game under his or her oversight is likely the one to be holding the legal liability ball.
Officials owe a duty of care to the game’s participants and spectators to keep them safe and to play by the set of rules. Teams agree to be held to league rules and officials who decide to officiate a contest outside of the playing rules adopted by the league have breached their duty to the participants because they have failed to follow the required league rules. It can be seen that an unofficial game is being played with rules set by the official — not the league — and the teams may not know what all of the rules and procedures are in those scenarios.
Most leagues/associations clearly outline the requirements to start and end a game. Officials are contracted to officiate only the games meeting the requirements. If officials work games outside of the established league rules, the league, the league’s insurance and the official’s insurance policy are unlikely to step in if a claim or lawsuit is filed.