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About CROs


The Certified Referee Observer will help to identify and train referees at the regional level, with the dual purposes of ensuring the best regional referee cadre we can produce and shepherding those referees who wish to move on to the national referee cadre.


The goals of the Certified Referee Observer program are to:

Build a stronger base of local and regional referees. Historically, some areas of the country have higher numbers of referees and more frequent seminar opportunities. The CRO program will ensure that each region has ample representation with the goal of providing more equitable learning opportunities for developing referees. As more individuals sit through referee seminars and exams, more potential referees are created. While not everyone who participates in the seminar and passes the exam decides to referee, for those that do, it is imperative that they be formally observed to be awarded a rating. As they continue to work, their skills should increase and they should be encouraged to handle the level of difficulty of higher-level bouts in order to seek higher ratings. In addition, a new requirement that all sanctioned tournaments must have at least one rated referee present means that some regions will have to create more referees than they currently have on hand. 

Encourage consistency of officiating among regions. Certified Referee Observers maintain a close tie with the national cadre and referee at national events as often as they are able. This ensures that they stay current with changes to and interpretations of rules and right of way application. When they work as a CRO at a regional or local event, they bring with them the experience of national officiating and the resulting observations help to guide these developing referees.

Funnel high-performing referees towards national events. With CROs being present and active at more events each season, there are more opportunities to study developing referees’ abilities and recommend that some of these be hired for a national event. 


The Domestic Referee Development Committee is charged with identifying individuals among the cadre who have the experience, desire and time to commit to serving as a Certified Referee Observer. 

Criteria to be considered:

  1. A CRO must be current with their own refereeing activity. They must referee at a minimum of one Division I NAC or championship event per season (The first half of the USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge i.e. Div I, Div IA, Junior, Cadet).
  2. Must be a referee in good standing.
  3. Must have been active for three seasons prior to becoming a CRO.
  4. They must either be multi weapon referee with a 4 in two weapons or a 3 in a single weapon. Must have a minimum of a 5 in any weapon that they are observing in. 
  5. Candidates can request appointment as a CRO by emailing the Vice-Chair of Domestic Referee Development. The Vice-Chair of Referee Development will approve on a rolling basis.


Responsibilities of Certified Referee Observers:

  1. Actively referee at regional events and coordinate with regional event organizers and regional event head referees to help with assigning and observation of referees at regional events.
  2. Coordinate with head referee and other CROs at regional events to produce a report to be sent to the Domestic Referee Development Vice Chair after each event recommending referee rating changes. A CRO may recommend a rating upgrade to a maximum of level 6. They must hold a rating at least two levels above the rating that they are recommending in each weapon. 
  3. Actively support referee development both in their local area and at all regional events that they are hired for.
  4. Responsible for recommending regional referees to be invited to national tournaments.

Update for 2022-23 Season

Changes to the referee ratings system also impact eligibility criteria for Certified Referee Observers (CROs) and Certified Referee Instructors (CRIs). Under the revised system, a CRO must either be a multi-weapon referee with an N2 (or higher) in two weapons or an N1 in a single weapon and must have a minimum of an R1 in any weapon in which they are conducting referee observations. CROs may award referee ratings to an R1 level; however, must hold a rating at least one level above the rating that they are awarding in each weapon. Under the revised system, a CRI must be a multi-weapon referee with an N1 in at least two weapons and must have a minimum of an R1 in any weapon in which they are conducting referee observations. CRIs may award referee ratings to an R1 level; however, must hold a rating at least one level above the rating that they are awarding in each weapon. Additionally, CRIs may make recommendations to Domestic Assignments for R1-rated referees to begin working at national events. CRIs may also provide feedback to the Referees’ Commission nominating referees for consideration for promotion to N2.

Read more here