On your marks! Become an athletics official this year

Alan Bell launches England Athletics’ Officials: The Beating Heart of Athletics campaign

Alan Bell – the race starter who once disqualified Usain Bolt at a World Championships – is urging sports fans to become running and athletics officials and, like himself, be at the heart of the action at events across the country.

With this new national campaign, running and athletics fans can now qualify as an event official and learn from the best this year through England Athletics’ classroom and practical experience qualification programme.  Find out how to train with your local England Athletics club to start races, keep time, judge events and keep things fair. Find out more at

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Alan Bell is leading the call for more officials. He says: “I have been an official for over 30 years now since I stopped competing and have been involved in some of the biggest events and races around the world.  Remember, without officials there wouldn’t be any results, PBs or medals for anyone from Olympians to those competing at your local town’s athletics events.

“I would encourage anyone interested in running and athletics to give officiating a try – whether you used to compete, want to make new friends or one of your family members competes and you want to be involved yourself – whatever your inspiration, take your Level 1 course and see where officiating can take you. Being an official means no-one is closer to the action or the athletes than you. Becoming a licensed official is a hugely rewarding role that sees many benefits, including being one of the first ones to find out the results – and seeing the excitement of the athletes as they secure PBs and medals.  On a personal level, officiating is a great way to meet new people and there is a great sense of camaraderie amongst the athletics officials community."

Click here to read what a day in the life of an Olympic Race Starter really looks like…

Christine Ohuruogu MBE, an Olympic, World and Commonwealth 400m champion, comments on the important role officials play: “Officials are the beating heart of the sport – without them events simply couldn’t take place. I fully support England Athletics’ drive to recruit more officials into the sport and it serves as a great reminder of all the hard work officials do to make our sport tick. Hopefully people will be inspired to take on an officiating course, as our brilliant sport couldn’t survive without them.”

Becoming an official

There are a variety of different officiating roles across track and field events, as well as cross country racing. You could be a Race Starter like Alan Bell, or a Field Judge, Track Judge, Timekeeper or work in Photo Finish.

There are four easy steps to becoming an official; attend a half day Level 1 Qualification course, gain your competition experience at 4 events, complete a DBS check and submit your paperwork to become licensed. Complete these and you’re ready to officiate in your local community.

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Throughout your qualification you’ll be fully supported by the education team at England Athletics. Once you have been on a course in your local area, your County Officials’ Secretary (COfSec) will be your first point of contact and will encourage and assist you in finding four athletics events to attend to complete your qualification. At these events you’ll have the opportunity to shadow and learn from other qualified officials, meet like-minded people, and have some fun.

There is a variety of levels of officiating, from Level 1 through to Level 5 where you are able to officiate at an international standard and could find yourself on the start line at a future Olympic Games.

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Watch this short video to get a taste of the variety of roles officials perform at competitions

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