Conflict of interest. Whether it actually exists between an official and coach or administrator or family member or whatever the case, when that phrase — conflict of interest — is even whispered, it calls that official’s integrity into question.

Red flags pop up, people ask questions, opinions are formed and a situation that likely can be avoided will get uncomfortable, if not  embarrassing, in a hurry.

The longer officials live and work in a particular community and officiate in specific leagues and the more people they know, the greater the chance that conflicts of interest
will occur.

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When it comes to deciding whether to take a game, some decisions are clear-cut and others are in a truly gray area.

Take a look at the following situations. Should you work the game? After your answer, see what we say about each situation.

1. A game involving your alma mater.


A truly tough situation, because it depends on how close your ties have remained at the school. For some, five years away might be enough. For others, it may never be possible to work there. How would you answer if someone finds out you graduated from one of the competing schools?

2. A family member is on the team.


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Whether it’s your child or other relative, it’s a situation that can’t produce anything other than a negative outcome. Avoid it.

3. School’s athletic director is a fishing buddy.


You have an established, ongoing relationship with someone from that school. It’s not a definite conflict, but it’s probably a situation you want to avoid.

4. Coach is an ex-teammate.


A majority of officials are ex-players as are a majority of coaches. You are bound to be friends with some of them through your past lives as athletes. If you remain close friends, then avoid working those games. If you see each other rarely, then it’s probably OK.

5. The neighbor kid is the starting pitcher.


How close are you to the neighbor’s family? If your families are best friends, then it’s a conflict that should be avoided. If you just have similar addresses, then it’s not.

6. Live in the same town as the school.


How would someone in Boston or Phoenix ever work a game if they couldn’t work where they live? Now, you shouldn’t work every game at a single school, hometown or not. But working a single game there is not a conflict.

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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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