Become a Football Referee

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  1. Football referees play an important role at the heart of the sport, officiating matches at all levels.
  2. According to the FA, one in five matches in England and Wales are played without a qualified match official, so there are plenty of opportunities for getting involved.
  3. As well as a passion for football, you will be expected to know the rules of the game inside out and keep on top of any changes to the regulations.
  4. You’ll also be expected to have a good level of fitness, good levels of concentration and an ability to accept criticism.
  5. The first rung on the ladder is to register with your local County FA and take the compulsory Basic Referee’s Course.
  6. If you pass the Basic Referee’s Course and are over the age of 16, you will become a Level 7 referee. This allows you to officiate at the amateur level.
  7. After a year at Level 7, you will be eligible to try to move up to Level 6 and beyond.

What Do Referees Do?

Football referees are an integral part of the sport, officiating matches at all levels, from grassroots right through to the Premier League. According to the Football Association (FA), as many as one in five matches in England and Wales are played without a qualified match official, meaning there are plenty of opportunities out there if you want to get involved.

As well as ensuring that players stick to the rules of the game, as a referee – and especially as a grassroots-level referee – you may also be required to ensure the pitch is of a good-enough standard and you may also be required to liaise with managers and coaches before the game and address any concerns or questions they might have.

Experience and Qualifications

Simply having a passion for the game is not enough. As a referee, you will be expected to know the rules of the game inside out and keep on top of any changes to the regulations. The Laws of the Game – which are followed in every country in the world that is affiliated with FIFA – can be viewed on the FA website here: http://www.thefa.com/

To make it as a referee, you’ll also need to have a good level of concentration and, given that officials are often the subject of criticism. You’ll also be expected to have a good level of fitness, with this especially important if you want to climb up the refereeing ladder. And, of course, good eyesight is also critical, though you will still be allowed to referee if you need to wear glasses or contact lenses.

Before you take charge of your first game you will also need to have taken the FA Safeguarding Children Course and, if you are over 17, have a complete FA CRB check carried out.

Getting Started

No referee starts at the top of the game. Rather, you’ll need to start at the grassroots level and work your way up the ladder, though be aware from the start that only an elite few make it into the top band of professionals.

The first rung on the ladder is to register with your local County FA. Your local FA can be found either through the main FA website or through a quick online search. Once you’ve paid a small fee and you’re fully registered, if you are over the age of 14, you will be able to take the compulsory Basic Referee’s Course. This introductory course consists of:

  • Classroom-based training sessions. Usually, you will be required to attend around 10 sessions, with these usually held on the weekend or in the evening to allow you to fit them around other commitments.
  • A pair of examinations; as well as a written exam, you will also be required to take, and pass, an oral test.

If you pass the Basic Referee’s Course and are over the age of 16, you will become a Level 7 referee. This allows you to officiate at the local amateur level (that is, referee organised games in a local park). You will also become a member of the national Referees Association (RA).

Moving up the Ladder

Once you’ve got your Level 7 qualification, then it’s up to you whether you want to move up the ladder. After a year at Level 7, you will be eligible to try to move up to Level 6. To make the step up, you will need to attend further training courses, successfully complete a test on the laws of the game and be given positive assessments over 20 completed matches. Similarly, to progress even further, you will need to carry on being assessed, both on your knowledge of the game and on your performances out on the football pitch, with each stage tougher than the last. How far you progress will determine what kind of matches you are allowed to referee. So:

  • Level 4: At this level, you will be able to referee at county level, for instance in a senior amateur league. You will also be able to be an assistant referee at semi-professional level.
  • Level 3: Here, you will be able to take charge of semi-professional games.
  • Level 2: Once you reach this level, you will be able to referee at Conference or Premier Reserve League level.
  • Level 1: The very top of the profession, Level 1 referees can officiate in the Football League and, if you make it onto the Select Group, you will also be asked to take charge of Premier League fixtures.

The National Referee Development Programme

Launched in March 2011, the National Referee Development Programme is the FA’s big initiative to train, develop and retain referees at all levels of the game. As well as teaming new referees up with experienced mentors, the initiative is also aimed at allowing talented new talent accelerate to the higher levels of the profession.

For more information on the scheme, get in touch with your local FA or visit the main FA website.

Women’s Pathway

Female referees are required to reach the same high standards as their male counterparts, and there is no limit on how far you can rise in the profession as a woman. However, the FA does offer a special Women’s Development Pathway, with this giving candidates access to an experienced mentor as they progress as well as the opportunity to join their local Regional Development Group.

Pay and Benefits

Nobody goes into refereeing for the money. Instead, most people go into it for the simple love of the game, and in particular the chance to be involved as much as possible. Additionally, some referees decide to take up the whistle in order to help support the game at grassroots level within their communities.

At grassroots level, referees taking charge of county FA-sanctioned matches will get paid between £25 and £30, or slightly less for under-11 and under-12s level.

At the other end of the scale, meanwhile, Select Group referees get paid an annual retainer in excess of £50,000, as well a travel allowance and other reasonable expenses. Also at the top level, assistant referees can expect to earn around £300 per match.

Again, your chances of making it to the very top of the game are limited; for every one Premier League official, there are hundreds taking charge of amateur and semi-professional matches up and down the country. That’s why, for most people, refereeing is either a hobby or a part-time opportunity to earn a little extra money while being involved in the sport that they love.

Further Reading

Find an accredited football club in your area with the help of the FA: http://www.thefa.com/my-football/football-volunteers/


 
 
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