How to become a football referee

Get started as a football referee

Football referees are the most important ‘players’ on the pitch. Without referees, games would be lacking someone to uphold the laws of the game, meaning that matches would likely descend into anarchy. So, if you fancy taking charge and being the official in the middle of the pitch, how do you go about becoming a football referee?

Becoming a referee demands commitment, a fair degree of fitness,and most definitely a sense of humour. The referee’s job is an almost thankless task; get the decisions right and it’s exactly what you are expected to do, but make an incorrect call and you’ll be in for some stick. But still people with a love for the game make the decision to become a football referee. 

Making that step towards becoming a referee is straightforward enough if you meet the following criteria:

You must:
  • Be at least 14 years old
  • Have a reasonable fitness level
  • Have decent eyesight (either with or without spectacles or contact lenses if worn)

Once you meet these requirements you’ll need to contact a local County Football Association who will be able to provide you with details of a Basic Referee's Course. On registering for the course, trainee referees will receive a current copy of the Laws of Association Football and will be expected to do some pre-course study before starting on the classroom element of the course.

The Basic Referee Course consists of five modules...

1. ‘Knowledge of the Laws' is the course introduction and introduces would-be referees to the benefits and opportunities of refereeing.

2. 'Application of the Laws' puts theory into practice, and involves on-field interactive activities, and self-evaluation techniques.

3. ‘Examination’ consisting of a written element, theory examination via video analysis, and practical on-field assessment.

On successful completion of the first three modules of referee training, the would-be ref will have earned the right to be called a Level Nine Trainee Referee. There then follows two more elements:

4. 'Probation Period' during which Trainee Referees are given the task of refereeing six 11-a-side matches, and having their performance evaluated by both themselves and a mentor.

5. ‘Newly Qualified Referees In-Service Training’ sees Trainee Referees cover a range of subjects including application of the law, recognition of offences,body language and communication, management of people and situations, fitness awareness, warm-up/cool-down techniques, programmes to meet individual needs and encouraging training togetherness/bonding.

On completion of the five training modules, the referee will finally receive an FA Certificate of Qualification, and have earned the right to become a fully qualified referee and be promoted to Level Eight or Level Seven, depending on age.

So clearly becoming a referee is not just a case of turning up and thinking that having played a bit or watched a few matches on the TV will give you the necessary knowledge to referee a game. Referees have to study hard, train hard, and put that into practice in match situations before they’ll finally have earned the right to call themselves a referee.

And if your ambition is higher you could even find yourself climbing up the refereeing ladder to becoming a Level One referee capable of officiating at Premier League level or even higher. So give refereeing a go; you never know who you might end up blowing the whistle on.

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