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Football Referee

The role

A Football Referee monitors the proceedings of a football match to ensure players follow the rules and don’t compromise their safety.

This role actually starts before kick-off, with pitch and equipment inspections to ensure everything is properly organised, set up and marked out. When working at professional or semi-professional level, a Referee will meet with team managers to find out any last-minute changes to team line-ups, and with their own assistants, to discuss communication signals on the pitch.

During the game, Referees follow play on the pitch, make decisions on the match, consult with their assistants in times of uncertainty, and keep players and coaching staff in line during heated incidents. Afterwards, match reports are written, recording any noteworthy incidents that need to be followed up, such as a player being given a red card. 

Referees for amateur leagues work in their area, while referees for the semi-professional and professional levels require travel.

How to become a Football Referee

Football Referees can start training at a minimum age of 14, although it takes time and experience to climb the ranks in order to become a top official in the Premier League.

In the beginning, a candidate must first register with their local County Football Association and take a basic Referee’s Course which lasts roughly eight weeks. Details of these courses can be found through their County Football Association. Requirements for this course are for a candidate to be fit, at least 14 years old, have a clear criminal record and have good eyesight, with glasses or contact lenses if required.

There are ten grades relating to refereeing in England, with Level One being the highest, covering full-time professionals. When a candidate has completed the Referee’s Course, they will join either Level Eight if they’re under 16, and Level Seven if they’re 16 or over.

Referees then move up the ranks by gaining match experience and being assessed after refereeing a set number of games in each level. Further training and tests are also required to achieve these promotions.

Some areas provide the opportunity to take qualifications: a Level 1 Certificate for Match Officials in Football and Level 2 Certificate for Sports Officials (Football).

Referees can join two associations for their profession, which can help with training and career progression: the Football Association for Match Officials (FAMOA) and the Referees’ Association.

Candidates need to re-register as a Referee at the start of each new season with their County FA.

Skills and knowledge required

  • A thorough understanding of the rules of the game
  • A high level of fitness
  • Great observational skills
  • Good communication and decision-making skills
  • Top people management skills
  • The ability to stay calm and impartial


Those working at amateur level earn approximately £20-£30 a match, with the fee rising to £80 a game for semi-professional standard. Top officials working at professional level can earn around £40,000 a year.

The hours

Hours are dependent on whether a Football Referee works at amateur or professional level, although football matches are played at weekends and weekday evenings regardless of the level of play.

Useful websites - Football Association (Referees) - Football Association Match Officials Association (FAMOA) - Referees Association

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