In football and other sports, the role of referees cannot be undermined. Particularly in football, referees are essential match officials who oversee on-field actions, settle disputes among footballers, and mete out punishments in accordance with laid-down rules.
Generally, referees showcase a good deal of game management skills including the ability to handle different critical moments. Football referees must be especially skilled in dealing with different kinds of footballers without feeling intimidated.
Frankly, serving as a referee is one of the great ways you can contribute to the sporting world. If you’ve ever dreamt about officiating a sports match and football is the sport that excites you most, you might want to find out how to become a football referee. Helpfully, this post will walk you through the essential steps for becoming a licensed football referee.
How to Become a Football Referee in England
There’s a three-step process you need to know if you want to become a football referee in England. While the first step entails obtaining insightful information about the requirements for getting started, the subsequent steps necessitate acquisition of education and experience.
Obtaining insightful information: To find out the exact startup requirements in your county, you need to contact the referee development department of the county’s FA. It’s through your interaction with this department that you can learn about the age, educational background, and other requirements for becoming a referee.
Acquiring relevant education: Refereeing, especially at a professional level, is one of the roles where adequate education is a necessity. This is why prospective English referees are expected to take courses intended to furnish them with practical (refereeing) skills.
While you’ll likely be required to take several courses, the courses will not only expand your general knowledge of refereeing but also equip you with the requisite skills for managing different on-pitch situations effectively.
Gathering refereeing experience: Taking refereeing courses is an essential step towards becoming a referee in England, but it isn’t enough as you’re expected to supplement the courses with practical experience.
Once you’re done with your first refereeing course, endeavor to gather refereeing experience by officiating football matches at the amateur level. If you can do this, you’ll gather some on-pitch experience ahead of your subsequent refereeing course.
Progressing through the ranks
Becoming a top football referee in England entails progressing through the ranks of English football refereeing. Each of these ranks is a stage which lasts at least one year in the career of a typical English football referee.
Generally, there are nine stages (officially termed “levels”) involved in the process of becoming a top football referee in England. Below is a list of the levels:
|Level||Designated league(s)||Referee category|
|Level 1||English Premier League; English Football League||National List|
|Level 2 (a)||National League Premier||Panel Select|
|Level 2 (b)||National League North and South||Panel|
|Level 3||Contributory Leagues||Contributory|
|Level 4||Supply Leagues||Supply|
|Level 5||County Leagues||Senior County|
|Level 6||County Leagues||County|
|Level 7||Amateur Leagues||Junior|
|Level 8||Games officiated by under-16 junior referees||Youth|
The table above clearly illustrates the levels of refereeing in English football and the designated league(s) for each level. While being at Level 9 signifies that you’re a referee trainee, Level 1 is definitely the topmost level for referees in English football.
So, for a referee to officiate in the English Premier League (EPL), which is the top flight of English football, the referee must have advanced to Level 1.
How to Become a Football Referee in the United States
Fulfilling the Educational Requirements
Although there are US states where formal education isn’t required for you to become a referee in general, it’s advisable that you possess formal academic qualifications if you intend to become a professional (football) referee in the future.
Each state has its own sports association which is responsible for stipulating the (minimum) academic requirements that (football) referees should possess. Depending on your state, it could be required of you to possess at least a high school diploma (or its equivalent) before you can qualify as a football referee.
While it behooves you to find out if your state specifies educational requirements in this regard, it’s pretty certain that formal education could give you an edge while trying to advance to professional football refereeing.
Undergoing Coaching Training
Regardless of the kind of sport in which you intend to officiate, coaching training is a vital requirement that you shouldn’t downplay. Through such training, you’d be opportune to have direct interaction with (referee) coaches who could educate you about the standards, ethics and regulations that guide football refereeing.
To acquire coaching training, you may register at a specific professional school, join a university’s or college’s training program or enroll in the training program of a sports organization or football club. There are also recognized third-party institutions where intending football referees can undergo coaching training.
Specifically, coaching training for (intending) football referees would arm you with an understanding of the rules of play that apply to football as a sport. Depending on the institution or program you enroll in for such training, you’d also likely learn the specific rules and regulations that apply to a given football league.
Fulfilling State-specified Registration
Depending on the state where you intend to practice, you might be required to fulfill certain registration, as stipulated by the state. While the registration modalities can differ from one state to another, it’s noteworthy that this state-specified registration need to be fulfilled before you may be allowed to officiate in high school football events.
State-specified registration is probably not the only requirement for refereeing high school football matches, as your state may further require you to register with a recognized football association which oversees high school sporting events.
As part of the state-specified registration in most US states, you’ll be required to take a written exam. We advise that you familiarize yourself with the specific requirements that your state expect you to fulfill before you can serve as a football referee especially in high school games.
Officiating in Amateur Leagues
The experience you’ll gain through this will prove handy in your pursuit of professional referee role(s). To become a referee in a professional football league, within or outside the United States, there’s a career ladder you’re expected to climb; in simple terms, you don’t become a professional referee overnight. In fact, it will take you years to become a professional referee.
The requirements for becoming a professional football referee may seem diverse, depending on the professional football league you’re eyeing. But generally, there’s definitely a series of ranks you must progress through before you can officiate in any professional football league.
Anyone looking to become a professional football referee in the US is advised to gather career experience through officiating in amateur leagues.
Acquiring a Certification
There are training clinics through which you can get certified as a football referee in the US. All you need is to find out the sort of certification that should aid your advancement to professional football leagues.
The US Soccer Federation (USSF) is a notable association from which you can obtain certification as a soccer (football) referee in the United States. USSF runs a learning center (LC) at which the payments and registration for such certification take place. The process to become a USSF-certified referee combines three steps which include completing the Online Grassroots Referee Course Module, participating in a two-hour Zoom class, and engaging in a locally held on-field session.
What Are the Qualities Needed to Succeed as a Football Referee?
Great vision is a core quality that a football referee mustn’t lack. Even in other sports, a referee should be able to observe situations meticulously. This way, the referee’s likelihood of making erroneous decisions would be minimal. In football particularly, players engage in diving and other actions intended to deceive match officials.
So, it takes great vision for a referee to distinguish between these actions and real scenarios. Without good vision, it might prove difficult for a football referee to discern some of the tackles that violate the rules of play. Great vision enables a football referee to clearly observe on-pitch actions so that appropriate decisions can be made with respect to the actions.
Excellent Inter-personal Communication
In refereeing, the role of excellent interpersonal communication is very essential. On the one hand, a football referee should be able to communicate effectively with the assistant referees. The referee, on the other hand, should be able to communicate the rules of play to coaches and players, especially when there are disputes.
A referee understands the rules that guide on-field actions and situations. Whenever football coaches and players dispute the referee’s decisions, he (referee) must be able to remind them about the rules.
Great physical health, coupled with the ability to endure prolonged activity, is a necessity for football referees. Footballers are not the only ones that run around the field; referees also run around during football matches.
Somebody who lacks the ability to cope with prolonged activity, involving many short runs and quick walks on a football pitch, might not be a fit for football refereeing.
Smart Decision Making
Smart decision making tends to work hand in hand with great vision, since you need to have a clear observation of violations and other on-field occurrences before you can make smart decisions with respect to them.
A football referee must be able to smartly decide when a red card should be issued. He must also be able to decide when a penalty should be given, probably by perfectly distinguishing between simulations and real scenarios.
Ability to Cope with Pressure
The job of a football referee is demanding and due to this, a feeble-minded referee might end up making wrong decisions on multiple occasions. Football is a fast-paced sport where a referee is expected to make quick decisions even when under pressure.
Footballers have varying personalities, and it is expected of football referees to possess the ability to cope with these personalities. Irrespective of the kinds of footballers they are facing, a referee shouldn’t feel intimidated by the players’ personalities. Referees who feel intimidated might end up making wrong decisions.
How long does it take to become a top-level football referee?
The length of time it takes to become a top-level football referee varies, depending on your country as well as the football league you’re eyeing. In England, for example, becoming a top football referee entails progressing through the ranks of English football refereeing. Each of these ranks is a stage which lasts at least one year in the career of a typical English football referee. Generally, there are nine stages (officially termed “levels”) involved in the process of becoming a top football referee in England.
Do I need formal education to become a football referee?
The requirements for becoming a football referee vary across countries and football leagues. While strict formal education might not be required in some countries, it’s generally advisable that you possess formal education if you wish to become a professional football referee.
In the US, for instance, each state has its own sports association which is responsible for stipulating the (minimum) academic requirements that (football) referees should possess. Depending on your state, it could be required of you to possess at least a high school diploma (or its equivalent) before you can qualify as a football referee.
In England, you’ll be expected to take professional refereeing courses. These courses are intended to furnish you with practical (refereeing) skills. While you’ll likely be required to take several courses, the courses will not only expand your general knowledge of refereeing but also equip you with the requisite skills for managing different on-pitch situations effectively.
Is the job of a football referee demanding?
Football is a fast-paced sport where a referee is expected to make quick decisions even when under pressure. Undeniably, the job of a football referee is demanding and due to this, a feeble-minded referee might end up making wrong decisions on multiple occasions.
Also, somebody who lacks the ability to cope with prolonged activity, involving many short runs and quick walks on a football pitch, might not be a fit for football refereeing. What this means is that great physical health, coupled with the ability to endure prolonged activity, is a necessity for football referees. Footballers are not the only ones that run around the field; referees also run around during football matches.
It can’t be gainsaid that football refereeing is one of the demanding jobs in the sporting world. Notwithstanding the hectic nature of their job, football referees would probably find solace in the fact that they are well-respected match officials.
Besides getting well remunerated for their roles, top-level referees across notable football leagues have a high likelihood of becoming FIFA-listed. Interestingly, FIFA-listed referees stand the chance of officiating in highly coveted football tournaments including the World Cup.
We are hopeful that reading this post has exposed you to all that you were willing to find out about becoming a football referee. Notwithstanding that the requirements for becoming a football referee can vary across countries and football leagues, the information in this post is still a general guide on how to become a football referee.