What do I need to become a football referee?

The importance of the referee

The referee that overseas any football match plays as vital a role as any of the players performing on the pitch. Without the referee the game would not be able to go ahead.

The pivotal role enjoyed by the referee is one which extends down to the lower levels of the game also. The referee is required to adjudicate over the match and ensure that it is played in a manner consistent with the rules of the game. To make sure that the game is played fairly.

However, at the lower level of the game the reluctance for many to become referees or to continue refereeing is having an adverse affect on the game.

Why is there a reluctance to continue or start refereeing?

Being a referee at the top level of the game is seen as a thankless task. No one comments when the referee has a good game and has done their job well. The only time a referee is noticed is when he or she makes bad decision that individuals do not agree with.

At the lower levels of the game this is even more of a thankless task with referee’s often suffering the kind of abuse to make them think twice about continuing to referee. If the number of referees diminishing so does the number of amateur games that can be played across a given day – this is a continuing problem for football at amateur level.

How do I start the process of becoming a referee?

The Football Associations run by the various Counties in England and Wales run courses to train individuals to become referees.

A County FA contact list is provided on the website run by the Football Association. If an individual wants to participate on one of these course it is advisable to contact their nearest county FA to register for a course.

Then what will happen?

The individual will then be provided with details of local courses and dates and venues for these courses. The individual will also receive a registration form, a questionnaire and a request for payment.

Once registration has been confirmed the training venue and the dates for the Basic Referee’s Course will be provided. An individual candidate will also be sent a current copy of the Laws of Association Football (LOAF) and will also be expected to complete a Pre Course Study.

Is there a minimum age for becoming a referee in England?

The minimum age for becoming a referee in England is 14. Individuals will not be able to undertake the Basic Referees Course until they are 14. When an individual as young as this becomes a referee they will adjudicate over games at the low age group.

Will I need to have any form of checks when becoming a referee?

When becoming a referee individuals will often be required to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and Child Protection Check.

What is the reason for this?

When starting at refereeing at different levels of the game individuals will often be required to referee games for children under the age of 16. It is for this reason that they must be fully compliant with child protection.

What is the make-up of the Basic Referee’s Course?

The Basic Referee’s Course is made up of the following five modules:

  • Knowledge of the Laws
  • Application of the Laws
  • Examination
  • Probation Period
  • Newly Qualified Referee’s In Service Training

Knowledge of the laws

This will centre on candidates being fully briefed concerning the laws of the game.

Application of the laws

Candidates will often undertake on field training to understand how the various laws should be applied to a game situation.


The examination will comprise the following elements:

  • Written element – application of the laws
  • Theory examination via video analysis
  • Practical on filed assessment

Probation Period

During the probation period, Level 9 trainee referees must referee six 11 aside matches under an appraisal by a referee coach, assessor or instructor.

Newly Qualified Referee’s In Service Training

In Service Training will include training on the following elements:

  • Application of law
  • Recognition of offences
  • Body language and communication
  • Management of people and situations
  • Fitness awareness
  • Warm-up / cool-down techniques

What happens once I have completed the various training modules?

Once an individual has completed the various training modules they will then receive an FA Certificate of Qualification and immediately progress from a Level 9 (Training Referee) to either a Level 8 (Youth Referee) or a Level 7 (Junior Referee). This will depend upon the age of the candidate.

What are the various referee levels within the game in England?

The different levels of referee in England are as follows:

    International level  
    Level 1 National List  
    Level 2 Panel List 
    Level 3 Contributory Referees  
    Level 4 Supply League Referees 
    Level 5 Senior County Referees 
    Level 6 County Referees 
    Level 7 Junior Referee 
    Level 8 Youth Referee  
    Level 9 Trainee Referee 
    Level 10 Declared non-active Referees

As stated above during the course all individuals will be at level 9.

Following completion of the course a referee aged between 14 and 16 will automatically go into level 8. Following completion of the course an individual aged over 16 will automatically go into level 7.

How do I move through the various levels of promotion of referees?

There are various requirements set down by the Football Association concerning the promotion of candidates through the various levels of the referee structure. For example an individual at level 7 will have to serve a minimum of one registration period before he can apply to become level 6.  Having applied for promotion the referee’s performance will be monitored to see whether he is good enough to move up to level 6.

Will all promotions be done on application by the referee?

As an individual candidate moves higher up the pyramid they will only be able to move between the top levels if they have been selected and adhere to certain requirements. They will also be required to undertake rigorous fitness assessments.