How Do You Become A Football Referee?


You should be realistic if you are interested in becoming a football referee by remembering that very few referees and assistant referees actually are able to earn a living in this role. The vast majority of referees take up the role as a part-time or purely voluntary job.

How to become a Football Referee

There are no restrictions on women becoming referees. In fact many of the county and national FAs are very keen to increase the number of female match officials as the number of women playing football has increased significantly over recent years.


The FA is very keen to ensure equal opportunity for all, irrespective of race, gender and sexuality. However despite estimates of 5-10% of the population being gay or lesbian, the number of players, officials and administrators in the sport is thought to be much lower. As a result, the IGLFA (International Gay and Lesbian Football Association) was formed and more information about the organization can be found at their website:

Basic requirements

There are no specific qualification requirements for anyone who is interested in becoming a football referee. The various football associations in the United Kingdom, both at national and county level, are keen to encourage people from all walks of life to become referees. However you do need to be able to meet the following basic requirements:

• You must be at least 14 years of age
• You must be reasonably fit
• You should have good eyesight (with glasses or contact lenses if worn)
• You can successfully complete a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check

If you can satisfy these basic requirements then you should contact your local County Football Association (see contact list at the end of this guide) to find out who the local instructor is. You could also contact your local Referees’ Association branch.

Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) Check

If you wish to become a football referee the FA will require you to undergo a CRB check as part of the FA’s process of ensuring that football is safe and enjoyable for all children. More information on what a check entails can be obtained from the CRB website (

However, not everyone involved in football needs to have a CRB check. The FA is required by law to ensure that people who are banned from working with children are not involved in youth football. By performing a CRB check the FA is able to make responsible recruitment decisions about whether people have significant histories that are a potential risk to children and prevent them from being involved in youth football.


The FA requires an Enhanced Disclosure which is a printed record containing information from the Police National Computer, local Police intelligence and a check of Government lists of those people banned from working with children.

You will be required to obtain an Enhanced Disclosure if as a referee you are working directly with children and young people in football. This means that if you regularly care for, train, supervise or have sole charge of children and young people under the age of 18 in football as part of your normal club or county duties, you will need to have an FA CRB check.

Further information on who is eligible for an Enhanced Disclosure and all aspects of the FA’s CRB process are available from the FA website (

If as a referee you are working with children and young people you should talk to one of the following about getting a CRB check:

• Working in a youth club, then speak with your Club Welfare Officer
• Working in a youth league, then speak with your League Welfare Officer
• Working as a referee, then speak with your County FA Referee Development Officer

Some of the basic information relating to CRB checks includes the following:

• The legal minimum age is 10 years old but the FA does not currently recommend the process for anyone under 18 years of age.
• You will be provided with a form to complete and you will need to provide proof of your identity and the relevant payment.
• The FA charge is £12 for volunteers. This covers all the administration, advice, guidance and any actions needed as a result of the Disclosure.
Note: For those taking an income from the game the CRB charges an additional fee of £36. This money goes directly to the Home Office. This means if you are taking an income from the game the cost is a total of £48.

From the start of the 2008-09 football season the FA has required all clubs and leagues with youth teams to have a Club Welfare Officer (further details are available from

Other qualities

As well as a thorough understanding of the laws of the game and how to apply them, you would also find the following attributes useful:

• excellent communications skills
• the self confidence to make difficult decisions
• good people management skills
• the ability to work as part of a team
• a calm and professional approach
• the ability to remain objective under pressure
• excellent observational skills
• good fitness levels.

As a referee you may encounter situations where you are subject to abuse – both verbal and physical – so strength of character is often a valuable asset. To combat the increasing level of unacceptable behaviour in football, the FA launched its Respect campaign.


As has been said previously you, as a referee, play a vital role in every level of football, whether it be an under-11s local league game on a Saturday morning or a high-profile Premier League fixture.

Your responsibilities before and after the game may differ depending on the level at which you are officiating but during a game, as the ‘man in black’ you are expected to:

• follow the play and give decisions
• consult with your assistants to back-up rulings
• control the behaviour of the teams on the pitch, and their coaching staff on the sidelines.

You will be expected to ensure that players on both teams obey the rules of the game and to look after the players’ safety. Before kick-off you would:

• inspect the pitch, making sure that equipment like goalposts and nets are safely set up
• check pitch markings
• check that you have everything you need for the game, for example stopwatches, cards and (at top levels) radio communications
• meet with team managers to see if there are any last minute changes to players and substitutes
• brief your assistants on which signals to use and what to do in particular circumstances, for instance if there is a confrontation on the pitch.