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How to become a football referee

156750 29th Nov 2019 3 Comments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Did you know you can become a referee for your local football league and make a bit of extra cash on Sundays? Plus, you might even earn a pint or two from the winning team!

If you have a passion for football and often spend evenings shouting at the Football Association (FA) referees on your TV screen, you might be a natural fit.


What’s involved?

football referee yellow card

Oi, ref! If you’ve ever watched a game of football, you’ll know what a referee does. In basic terms, their job is to make sure players stick to the rules and when they don’t, refs hand out the much feared yellow and red cards.

Sunday leagues all over the country need people to referee their games. Those amateur leagues can really vary – there’re teams for eight-year-olds and eighty-year-olds alike. If you’re familiar with your local team, then ask them directly if they’re looking for a ref. You can find all the teams in your area by entering your postcode into the “find a club” search tool on the right-hand side of the FA’s homepage. Failing that, the best place to look is often Gumtree.

If you live near a Powerleague centre, check if they have any ref jobs available. Powerleague is a national, organised 5-a-side football league. It’s like the major league but local and created for people of any ability and age. They’ll want to know that you’re a registered FA referee and they tend to look for people over the age of 30. They regularly post information on their website about ref jobs available. What’s more, you can also use the site to find your local centre. Alternatively, give them a call or send out an email to ask about it.


How much can I earn as a referee?

Depending on your level of experience, you’re looking at making between £20 and £40 a match. Not bad for a couple of hours’ work. Especially if you enjoy the game.

If you really stick at it and get the right training (more about that later), you can work your way up the referee pay-scale and eventually earn good money while still only working in your spare time. There’re approximately 10 levels to refereeing profession – with 10 being a trainee and one being an official overseeing Premier League and international matches. Perhaps aim for somewhere in the middle.


Qualifications and training

Football in front of goal posts

You don’t actually need any formal qualifications for Sunday leagues. But you do need to know the rules inside out and back to front – and that includes the famously cryptic offside rule! While you don’t have to be qualified, most clubs prefer people with at least some basic training as a ref. You can contact your local County Football Association (CFA) to find out what courses are available in your area – identify your CFA on the FA website. If you’re planning to work with children, you’ll need to get a CRB check, although most courses include it in the fee. You’ll also have to have good eye sight and be physically fit as the job involves at least an hour and a half of running around.

Will it cost?

Depending on how old you are, it can cost roughly between £40 and £100, including the DBS check. However, up to £30 of this can be refunded to you once you’ve passed your exam and refereed 10 matches.

And this type of work comes with a lot of benefits. Working as a ref is a good opportunity to meet new people and get paid for it. Not only that but if football’s your thing, then it’s a great way to keep on top of your local league scores. You’ll also get a decent dose of exercise running up and down the pitch to keep track of what’s going on. Check out the Referee Association’s website for a good guide to referee-level fitness.

So what about the challenges? Referees often have to put up with a lot of grief from either angry fans or players who feel they’ve been treated unfairly. You’ll have to stick by your initial judgement which could be difficult.


Useful contacts

  • Gumtree
  • The FA
  • Powerleague
  • Football Referee Organisation
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Case Study

Trevor Wing has been a referee for over 25 years with the FA. He’s a licensed referee instructor and referees for the Northern League and local leagues, including the women’s youth teams and the ladies teams.

“By the time I decided I wanted to be a professional referee, I was a little too old,” said Trevor. “If someone wants to get into refereeing then it’s ideal if you’re young. Top refs get to travel all over the world and see all different things.

“A referee has to be fit, and we give our referees fitness training at least once a week. We also have continued training and seminars for refs; new ones and old ones. They don’t just go out there and we leave them to it – we look after them and guide them; it’s part of the referee’s career.

“There’ll always be someone who doesn’t agree with your decisions but you just have to take it on the chin. I remember reffing a semi-final game in a local park about ten years ago; we’d just had half time and I was about to blow the whistle for the second half to start when a streaker ran on to the pitch with nothing but a pair of wellies. I had to send him off for wearing the wrong footwear!”


Other Sports

A variety of sports

Football isn’t the only sport where you can make money as a ref. For instance, you could also pursue refereeing in:

Rugby Union
Rugby League


At University

If you’re a student, you could become a football referee at university (in fact, you can start even sooner than that; the requirement is that you’r over 14 years old). Think about it. This could be a great chance to pick up a qualification – and possibly at a discount. Speak to the organisers of your society or your student union’s sports activities officer for more information. As a qualified referee, you’ll be helping your teams and players, and you’ll gain useful experience that’ll help you after university.

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Lisa W
Lisa W
14 years ago

I want to become a Football Referee for my local Sunday league games….. I don’t have any qualifications in this but i know Footbal rules like the back of my hand…. please can you let me know where i go from here?? Thanks

Jasmine Birtles
14 years ago
Reply to  Lisa W

If I were you I would keep an eye on Gumtree for jobs coming up in your area and also put notices up in your local newsagents and supermarkets offering your services. Put yourself on Jobsgrapevine.co.uk and also go down to your local rec on Sundays and ask the teams playing there if they know of anyone who needs a ref!

norman connor
norman connor
14 years ago

hello i would like to become a referee can you hlp me in this ty

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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