Dec 01

How to be a referee: Football coaching

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Did you know you can become a referee your local football league and make a bit of extra cash on Sundays – and possibly a few pints from the winning team? If you have a passion for football and often spend evenings shouting at FA referees through your TV screen you might be a natural fit.

What’s involved?

Oi, ref! If you’ve ever watchfootball coachinged a game of football then you’ll know what a referee is. A ref ensures that all the players stick to the rules of the game, and in the event that they don’t, it’s the referee’s responsibility to hand out the feared yellow and red cards.

Sunday leagues all over the country need people to referee their games. Amateur leagues can consist of teams of eight-year-olds, or teams of eighty-year-olds – it really can vary. If you’re familiar with your local team then ask them if they’re looking for any refs at the moment. 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. If not – the best place to look is often adverts placed on Gumtree.

If you live near a powerleague centre then it’s worth seeing if they have any ref jobs available at the moment. Powerleague is a national, organised 5-a-side football league. It’s basically like the major league but it’s local and is for people of any ability or age. They will want to know that you’re a registered FA referee and they tend only to look for people usually over the age of 30. They will post out regular information on their website ( about ref jobs available and you can easily find your local centre on their website and give them a call or an email to enquire about it.

How much can I earn as a referee?

Depending on your level of experience, you can earn between £20 and £40 a match. Not bad for a couple of hours’ work.

However if you really stick at it and get the appropriate training (see below) you can work your way up the referee pay-scale and eventually earn good money while still only working matches in your spare time. There are approximately 10 levels to refereeing profession – with 10 being a trainee and one being an official who oversees Premier League and international matches. Aim for somewhere in the middle!

Qualifications and training

It’s not essential to have formal qualifications for Sunday leagues but you do need to know the rules inside out and back to front – and that does include the famously cryptic offside rule! Although it isn’t imperative that you are qualified, most clubs will look for at least basic training as a ref. You can contact your local County Football Association with information on what courses are available at the minute in your area – find your CFA on the FA website. If you’re planning to work with children at all, you’ll need to get a CRB check, but most courses have this incorporated into the course 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.

It’s a good opportunity to meet new people and get paid for it. If football’s your thing then it’s a great way to keep on top of your local league scores. It’s a fun way to get your dose of exercise; you’ll be running up and down the pitch a lot to keep track of what’s going on. A good guide to referee-level fitness can be found on the official Referee Association’s website.

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

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Useful contacts

  • Gumtree
  • The FA
  • Powerleague
  • Football Referee Organisation

Case Study

Trevor Wing has been a referee for 23 years with the FA; he is a licensed referee instructor and referees for the Northern League and local leagues. This includes the women’s youth teams and the ladies teams.

“By the time I decided I wanted to be a professional referee, I was 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 will 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

Football isn’t the only sport you can make money out of refereeing. Check below for a list of sites to go to for pursuing your own favourite coaching

Rugby Union
Rugby  League

At University

If you’re a student,  you could become a football referee while you’re at university. It  could be a great chance to pick up a referring qualification, and possibly at a discount. Speak to the organisers of your society or your students union’s sports activities officer for more information. By being a qualified referee you’ll be helping you’re teams and players, and also grabbing onto experience that will help you after university.

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Lisa W
Lisa W

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


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 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

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

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