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How to become a football referee and how much can you earn?

If you’re a big fan of football and want to put something back into the game, then how about becoming a referee? Let’s take a look at how you get started in your new officiating career and how much you could expect to earn.

how to become a football referee
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I played football for over 20 years, although never to a great standard. But even when I was a youngster, I was always surprised by referees. Here they were, running around for 90 minutes, having abuse shouted at them by both players and fans alike.

The truth is, it’s an incredibly important job and football couldn’t continue without them. So today, we’re going to see how to become a football referee and if it could be a decent side income.

Beginning your football referee career

To get started, you must be 14 or over and complete an online course called Laws of the Game. This is available through the FA website and completely free to do. You’ll need to complete 5 modules, which include:

  • Before the match
  • Signals and communication
  • Getting it right
  • Offside
  • Managing starts and restarts

Once done, you’ll then need to complete a post-course survey to check your knowledge. Overall, it should take in the region of 2 hours.

Next up, you’ll need to complete another online course called Safeguarding For All. This looks at ways to safeguard children, or yourself if you’re aged under 18. This course should take you around 45 minutes and again, is free.

Starting your proper training

Once all of your online training is completed, you will need to undertake a basic referees course for County FA.

These may differ slightly between counties. But most require you to attend a short refereeing workshop one evening and then attend a face-to-face course for a full day.

To find out more, you can find your County’s referee contact through this link.

Most courses last in the region of 11 hours and will teach you how to deal with players, building rapport. positioning, techniques and a whole host of different skills. You’ll also be taught about being an assistant referee (or linesman if you’re as old as me).

You will need to pay for this course though, and it will be in the region of £135-£150. This will usually include your DBS check, FA registration fee, qualification certificate and sometimes you’ll be given some basic kit like a whistle and cards.

Once you have completed your face-to-face course and refereed 5 games, you’ll receive a certificate and an FA Referee badge. And don’t worry, you’ll be supported through those five games by your County Football Association.

As you referee more games and complete more courses, you can be ‘promoted’ as an official. Once you reach Level 1, you can officiate at the big games in the UK.

  • Level 1 – National List (Football League and Premier League)
  • Level 2a – Panel Select (Conference Premier)
  • Level 2b – Panel (Conference North and South)
  • Level 3 – Contributory (Contributory Leagues)
  • Level 4 – Supply ( Supply Leagues)
  • Level 5 – Senior County (County Leagues)
  • Level 6 – County (County leagues)
  • Level 7 – Junior (Amateur leagues)
  • Level 8 – Youth (Junior Referee below age of 16)
  • Level 9 – Trainee

Finding referee jobs

Once qualified, you’ll need to find refereeing jobs. Your best bet is to check in with any local Sunday league sides or sports centres to see if they have a need for refs. Even if they don’t, ask to leave your contact details as you could be a good backup.

Also, look through both local and national job sites. Some events companies and sports clubs will list on there if they need a referee, especially if they have some tournaments coming up.

Finding jobs may take a little time at first, but once you’ve picked up quite a few, you’ll become well known and they’ll become much easier to come by.

How much does a referee earn?

How much you earn as an amateur referee depends on the level you officiate at. For example, a 7v7 youth match won’t pay as much as men’s 11v11, mainly because the games aren’t so long.

On average and depending on the area you’re working, an amateur referee will earn between £25 and £40 per game. As an assistant referee, you’ll earn around £5-£10 less.

As you gain experience and move up the leagues, your earnings will increase. According to Indeed, the average professional referee earns £31,130 per year. Once you reach the Premier League, this could be as much as £70,000 per year.

And don’t forget

You’ll need to pay for most of your own kit – even your red and yellow cards. But you don’t have to spend a fortune and you can pick up cheap shirts from eBay for a tenner. If you want something more fancy, then some kits will cost as much as £40-£50.

Plus, you will need to pay a fee to renew your registration each year.

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