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Football referee

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Football referees officiate at football matches, from local youth and amateur leagues up to professional level.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need to register with your local County Football Association and complete a Basic Referee's Course. This is part of the Football Association's (FA) National Referee Development Programme (NRDP).

The NRPD includes a pathway for women who want to work their way up from trainee to refereeing in the Women’s Premier and Super Leagues.

2. Skills required

You'll need: 

  • excellent communication and observational skills
  • the self confidence to make difficult decisions under pressure
  • good people management skills
  • a calm and professional approach

3. What you'll do

You’ll look after players’ safety at amateur or professional football matches, and make sure they obey the rules of the game.

Before kick-off, you’ll:

  • inspect the pitch and markings
  • make sure equipment like goalposts and nets are safely set up
  • check you have everything you need for the game, like stopwatches, cards and radio communications (at top levels)
  • meet with team managers
  • brief your assistants on which signals to use and what to do in particular situations, like if there’s a confrontation on the pitch

During a game, you’ll:

  • follow the play and make decisions
  • communicate with your assistants to help with rulings
  • control the behaviour of the teams on the pitch, and their coaching staff on the sidelines
At higher levels, you’ll also write up match reports on any incidents during a game that need to be followed up, like a controversial tackle or sending-off.

At professional and semi-professional levels, you’ll normally work with two assistant referees and a fourth official.

In amateur football, you’ll take responsibility for the match on your own.

4. Salary

Starter: Variable

Experienced: Variable

Highly Experienced: up to £70,000 a year (Premier League official)

Referees at amateur level earn around £20 to £40 a match. Match officials for semi-professional games can earn around £80 a game plus expenses.
Full-time Premier League officials can earn up to £70,000 a year, while all other league referees are paid around £300 to £500 a match.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours would depend on whether you referee at amateur or professional level.

Amateur games are usually played at weekends and sometimes weekday evenings. You’ll referee games within your local area. 

At semi-professional and professional level, you may have to travel to grounds anywhere in the country.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could train to become a referee training instructor, match assessor or referee development officer with a County FA.
You could also use your knowledge and experience to move into related areas, like sports development in the community.

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Last updated: 10 September 2018