Football refereeing in England

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Former Premier League referee Howard Webb

English football referees officiate matches in English football. The referees officiate matches that range from local football to Premier League matches. There are currently eleven different levels of referees that correspond to the ability, age and activity of the official. For a referee to move from one level to the next, both theoretical and physical assessments are taken.


Anyone over the age of 14 who is reasonably fit and [has reasonable eyesight] can train to be a referee. The course is split into 5 key modules, all of which must be completed to a satisfactory level before a referee is considered qualified. The first module concentrates on the laws of association football and this is closely followed by a second module on the application of the laws. Candidates must then complete the third module which is a ninety-minute theoretical examination based on the first two modules. If this is completed successfully, the aspiring referee moves onto the fourth module. The fourth module is a probationary period in which the training referee must complete six matches as a referee whilst being watched by a mentor (either an instructor or an assessor) for 3 of these. These matches must be completed to a standard that is acceptable to the mentor. Ther matches need not be adult matches but can be junior or school football matches, which requires offsides to be played.

The final module consists of the candidate attending one two-hour training session run by their local football association.[1]


International FIFA List Split into sub-levels A B & C, officiating in International Youth to Full International Matches
Select Group Professional Referee Premier League (Referee Only)
Level 1 National List Football League (Referee Only)
Level 2a Panel List Conference National (full), Football League (Assistant referee) or Premier League (Select Group Assistant Referee)
Level 2b Conference North and Conference South (full), Conference National (Assistant referee) or Football League (Assistant referee) or Premier League (Select Group Assistant Referee)
Level 3 Contributory Referees, Conference North and Conference South (Assistant Referee) or Conference National (Assistant referee) or Football League (Assistant referee) or Premier League (Select Group Assistant Referee)
Level 4 Supply League Referees, Contributory League Assistant Referee
Level 5 Senior County Referees, Supply League Assistant Referee
Level 6 County Referees, Supply League Assistant Referee
Level 7 Junior Referees, Supply League Assistant Referee
Level 8 Youth Referee
Level 9 Trainee Referee
Level 10 Declared non-active Referees

English football referees are categorized into 13 levels (Levels 10-1 and then 4 "elite" levels) depending on their ability, age and activity level. A level 10 referee is inactive and may have refereed at any other level prior to their self-proclaimed inactivity. Level 9 referees are currently trainee referees, and are undertaking the basic training course that all referees must pass. As part of the course, trainee referees must officiate games and they do so at this level. Upon successful completion of the course, a referee will move up to either level 8 or level 7 depending on their age. If the referee is aged under 16 then they become a level 8 referee, if they are 16 or over then they automatically become a level 7 referee. After completing promotion criteria as a level 7 referee, they may move up to level 6. Level 8, 7 and 6 referees are only qualified to officiate games in local league matches. Referees promoted to level 5 are promoted to level 4 if they apply for further promotion in doing so averaging a mark of 73 or more through assessments and also on the completion of a county fitness test whereby they must complete a minimum distance of 2600m over a continuous running period of 12 minutes. Also a sprint test is undertaken where candidates must complete two 50m sprints each in 7.5 seconds or less. Level 5 referees are able to act as assistant referee in supply league matches- as are level 7/6 officials. (e.g. the Spartan League). Level 4 referees referee supply league matches, but also take on the role of assistant referees in contributory league matches (e.g. the Isthmian League and the Northern Premier League). Referees promoted to level 3 continue in contributory leagues but move up to full referees. They also act as assistant referees in panel leagues (Conference National, Conference North and Conference South). Promotion to level two allows referees to referee panel league matches and act as assistant in the Football League. Level one referees officiate Football League matches and further promotion can be to the Select Group (Professional Referees) who referee on the Premier League and then the three sub-levels of FIFA Referee. The highest level is FIFA Elite. International level referees appear on FIFA list of referees. They officiate in international matches depending on their seniority.[2][3]


For a qualified referee to be promoted from level 9 to levels 7 through to 4 they are assessed locally by their local football association. To be considered for promotion, a referee must referee 15 games over one season, and three of these games must be assessed by a qualified assessor (some associations require five assessments and 20 games e.g. Durham FA). The referee must also attend training conferences and complete a written exam. Should all these assessments be completed successfully and to the required standard, the referee is promoted to the next level. For a referee to be promoted from level 5 to level 4 they must complete a fitness test set out by the FA. Promotion from level 4 to level 1 is based upon marks awarded by assessors of matches they officiate in and written examinations which they participate in. Individual league committees meet to discuss who is recommended for promotion at the end of each season.[4]


  1. ^ The Football Association (2007-10-10). "Becoming an FA registered referee". Berks and Bucks Football Association. Retrieved 2007-11-20. [dead link]
  2. ^ The Football Association (2004-08-23). "Referee Progression - Promotion". Berks & Bucks Football Association. Retrieved 2007-11-20. [dead link]
  3. ^ BBC (2007-11-20). "Want to be a football referee?". The BBC. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  4. ^ The Football Association (2003-06-11). "Referees' Regulations". The Football Association. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 

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