Sports Referee

Job Description:

Sports referees officiate at sports matches and events, from local youth and amateur games or meets up to professional level.

Job Category:
Culture, Media & Sport

What you will do:

You’ll look after players’ and competitors’ safety at amateur or professional events and make sure they obey the rules.

Before the start, you’ll:

  • inspect the playing area and markings
  • make sure equipment like goalposts and nets are safely set up
  • check you have everything you need for the game or event, like stopwatches, cards and radio communications (at top levels)
  • meet with team managers or individual players/competitors if it’s not a team sport
  • brief your assistants (if any) on which signals to use and what to do in particular situations, like if there’s a confrontation between the players

During the event, you’ll:

  • follow the play and make decisions
  • communicate with your assistants to help with rulings
  • control the behaviour of the competitors and their coaching staff

At higher levels, you’ll also write up reports on any incidents during that need to be followed up, like a controversial tackle or sending-off.

Depending on the sport, it’s possible that you’ll officiate amateur matches on your own. But at professional and semi-professional levels, you’ll normally work with a number of assistant referees/judges.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of the sport – in-depth knowledge of the rules and regulations of the specific sport you wish to referee is essential
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • problem solving and decision making skills as well as the ability to remain calm in stressful situations (leadership skills)
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • concentration skills
  • fairness and impartiality: as a Sports Referee, you must be fair, impartial, and able to make unbiased decisions.
  • confidence and assertiveness: Sports Referees need to be confident and assertive in enforcing rules and maintaining discipline on the field.
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

Becoming a Sports Referee typically involves gaining practical experience and certification.

Here are the general steps to pursue a career as a Sports Referee:

  1. Obtain Practical Experience: Participate in local sports leagues, school sports events, or community matches to gain experience and understand the role of a referee.
  2. Complete Referee Training: Look for training courses and workshops provided by sports governing bodies. These programs will give you the necessary knowledge and skills required for refereeing specific sports.
  3. Gain Certification: After completing the training, you may need to pass an examination or gain certification from the relevant sports governing body to become an accredited referee.
  4. Officiate Matches: Start officiating matches at local levels and gradually work your way up to more competitive and higher-level events.
  5. Continue Professional Development: Stay updated with rule changes, attend workshops, and engage in continuous learning to improve your skills and knowledge as a Sports Referee.

School Subjects

To become a Sports Referee in the UK, there are no specific GCSE subjects that are mandatory. However, certain subjects and skills can be beneficial in developing the knowledge and qualities required for this role, such as:

  1. Physical Education (PE): While not mandatory, GCSE PE can provide a solid understanding of different sports, rules, and regulations. It can also help you develop your physical fitness, which is essential for keeping up with the pace of the game as a referee.
  2. English: Strong language and communication skills are crucial for effective communication with players, coaches, and spectators during matches.
  3. Mathematics: Basic mathematical skills can be helpful for keeping track of time, score, and statistics during sports events.

Working Hours and Environment:

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

Amateur games and events usually take place 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.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could train to become a referee training instructor, match assessor or referee development officer with a local sport association.

You could also use your knowledge and experience to move into related areas, like sports development in the community.