In England, The Football Association oversees refereeing for football and courses for new referees.

The minimum age for someone to go on a referee course is 14 (there is no maximum age).

Courses are run by each County Football Association and their courses can be sourced through their own website.
Each County FA has an RDO – Referee Development Officer, who can help you with any course queries but check their website first, as many answers can often be found there.


The FA have introduced a new practical style referee course from September 2015 and this is hoped to give new referees better practical skills to assist them when starting out with their first games.

The FA referee course structure is now as follows:

1.   Attend a pre-course workshop – This details the course structure to potential course candidates and the commitment to refereeing required by anyone wanting to attend.
It is scheduled to last a couple of hours and is a good place to ask any questions you may have?

2.   Booking onto a course – This does not have to be in the County where you live but a course time/dates/venue that suits you. Most County FA’s have an online booking site to book onto courses through their website.
All County FA’s are now running the same referee course but prices vary from County to County but costs approximately £135.00 per candidate.

3.   Pre-course Activity Pack – Candidates who have booked onto a course are sent an A5 size booklet with Laws of the Game questions in to answer. Candidates are required to learn the laws of the game ‘at home’ so that when they attend the practical course they already have a comprehensive knowledge of the laws.

The booklet should be sent back to The RDO to mark in preparation of the course (if a number of answers are incorrect, you will be asked to review these answers before attending the course).

4.   FA Referee requirements – Registered referees are required to have a valid FA Safeguarding Children in Football certificate in place before attending the course and this can be done in one of two ways depending on the candidates age?
If aged 14-16 years the candidate completes an online safeguarding module, which prints out a certificate at the conclusion.
If aged 17 years and above, a candidate is required to attend a Safeguarding workshop with The County FA. Certificates are posted to the attendees by the FA Safeguarding unit directly.

Any referee candidate aged 16+ wishing to officiate in any Youth Football is also required to have a valid FA CRC check. Details how to complete these (online process) can be accessed from each County FA’s website.
Referees have to have an FA CRC certificate as other Organisations CRC checks are not valid.

5.   The Course – Basically it consists of two full days (9am – 5pm) and one evening (2½ hours) of intensive practical training.
The days are arranged by The County FA at a venue which will best help in practical training, so either on a grass pitch or 3G pitch for example.
The evening session is entitled ‘Recognising Challenges’ where the candidates are shown a video presentation on all aspects of ‘Tackles. fouls, misconduct – both on and off the field of play and how to manage them and report them to the appropriate authorities after the match’
All candidates will be expected to act as players and referees during the course, to enable everyone to participate.

There is a match appraisal during the last day of the course where the Tutors determine whether a candidate is ‘signed off’ to go out and referee games.
New referees are registered with The County FA as level 9 trainee referees at this stage.

6.   Refereeing Matches – Ideally all new referees should be mentored in their first number of games to be offered support and guidance.
Most County FA’s have mentoring programmes which new referees should get involved in. These could start with 5v5 or 7v7 matches for example at younger age groups to encourage the new referee and give them confidence and experience before moving up to 9v9 and/or 11v11 games.

New referees are required to referee FIVE matches of 9v9 / 11v11 games as part of the course requirements, as these formats include offsides. The FA have set a time frame for these games to be completed within four months of the course start date.
These five matches are recorded on a form with the following details:
Date of Match/League name or Competition/The names of the two Teams and age group/The match result.

The completed five match form would then be sent to The RDO. (No one is required to sign off these games to say you did them).
Referees aged under sixteen are only allowed to officiate in games where the age is more than one year younger than they are. Once sixteen a referee can officiate in ‘Open age’ Adult football but it is recommended that at this aged referees continue to officiate in Youth football until they are ready to progress.

Referee kit and equipment should be purchased before commencing refereeing so you look the part – first impressions!
Basic kit and equipment would include:
Referee Shirt/Shorts/Socks – all Black or Black with white trim on collar of shirt and sock tops. (No Coloured referee kit is allowed to be worn at Grassroots football, that is only for the Professional Game).

Black football boots

Assistant Referee flags

2 Whistles

Notebook and pencils

Red and Yellow Cards

Watch – ideally two, just in case one stops!

A coin

All available as individual items or as a ‘Starter Pack’ from PrecisionREF

7.   Course Exam and Match feedback – After submitting the completed five game form, The County FA will arrange an Exam on the Laws of the Game. It is a thirty minute multiple choice paper and after passing the exam referees will be asked to feedback on their matches for any issues to discuss to help in their development.
Referees will then become fully qualified referees. The FA themselves will post candidates their certificates as either a level 8 referee (candidate aged 14-15 years) or a level 7 referee (aged 16+).

8.   Fully qualified and registered referees should join a local league to be considered for regular matches appointed to them by the leagues Referee Secretary/Referee Appointments Officer. Details can be sourced from The County FA or League websites.