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The black and white world of professional referees


Professional Referees are the individuals saddled with the responsibility of enforcing laws and regulations during association football and other sports matches. Football referees are predominantly the authority with the final-decision in a game. Some critical decisions in the hand of the referees include the ability to start and stop a football game, the power to impose disciplinary action against players as well as club managers who interrupt a football game.

There is always one head referee in a football match and other two assistant referees, formerly known as linesmen, who stay on the edge of the lines. Moreover, a new assisted referee, VAR –Video Assistant Referee – has been introduced into the football game. Therefore, for every association football match, there is an average of four referees that are in-charge.

Though the head referee has the overall authority in the game, the two assistant referees on each sideline also have the power to advise the head referee on particular situations. These could include infringements of the Laws of the Game (LOTG) happening outside the view of the head referee, cases where the ball moves outside the field of play, or even the detection of offside.

On the other hand, VAR is mostly used in higher-level football games where the advanced technologies are available. They assist the head referee in deciding if there has been an infringement that could nullify an awarded goal or make a disqualified goal to be awarded. VAR is also used to verify decisions related to penalty kicks, direct red card incidents, and mistaken identity.

With the presence of these assistant referees in association football matches, it’s harmless to say head referees can make more accurate decisions on the field of play. However, the head referee remains the supreme authority of a football match, and he or she can decide to overrule the advice of the assistant referees under certain circumstances.

Impact on personal life

Professional referees in certain sports often have to follow a set of rules even outside the field. For example, due to their deep knowledge about other referees, coaches and players, and their overall involvement in sport, referees in the NBA are prohibited from placing bets on sports. Interestingly enough, NBA has never had a Canadian referee in its long 73 years of existence, leaving an open question if US referees are allowed to visit foreign gambling establishments or online casinos such as Betsafe Canada.   

Being a professional referee, contrary to what may seem logical, is not a full time job in most cases. Referees usually have regular, full time jobs. Since most major leagues have their matches played during the weekend, being a referee is in most cases a “weekend job”. However, it still requires a lot of preparation, physical conditioning, meetings and education, so a referee position can add anything from 30-50 work hours to your work week during the season. 

How to become a world-class professional referee

The roadmap to becoming an international referee is straightforward and easy to chart, but not without its obstacles. The individual needs to begin from the local level, officiating matches in his local communities and be ready to attend training. The experience he or she gets at the local level will be beneficial enough to get promoted to a regional level.

With the experience, you have got from the local level to the regional level, and your readiness for more training, getting promoted to the national level would come easy. Then, if you persist in your dedication and you become more professional due to the level of training you have subject yourself to, you would get yourself promoted to the international level in no time.

Although the choice of international referees is selected from the referees nominated by national associations, you can get chosen if you are one of the outstanding referees in your home country. Now that you know what it takes to become a world-class referee contact your local association of referees for information on beginner training in your locality.

The official roles and responsibilities of professional referees

The referee is the authority in control of the sports match. The individual fully has the power to make decisions and enforce the rules of the game. The actual roles and responsibilities of the professional referees include:

1. To enforce the rules

The principal responsibility of a referee is to ensure that the rules and regulations of the match are adequately followed. There are about 17 Laws of the Game and he has the authority to sanction erring players who misbehave or conduct themselves poorly during a game.

2. To put the match in order

The referee is saddled with the responsibility of putting the whole football match in order. The individual is expected to work hand-in-hand with the assistant referees and as well as the fourth official (VAR). In its simplest term, controlling the match means at no point should any form of misconduct or misbehaviour be condoned or overlooked in the game.

3. To ensure the equipment are well-examined 

The referee is also in charge of players’ outfits, including their shirts, shorts, boots, and protective gear. The individual must ensure that the ball and other equipment are in line with the requirements of the Laws of the Game. If a player doesn’t keep to the standards of the game in his dressings, the referee has the authority to book the individual or send him off the field to correct his kits.

4. To keep the time and maintain records in the match

The referee is responsible for tracking the time and keeping records in the game. The individual must monitor and record the substitutions and offences that are committed.

5. To ensure the safety of all players during the game

It lies in the hands of the referee to ensure that all players are safe. And if a player is severely injured, it’s the referee’s responsibility to see that the player was carefully removed from the field.

6. To start and stop play when necessary

The referee is responsible for controlling the football match as the situation warrants. The individual has the authority to start, suspend, stop or abandon the game for any interference or infringements of the Laws of the Game.

In conclusion, being a referee is not as easy as it may seem. Strong character and good physical conditioning are necessary in order to perform the job well. On top of that, many referees often have a full time job and have to work weekends during the season, since most games are played over the weekend.

Referees also have many obligations outside the game, including education and different ways of preparing for the upcoming seasons. Sports betting is prohibited for NBA referees and these rules extend to other sports as well. Being a top-level referee is a demanding job, but many people are still motivated to work extra hard in order to fulfill their dream of becoming a professional referee.

Please let us know your thoughts on professional referees.

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