Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. It’s also a great sport to referee. Given its popularity, there’s ample opportunity to get started at the youth level and advance onto higher levels. In this article we share everything you need to know if you want to become a soccer referee.
STEPS TO BECOME A SOCCER REFEREE:
Step 1: Find an organization or association
There are a few different ways to go about finding an organization or association to referee soccer for. You can start at the local level or you can reach out to a national organization.
Reach out to local soccer leagues to find out where they are sourcing their officials from. Another option is to attend local soccer games and talk to the officials there to find out who they are working for. You can also try searching for a local sports official association.
Alternatively, you could download the Go Silbo app for free on the App Store or Google Play. Silbo will connect you to training opportunities and will allow you to officiate for multiple leagues in your area.
Once you’ve selected an organization, you’ll want to confirm their requirements including what training or certifications you’ll need, if you’ll need a background check, and other similar requirements.
Step 2: Complete training
There are a variety of training options available including digital training and in person training sessions. Most organizations or associations will either offer training or be able to connect you to training options. Training and certification requirements typically vary from organization to organization. Soccer has some of the most standardized training for referees, but you’ll still find variation from organization to organization. Some trainings will be free and others may require a fee.
U.S. Soccer’s Grassroots training is a popular option for first-time referees. It’s worth noting that they recently changed their referee certification program from a 9 grade program to a 5 level program.
Step 3: Get equipment
Equipment includes your soccer referee uniform which consists of a jersey, shorts, socks, and shoes and gear including your whistle, a wristwatch, red and yellow cards, and flags. Equipment will likely cost around $100. Your uniform is an important part of the impression you make when you first step on the field so make sure you follow all league rules and make yourself look presentable.
Step 4: Start officiating games
Once you’re trained and have equipment, you’re ready to start officiating games. If you’re officiating for an organization that uses an assignor, they will assign you games based on your schedule. If you’re officiating through the Go Silbo app, you can select your own games. You might be nervous and make mistakes in your first game, but just like playing soccer, officiating is all about getting better each time you get on the field.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BECOMING A SOCCER REFEREE:
Types of Soccer Referees
Soccer is played with anywhere from 1 to 4 referees. One referee is usually used in low stakes games such as games with very young players or adult recreation games. Two referees are, again, typically used in lower stakes games, but as the referee shortage becomes more serious there may be just 2 referees for even high school level games. Three referees is considered ideal for most situations. Four referees is typically reserved for higher levels of play.
Head/Center/Middle Referee: Typically, the head referee keeps track of the time, calls penalties, stops play for an injury, checks that the ball meets the proper requirements, and provides a match report after the game.
Assistant Referees: Assistant referees, also called linesmen, make calls regarding whose ball it is when the ball goes out of bounds as well as offside. Each assistant covers one of the touch lines. They often use a flag to signal calls.
Fourth Official: Fourth officials are typically only used in professional level games. The fourth official’s duties consist of assisting the other referees, managing the substitution process, helping with administrative tasks, and monitoring equipment.
Refereeing soccer can be a great way to earn some extra money. Pay is influenced by the level of the game, geographic region, and the number of referees working. Also, usually the head referee is paid more than the assistant referees and fourth official.
Pay for entry level referees varies. In some cases, referees are volunteers and don’t get paid anything. Entry level Silbo soccer referees make anywhere from $10-$37 per game with the average being around $18 per game. As you gain experience and can work higher level games, pay should increase.
Cost to Get Started
Training/Certification fees: Some certification programs require you to pay a certification fee. For example, US Soccer charges $20 for their online Grassroots course and an $80 in-person clinic fee.
Background Check: Some programs require a background check for those over 18. That will typically cost roughly $30-$35.
Registration fees: Some referee associations and assigning organizations charge registration fees. These vary in cost from as little as $20 to $100 or more depending on the organization. Of course not all organizations charge this fee. Silbo does not charge any registration fees to work games through the Go Silbo app.
Equipment: Equipment includes your referee uniform which consists of a jersey, shorts, socks, and shoes and gear including your whistle, a wristwatch, red and yellow cards, and flags. Equipment will likely cost around $100.
How old do you have to be to referee soccer? It depends. Age requirements vary based on the state you live in, the organization you get certified through, and the association you work for.
US Soccer mandates that you be a minimum of 13 years old to get certified through their program. Some states require that you be at least 14. Silbo requires that you be at least 13. Other programs allow you to be as young as 12.
Your age will dictate what level you’re allowed to work with younger referees typically officiating games for younger teams.
Soccer referees run 6-8 miles to officiate the world cup. You likely won’t run quite that far to referee a U7 game, but you will be doing a lot of running to keep up with action. The older and more competitive the players are, the more likely you are to cover a lot of ground while refereeing the game. With this in mind, you’ll want to make sure you’re in good physical fitness to be a successful referee.
Nearly all referees are independent contractors. As an independent contractor, you’ll need to file a 1099 if you make $600 or more. Your employer will be responsible for sending you the 1099 if you’re eligible.