For a game of soccer, not two but three teams are needed; the two contesting the match, and the team of referees who apply the Laws of the Game and ensure the match is played fairly, safely, and in the spirit of the game.
So just as we need to recruit players for our teams, soccer in Newfoundland and Labrador needs to recruit referees for the “third team”.
There are so many opportunities for those who want to become involved in refereeing- from young people starting out, to former players to parents whose kids are involved. Read on to discover why you might want to become a referee, who can referee and at what level, how to qualify as a referee, and some answers to frequently asked questions about refereeing.
Why become a referee?
Understand the laws and the game better; whether you are a player, coach, or spectator understanding the laws of the game, and understanding the referee’s view of the game will improve your knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of the game.
Keep fit; referees have to work hard to be in the best position to make their decisions. At a high-level referees run over 10 km in a game! Lower levels are less demanding for fitness but at any level, refereeing is a great workout!
Learn important life skills; along with knowing the laws and running hard, referees need to be good at managing people. The skills learned as a referee - at any age - are useful in many other aspects of your life.
Earn money; refereeing pays! For younger referees who do a lot of games, refereeing can even act as a summer job; for all referees, match fees more than cover your expenses, plus leave a little extra.
Give back to the game; if you play soccer, or used to play soccer, refereeing is a great way of giving back to the game you love. For older players, it is a way of extending your active involvement in the game for many years after age and fitness call a halt on your playing career. You still have a lot to offer, and refereeing is a great way to do this.
It is rewarding, satisfying, and fun: to be able to be part of a well-played competitive game of soccer, knowing that your refereeing skills have helped the players is satisfying and rewarding. As a referee, you will be part of a supportive community of fellow referees, and working as a team provides additional enjoyment.
Who can be a referee?
Anybody can be a referee! You do have to be 12 years or older to start but there is no upper age limit. We have local referees in their sixties who are still contributing. Prior knowledge of soccer certainly helps - it is easier for an experienced player to reach a level where they can referee higher-level games - but full training is provided, and even those with little playing experience can be great referees, learning as they go.
We would particularly like to see more women involved as referees. We have a lot of girls' and women’s soccer in the province, and the players like to see female officials at their games. Women make excellent referees and are great role models for younger players.
How do I become a referee?
The NLSA provides two options to get you started as a referee, the small sided course, and the entry-level course.
The small-sided course is open to those aged 12-16 and deals only with refereeing “small-sided” games- from 7 to 9/ side, with no offside law applied. This course does not qualify you to referee 11/side games, or to act as an assistant referee. It is a one-day course. If you don’t have a strong background in soccer, or want to try refereeing at a lower level before fully committing, this is the course for you.
The entry-level course takes place over 2 full days, and qualifies successful candidates to referee 11/side games anywhere in Canada, and to act as an assistant referee. You must be 14 or older to take the course. Current or former players are encouraged to take this course rather than the small sided course, but it is also designed for those who do not play.
Once you have taken the appropriate course, the next stage is to contact your local association and offer your services. New referees generally start with youth games and work their way up to more demanding games with experience. We recommend that younger referees do not officiate in games of their own age group.
I don’t know soccer well
Although experience of soccer is an advantage, there are opportunities to learn the game as you referee, and a prior lack of involvement in the game should not be an obstacle to starting refereeing.
I don’t have the time
Referees can referee as much or as little as they like, and can choose games based on their time constraints and availability. Even refereeing one game a week will help soccer in the province.
I am worried about abuse from coaches and spectators
We can’t pretend this doesn’t happen, but in our province, this is an unusual occurrence. The NLSA has a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse of officials, and the referee training provided will give you the tools to deal with this if it happens. The NLSA and affiliated associations and clubs have a great record in supporting officials and taking action to prevent this occurring.
I can’t afford the equipment
The basic equipment is cheap- a whistle, a set of cards, and a watch. To start off with a pair of cleats, and black shorts and socks will get you started, with clubs and associations providing a referee t-shirt. A full referee’s kit can be obtained for the cost of a couple of match fees.
I am too old or too young
If you are under 12, then unfortunately you are too young! Other than that, there is not age limit. We’ve had former players in their fifties taking up refereeing with considerable success, and some 15-year-olds refereeing in national championships!
I am not fit enough
At a higher level fitness is important, and referees are encouraged to take an annual fitness test. A basic level of fitness is needed to start refereeing, but most can handle small sided games for young players to get started. Your fitness will improve as you referee,
I'm a woman and not many women referee.
Women certainly do referee and make good ones, too. We would like to have more women involved as referees; women are natural referees. Many of our players are girls and they love having women referees. They are comfortable with them and look up to them as role models.
I am not sure I’ll like refereeing
Give it a try! The introductory courses prepare you for refereeing. We will teach you and support you and start you with younger children or easier games. We will be there to mentor you until you feel comfortable and confident.