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Introduction to Refereeing

This section of our site is designed to give potential new referees and others a clearer concept of what it takes to become a soccer official, what challenges they will face and what skills they will need to meet those challenges. In Oregon 38% of new soccer officials decide the job is not for them and do not return after their first year of officiating. It is hoped that with this introduction to officiating those interested will have a clearer understanding of both the role and expectations of a soccer referee. Hopefully, this information will offer specific information about referee courses, pay, opportunities and necessary skills and traits of good officials.

Referee Traits and Skills

To be a successful soccer referee certain traits and skills are needed. Note that there is a difference between traits versus skills. The dictionary defines a trait as "a distinguishing feature or characteristic". Skill on the other hand is said to be "expertness, practiced ability; facility in an action." In short then traits are attributes that you have from birth (such as temperament) and skills are acquired through training and practice.

It takes a certain combined set of both traits and skills to succeed at this sometimes demanding task. Traits of patience, "unflappability", optimism and a comfort with people are extremely handy for the background of a potential referee. In addition to the skills of knowledge of the game (being a former player is handy but not altogether absolutely necessary), physical fitness (a must!), knowledge of the Laws of the Game and application of the spirit of those Laws (their intent) as well. A degree of physical and mental maturity to handle the job is needed. For this reason Oregon Referee Committee (the group that oversees the training, registration, assessment and advancement of referees in Oregon) requires that referees doing competitive games be at least 13 years of age. To be a soccer referee is challenging even in the best of times. One needs the inner strength and motivation (not just money) to do the job and keep doing it over time. It is certainly not for everyone and this introduction is meant to better inform those who may be considering becoming a soccer official before they take the time and effort to do so.

Courses for Beginners

There are two introductory courses offered: the Recreational Referee and Entry Level Referee course. Both are led by qualified U.S.S.F. instructors. The courses differ in several ways. The minimum age to take the Entry Level course is 13 years of age. The Recreation course has no minimum age and it will prepare you to do small-sided games often sponsored by local clubs. It is a great way to get your feet wet as a referee while minimizing the pressure of higher levels of competition. The cost to you is also lower and it is a one-day course instead of 18 hours compared to the Entry level course. The Entry Level course is designed for those people who want to begin working on competitive games as soon as they can. A summary of the two programs is listed below:

Grade Nine: Recreational Referee Course Information

Age Limit:

None, but recommended for those under the age of 13

Length of Course:

8 hours. Written test upon completion. 50 questions (75% correct to pass)

Field Training:



$30.00 course fee (typical) and $45.00 U.S.S.F. registration fee (annual).

What you may Referee after completion of the course:

Referee on recreational games U-14 and younger only and assistant referee on any game U-14 or below (recreational or competitive)

Grade Eight: Entry-Level Referee Course Information

Age Limit:

13 years of age

Length of Course:

18 hours: 12 hours of class-room time, appriximately 4-6 hours "on-line" study plus an additional 2 hours field session (see below). Written test upon completion. 100 questions (75% correct to pass)

Field Training:

2 hours done outside on a soccer pitch. Participants practice movement during play, signals of the referee and Assistant Referee, free kick positioning (direct, indirect, kick-offs, penalty kicks), the pre-game conference, use of the whistle, etc.


$40.00 course fee (typical) and $45.00 U.S.S.F. registration fee (annual)

What you may Referee after completion of the course:

Referee on youth games (recreational and competitive), assistant in comparable games. May also accept assignments for adult games in either referee or AR position.

Physical Requirements

Being a referee offers physical challenges. It is said that the referee covers 5 to 7 miles in the course of doing a game. You must be in position to both "see" and "sell" the calls you make and to do that you must be within 10 to 15 yards of the play at all times. That takes a great deal of physical effort and requires near constant movement on the part of the referee team: the referee and their two Assistant Referees called "AR's". You must walk, jog and sprint throughout the game in order to keep yourself in the best position to make the call. Standing in the center circle is not the way to referee!

You gain acceptance to your calls and the respect of players, coaches and even spectators when you hustle, keep up with play and are at the right spot when you blow your whistle for a foul, the ball out of play or to really see the ball crossing the line for a goal. As an AR, staying with the last defender is your top priority. In order to do so you must adjust your position constantly. In some games the AR has more running to do than the referee. Did you know that the World Cup physical standard for an AR is actually higher than for a referee?

In short, you need to be a participant not an observer of the game to effectively referee. It all starts with fitness because without it you will not be able to keep up with play, see what you need to see and make the calls in close proximity to the play so that the players are convinced you were close enough to get it right.


When starting out in your "referee career" generally it is a good idea to begin on the line as an Assistant Referee. This way you can watch the actions of the center official and learn what goes into the job; how referees move, what to call in given situations and how they handle players and coaches. You can learn both what you wish to do when you are a center referee and well as what you want to avoid. The Assistant Referee or "AR" as we call them may be paid around $10.00 for a recreational game and about $20.00 for a competitive match.

You let your assignor know when you feel ready to do the position of center referee. Assignors are the people who arrange for the referee crews for games. It is important that the assignor knows your "comfort level" of the games they assign to you and they must also be comfortable with you being assigned to certain games. Once you have been assigned to the center referee position you can expect to make from $15.00 for a recreational match to $35.00 for an Oregon Youth Soccer competitive game.

Adult leagues pay at higher rates for both AR and center referee positions and some raise the rate of pay as your referee grade increases. Pay for the AR ranges from $25.00-$35.00 and the center makes from $45.00 to $60.00

Other Refereeing Opportunities

There are a total of ten U.S.S.F. referee grades beginning with Grade 12-Assistant Referee up to Grade 1-International Referee. In order to move up the referee "career ladder" it takes a combination of minimum age, referee experience, game count (number and type of games), training course requirements, field evaluations of your work and finally written and physical tests. All of these requirements are spelled out in what is called the "Referee Administrative Handbook". If you have the desire and skill to advance the path is clear on how to do so. There is an ever increasing need for referees both for the youth game as well as the adult which both allow you to increase your game count and further develop your skill and knowledge as a referee.

There three other referee opportunities: Indoor, high school and college officiating. Indoor centers are springing up throughout Oregon. Some are affiliated with the U.S.S.F. and many are not. These centers offer year round soccer for both the player and the referee. The centers directly pay the referees and normally the rate is around $15.00-$19.00 for a 44 to 50 minute match. The rules are quite different in the indoor game.

The centers do their own referee training and should be contacted directly about referee opportunities.

High school soccer occurs in Oregon in the fall and most U.S.S.F. officials over the age of 17 are also high school referees. High school requires a separate training and written test and is regulated by the Oregon School Activities Association (O.S.A.A.) and the National Federation of High Schools (N.F.H.S.). Most high school officials associations do training in late August and seasons run from September through October with play-offs through mid-November. Games usually begin from 3:30-4:30 week-day afternoons with some night and week-end games as well. Pay for these games is approximately $50.00 for a center and $25.00-30.00 for an AR.

Requirements for college officiating are set by the National Intercollegiate Officials Association (N.I.S.O.A.). The N.I.S.O.A. provides referees to N.C.A.A., N.A.I.A and area community college soccer. To be a college soccer official requires that you have at least 3 years of high school varsity or equal experience and refereed at least 25 games and have two letters of recommendation from current N.I.S.O.A. members and one from a college coach or a N.I.S.O.A. instructor or assessor. You must also take and pass a written and physical exam after passing two field performance assessments. College centers are currently paid $110.00 and AR's $75.00 with N.C.A.A. Division 1 games paying higher.


While challenging and even sometimes difficult, refereeing affords the opportunity to grow and expand your personal involvement in the game of soccer and your life skills as well. For young people refereeing is truly a leadership opportunity that promotes growth with "people skills" which are valued in the "world of work" and can be useful job experience on your resume. Refereeing not only "gives back to the game" but to you as well.

It certainly does not appeal to everyone nor should it. It takes physical ability, an excellent grasp of the Laws of the Game, "people management skills", patience and a love of the game to excel. The rewards are more than money though at the higher levels there is the ability to make more than "pocket change". Many referees say that the best reward of all is meeting, knowing and becoming friends with fellow officials who do this tough and challenging task.

If you are interested in becoming a referee, choose the best "fit" for you: the Grade 9 Recreational Referee course or the Grade 8 Entry Level Referee course. Both offer excellent training direct from the U.S.S.F. with Law books and other support materials that come with your registration


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