Referee Pathways and Development

Referee Pathways and Development

Northern NSW Football continues to invest in refereeing to provide opportunities for people to get involved in the world game, start a rewarding career, be given development opportunities and further their knowledge and skills through being supported by experienced coaching staff.  

Within refereeing, there are three development pathways for referees to consider – community football refereeing, premier football refereeing and becoming a referee assessor or instructor.

Community football refereeing is directed towards match officials working within local amateur competitions. This pathway begins with the FA Laws of the Game online training program and is then followed by undertaking the Level 4 and Level 3 Referee courses. The qualifications gained from these courses prepare referees to officiate in junior, youth and lower divisions of senior football.

The pathway for premier football refereeing can commence with the FA Laws of the Game online training program or can involve a transition from community football refereeing. Premier football refereeing involves more advanced level courses which are designed for match officials working on the Northern NSW Football Premier Competitions and within regional, state and national competitions. Extending upon the Level 4 qualifications, the next steps to become a premier referee comprise the Level 3, Level 2 and Level 1 Referee training programs. Referees who complete all of these advanced training programs will be eligible to officiate on matches ranging from junior football to adult football and through to the top tier of state football and potentially the national level.

Referee assessors and instructors are crucial to the development of their peers, in addition to building on their own skills as match officials. Accreditation for both roles also follows a tiered accreditation system, with three levels for assessors and two levels for instructors. Assessors are qualified to assess and provide match day coaching to match officials, while instructors conduct courses and training programs.

Referee Development Pathway


Level 4 Referee: 

The Level 4 Referee training program is for those that wish to start officiating as an official referee on junior or youth football matches within their zone. Upon completion of the theory section of a level 4 Referee course, they can register with their zone and start their refereeing career.

Level 3 Referee:

The Level 3 Referee training program is for referees 16 years of age or older who have registered with their zone and are appointed to higher graded junior and youth matches on a regular basis. These referees enjoy what they are doing, show a level of commitment, want to continually improve and would like to officiate up to the lower levels of adult football. Many of these referees will create the base for Northern NSW Football’s future referees at the highest levels.

Youth Referee Academy:

This is a pathway of development aimed at referees who are aged between 16 and 20 years, but this does not mean referees outside this age are ineligible. These referees have expressed a desire to develop their skills to become better referees and show the potential to become an elite referees with continued coaching and hard work. These referees will become an integral part of the refereeing community within Northern NSW in the future. This group will meet during the year and have their development watched closely by experienced referee coaches and have access to a range of coaching tools through the Youth Referee Academy.

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Referee State Talent Pool: 

At the end of their mentorship, the best performing match officials in the Youth Referee Academy can graduate to the Northern NSW Football State Talent Pool. This group of referees continue to receive coaching and assessment and strive for selection to attend the annual FA National Youth Championships and other national events. This opportunity allows them to be viewed and educated by FA elite referee coaches and is a potential step towards being appointed by FA to officiate on the National Youth League Competition, and ultimately the A-League or W-League Competitions.

Level 2 Referee:

Level 2 referees have made a decision to focus strongly on their refereeing career. They attend training and coaching sessions on a regular basis. Completing the Level 2 Referee training program allows a match official to receive more advanced coaching in a group environment by highly regarded referee coaches. These referees have the qualification to officiate up to the penultimate level of football within Northern NSW and show an aptitude towards developing their skills. This is the minimum level to be a referee in the national A-League Women's Competition.

Level 1 Referee:

Level 1 referees are extremely dedicated to officiating and want to reach the highest level of refereeing in Northern NSW Football and beyond. These elite referees are professional in outlook and work ethic and are on the top referee panels within Northern NSW Football. They are expected be at every training session and are regarded as our leaders within the state’s football refereeing community. This is the minimum level to be a referee in the national A-League Men's Competition.