How to become a referee in India?

Wondering how to become a referee in India? Goal explains the process, starting from the bottom all the way to the top…

Refereeing is one of the hot topics in Indian football right now, given the spotlight referees have recently found themselves under during the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) and the I-League.

In many ways, the referee has the toughest job on the football field and probably the loneliest one.

So what are the requirements for being a referee in India and what is the procedure to becoming one? We’ve got you covered.

Importantly, the procedure is the same for both men and women. There are five categories of referees in India, with Category 5 the entry level and Category 1 the highest level.


One must be a citizen of India.

A potential applicant should be aged at least 18 years old and should have passed his/her matriculation (Class X) examinations.

The retirement age for a referee in India is 45 years. Also, he/she must have completed their national level examinations before the age of 35 if they are to be considered for officiating in international games.

How to apply?

The application process to start your journey as a referee in India is simple. First thing an applicant has to do is register on the All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) website. The website has the Referees Administration System of India (RASI) portal which makes it easy for applicants to register themselves without many complications.

The next part is to monitor the AIFF Refereeing Calendar and find out the dates for registration and examination at your local district football association, authorised by your state’s Head of Referees, once or twice a year.

The applicant needs to furnish the relevant identification documents as well.



There are four parts to the referee examination.

Part 1: Physical test – Physical fitness is very important for a referee, given the demands of a football match. Hence, a referee needs to be at the top of his game, physically and needs to prove that he/she is fit enough to carry out the job. The test comprises of short 60m sprints under 6.5 seconds and a longer course run.

Part 2: Written test – The applicants will then be tested on their knowledge of the laws of the game, via a written test.

Part 3: VIVA – The applicants will have to go through an oral VIVA examination where they will be quizzed on the laws of the games.

Part 4: Practical test – The final part of the examination is the practical test. Here, the applicants will be asked to officiate as a referee, assistant referee and fourth official at junior category matches where their performance will be evaluated.

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Once an applicant passes all four tests, they will be certified as a Category 5 referee.

So, which matches does a Category 5 referee officiate and how does he/she rise up the ranks to become a Category 1 referee?

Category 5 referee

Category 5 referees come under the direct supervision of the state associations and are responsible for officiating state-level competitions only. However, their ambit mostly revolves around junior matches.

After officiating at least 30 matches in a year which must be updated in the RASI portal, a Category 5 referee can apply for a promotion examination by undergoing a one-day course. Of course, the referee has to pass an annual fitness test.

And the promotional examination also has four modes – fitness, written, viva and practical. Pass the examination, and you become a Category 4 referee.

Category 4 referee

Category 4 referees also come under the direct supervision of the state associations and are responsible for officiating state-level competitions.

After a year of officiating, a category 4 referee can apply for a promotion examination which will follow the same four part format as mentioned above.

Category 3 referee

Category 3 referees also come under the direct supervision of the state associations and are responsible for officiating state-level competitions.

A referee needs to be active in their state for 365 days as a Category 3 referee or assistant referee and he/she must officiate at least 30 matches in their top level of the state league matches before state nominates the individual for Category 2 Exam which will be conducted by the AIFF.

The referee must go through the four-stage examination then and clear them before getting the promotion.

Category 2 referee

All Category 2 referees come under direct supervision of the AIFF. They are eligible to officiate all national-level matches. Category 2 referees who officiate and consistently perform in all the AIFF competitions are elevated to Category 1 referee and assistant referee. They are also subject to an annual fitness test.

The only pre-requisite for them to be eligible for promotion to Category 1 is to pass the fitness test.

Category 1 referee

Category 1 referees have the opportunity to officiate in I-League and ISL matches as well. They are subject to annual fitness tests, random fitness tests and match assessments.

Depending on their performance at this level, they are nominated for FIFA Referees & Assistant Referees by the AIFF.

FIFA referee

India have a quota of 6 FIFA referees who are considered the elite among all the referees in the country. They have to undergo a refereeing course organised by FIFA annually and will be subjected to annual and/or random fitness tests. Once approved, the FIFA referees can officiate in FIFA-organised international tournaments.

Based on their performances, AIFF will decide whether or not to keep the FIFA referee panel unchanged or to nominate an upcoming referee.

Currently the six referees in the FIFA panel from India are: CR Srikrishna, Rowan Arumugham, R Venkatesh, Rahul Gupta, Pranjal Banerjee, Tejas Nagvenkar