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Level 4 Assistant Referee Specialisation

Level 4 Assistant Referee Specialisation



The following criteria will be applied in the management of specialist Level 4 assistant referees:


Level 4 specialists will operate as assistant referee on competitions which constitute the Step 3/4 refereeing level in season 2020/21. These appointments will be offered alongside Level 4 referees in a dual role (referee and assistant referee).

For season 2020/21 the league competitions are:

  •   Isthmian League – Premier, Division 1 North, Division 1 South Central, Division 1 South East
  •   Southern League – Premier Central, Premier South, Division 1 Central, Division 1 South
  •   Northern Premier League – Premier Division, Division 1 South East, Division 1 North West
  •   Northern League Division 1
  •   U18 Premier League
  •   U18 Professional Development Leagues
  •   Central League

    Appointments will be offered solely as an assistant referee to those on the specialist assistant referee list and they will not be allocated to a Supply League/Pool.

    Merit Table

    For 2020/21, a specialist Level 4 assistant referee merit table will be created used to determine promotions (to Step 2 AR list) and reclassification (to Level 5). This will be created exclusively from the overall Level 4 assistant referee merit table with the following caveat:

a. Should a dual official reach the minimum number of observations and attain a standard which exceeds the promotion performance criteria of the specialist assistant referee list in any given season, they will be offered the opportunity to progress as a specialist AR. This caveat is to allow the opportunity for progression for exceptional performance of an official as an Assistant Referee who has been on the list for less than 5 years.

Over the course of the season, specialist assistant referees will be notified of their merit table position as at four dates: 31 October, 31 December, 28 February, 30 April.

Primary consideration for promotion and reclassification will be determined according to observer reports used to comprise the specialist assistant referee merit table. The exact criteria for promotion and reclassification will be communicated prior to the start of Season 2020/21, once we have established the number of referees who have elected to join this pathway

Every effort will be made to ensure all those who operate as a specialist assistant referee are observed regularly and in line with the overall average number of observations across the specialist assistant referee list.

For those officials in a dual role, promotion and reclassification will be based on performances as a Level 4 referee.


Specialist L4 referee pathway

A specialist Level 4 referee pathway is not being implemented at this time, although this will be kept under constant review.

Revert to a dual role

Any specialist assistant referee who wishes to revert to a dual role after opting for the specialist pathway would be able to do so, subject to retention as a Level 4 specialist assistant in that season. Any move between pathways can only take place at the end of a playing season


Any Step 2 Assistant Referee (Panel 2B Assistant) or Step 3/4 referee (Level 3 referee) who is reclassified to Level 4 will be offered the opportunity to operate as a Level 4 in a dual role or as a specialist assistant.

Fitness Tests

The fitness test for specialist assistants will remain the same as the test for Level 4 referees in a dual role.


The benefits of providing a route for specialist assistant referees at L4 include:

  •   Incentivising demotivated Level 4 referees, especially those who prefer operating as AR and

    have been a Level 4 referee for a number of years.

  •   Providing a route for assistant referees with talent to work up the pyramid.
  •   Freeing up more referee appointments for those officials who wish to remain in a dual role.
  •   Ensuring a spread of appointments reflective of the motivation of the match official.
  •   Increasing the regularity of referee/assistant referee appointments, leading to an

    improvement in standards (i.e. refereeing every other week rather waiting 4/5 weeks between referee appointments)

    Considerations for determining the criteria

    67% of Level 4 referees responded to the December survey and a significant proportion responded positively to the proposal. In reviewing the position, a number of considerations needed to be factored in before determining the final criteria. These included:

  •   Decisions should not be made prematurely based, potentially, on a single difficult season as a referee. 70% of L4 officials have had 4 years or less experience and we would not want to “lose” a referee with potential because of a difficult refereeing period.
  •   There is benefit in operating in a dual role in formative years at Level 4 to ‘learn the trade’.
  •   Numerically, accepting every request could result in an excessive number of officials

    selecting the specialist assistant referee pathway. This could lead to:

o Insufficient referees available to cover Step 5/6 matches;
o Potential shortfall of referees in certain geographic areas;
o Too many specialist assistant referees would prevent dual officials gaining

experience as an assistant referee when in a dual role. We would be unable to commit to a minimum number of observations to compile a viable merit table if the numbers choosing the specialist route are too large.

 As this is the first stage in creating a specialist route at L4, the approach has been conservative so the scheme can evolve and grow in response to demand and success.

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Our commitment


This new route for Level 4 officials is intended to provide an alternative for those who wish to focus on operating as an assistant referee. Please note these processes will be kept under review on a seasonal basis and are part of our wider commitment to ensuring the structures in place support the referee workforce.

We have introduced this process to reflect the interests of the Level 4 workforce and believe these measures will both improve enjoyment and officiating standards across the National League System. We hope to see its positive impacts over the coming seasons.

The FA Refereeing Department