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Many of the uniform suppliers offer “Starter Packages” for new referees. These packages allow you order all of your compulsory gear in one easy step; they typically include a jersey, shorts, socks, whistle, yellow/red card set, and a whistle. Before you order one of these packages, however, we encourage you to read the reviews below. Some of the items included in the starter packages are less than ideal, even for new referees.
Some suppliers, including OSI and Score, offer two versions of the referee jerseys: an entry level line, often called “Economy” and a line with more features, usually called “Pro” or “Elite”. The entry level line of jerseys typically features a collarless, v-neck style and breast pockets without flaps. We recommend you avoid these jerseys. For about the same price as an OSI Economy jersey, you can buy a pro/elite version from another supplier, like Score or Kwik Goal. Pockets without flap closures just aren’t all that useful, as items are always falling out.
iTOOTR has completed thorough reviews of the OSI, Kwik Goal, and Score jerseys. If you want a deep dive into the particulars of each jersey, along with our recommendations, click here.
Shorts may be available in two different lines as well. Typically, the more expensive shorts have deeper pockets, an inner elastic waistband that helps keep your jersey tucked in, and, most importantly, velcro flaps on the back pockets. If you get a jersey with flaps on the pockets, you can probably do with the cheaper shorts. The reverse is also true, i.e., if you get the jersey without pocket flaps, you’ll really need the more expensive shorts with the pocket flaps.
OSI is the only supplier that offers different lines of socks, with the more expensive being softer and/or better made. I choose to wear thin runners socks as a base layer on my feet, so it doesn’t really matter to me which sock I use. For new referees, I recommend getting the least expensive sock. Be sure, though, to check your local requirements to determine if referees wear the 2-stripe or 3-stripe variety.
Your Non-Uniform Gear (Everything Else)
Whistles and Lanyards
iTOOTR has conducted a review of the most popular whistles, which you can find here. Most whistles tend to be simply a matter of personal preference, but there are a couple of guidelines to heed. The first is that almost no one uses the old style “pea” whistle anymore. This style of whistle has a little cork ball in the chamber that vibrates when you blow the whistle, resulting in the modulated pitch. Technology has come to whistles too, and now almost all sports officials use pealess whistles. These offer the advantage that the pea won’t get stuck in cold weather (your saliva gets inside the whistle chamber and can freeze the pea against the inside of the whistle). So, get yourself a pealess whistle. The most popular models, by far, are made by Fox 40 and are available from all of the suppliers mentioned in this article.
One consideration that would be easy to overlook is how you are going to carry your whistle. Some referees choose to not use a whistle lanyard at all and simply carry the whistle in their hand. I don’t recommend this for new referees, simply because of the risk of dropping your whistle. When you’re new, you’re going to bit a little nervous in your first few matches, so no reason to add to stress because you’re looking for your whistle while the game is underway. There are many styles of whistle lanyard to choose from, including finger, wrist, and neck. One point to make clear, however: soccer referees never wear whistles around their necks. There’s no prohibition against, this, it’s just a commonly accepted practice. Some referees choose to use a long neck lanyard and wrap the rope around their whistle hand to hold the whistle in place. If you choose to do this, just make sure you aren’t tempted to use the lanyard to twirl your whistle during a particularly boring game; it looks unprofessional. Most refereesuse a wrist lanyard. There are two popular models, one from OSI, which is reviewed here, and one from Fox 40, which is available with a whistle through Amazon.com, here.
Yellow and Red Cards
You’ll need a yellow and red card set, which some suppliers may refer to as “Disciplinary Cards”, and a method for writing down the recordable events that happen during a game, like goals and misconduct. There are many options for recording your game information available, ranging from a blank index card to write-on cards which require a permanent marker. All of this is a bit much for a new referee, so my recommendation is to simply start with a plastic data wallet that typically includes a yellow and red card. These plastic wallets aren’t particularly durable, and won’t last more than a couple of seasons at most, but they’re cheap and they’ll give you an opportunity to experiement with other methods of recording game info without spending a lot of money up front. These wallets usually come with a pad of pre-printed forms for use inside the wallet. You just tear one off of the pad, and stick it inside the inner flaps of the wallet. Pad refills are cheap and can be found from any of the gear suppliers.
For new referees, a watch needn’t be a new purchase. If you already have a simple, black digital watch that includes a timer, this will do nicely. If you don’t own one of these, they can be had for a little amount of money at Walmart, or online at Amazon. If you have to buy a watch, you might consider a referee-specific watch from Casio, reviewed here, that runs about $20 on Amazon. A backup watch is ideal, but not required. For your first season, I wouldn’t worry about it unless you already own an extra.
Veteran referees get really excited about Assistant Referee flags. I know, it seems a bit silly. But, believe it or not, you can spend anywhere from about $10 on a set of flags to as much as $500 for set of radio flags like MLS referees use. For new referees, I always recommend spending the least amount of money possible. You can always upgrade your flags later, once you’ve earned some game fees. There are some minor differences in flags from the different suppliers, but not enough difference at the entry level to worry about.
Optional Gear That Really Isn’t Optional
You need a flipping coin for the coin toss before the game. Although specialty flip coins are available, a quarter works just fine. Just make sure you have one, because the old “how many fingers do I have behind my back” trick just makes you look unprepared.
A writing implement is obviously essential. If your uniform doesn’t have any pocket flaps on it, then you’ll have to get a pen or pencil with a clip so it will stay in your pocket. Some referees use the small golf pencils because they fit nicely into your front shorts pocket (OSI even makes a “referee pencil”). Whatever implement you choose, make sure you keep a spare in your bag.
Speaking of bags, you’ll need something to carry all of your gear in. Again, as a first year referee, you don’t need to go out and buy something referee specific unless you just want to. An old school backpack will work just fine for your first season or two. After you’ve earned a little money, and decided you want to stick with refereeing, then you can upgrade to something nicer. Make sure you keep a new lawn & leaf sized plastic bag in your ref bag. When it rains, you’ll put your ref bag inside the plastic bag so that the bag (and all of its’ contents) don’t get soaked or muddy or both.
Now that we’ve plowed through all of the details, let’s get down to brass tacks and make some specific recommendations.
Two important notes about these recommendations:
- The package sets do not include shoes or a watch
- The packages below include three-stripe socks, unless otherwise noted. If your club/assignor/association requires two-stripe socks, Official Sports is the only place you can purchase them
- Some packages include a whistle. These are pea whistles and while they work just fine, a pealess whistle is a better choice.
Best for One Stop Shoppers
If you just want to make a few clicks and be done, we recommend the Score 10 piece soccer referee uniform set from RefereeStore.com. Total cost: about $70, including shipping. This package includes one short-sleeved jersey in your choice of color and size, shorts, three-stripe socks, a whistle/lanyard (though not a recommended model), a yellow/red card set, a game information pad and wallet, assistant referee flags, and a referee bag. Total cost: about $70, including shipping.
Best for Amazon Prime Members
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get free two-day shipping on everything you order (that is Prime eligible). Amazon sells Kwik Goal brand gear, which is certainly fine for new referees. Kwik Goal doesn’t offer a package, per se, but we’ve gathered everything you need on this list. This list includes a short-sleeve jersey, shorts, socks, flags, yellow/red card set, whistle, lanyard, game information pad and wallet. Total cost: about $84, with free two-day shipping for Prime members.
Best for A Tight Budget
If you’re looking for the absolute lowest total price, we offer two lukewarm recommendations. Our recommendations are lukewarm because the price difference between these options and the far superior Score 10 piece Pro set mentioned above is only $14. The Pro jersey in the Score 10 pc set is preferred over either choice below because it features velcro closures on the pockets.
First is the Score 7 piece Economy soccer referee uniform set. This set includes a Score Economy jersey (which we don’t recommend because it doesn’t have pocket closures), shorts, socks, flags, a whistle, yellow/red card set, and a flipping coin. It does not include a game information pad, referee wallet or flags. Total cost: about $47 with shipping. Total cost including flags (and assuming you’ll use an index card to record game information): about $58
Second is the OSI 7 piece Economy starter kit. This set includes an OSI Economy jersey (which we don’t recommend because it doesn’t have pocket closures), shorts, socks, flags, a whistle, yellow/red card set, and a velcro patch for your badge. It does not include a game information pad, referee wallet or flags. Total cost: about $44 with shipping. Total cost including flags: about $56.
Best for The Best
If cost isn’t a primary concern, and you know that refereeing is going to be something you’ll stick with for at least a few years, we have recommendations for you. Be aware that this recommendation requires you to order from two different suppliers.
| OSI Pro Raglan Jersey
|| Official Sports
|| Buy Review
| OSI Pro Shorts
|| Official Sports
| OSI Pro Socks
|| Official Sports
| OSI Basic Swivel Flags
|| Official Sports
| Leather Referee Wallet
|| Buy Review
| Fox 40 Classic Whistle
|| Buy Review
| Game Information Pad
| Velcro patch for Referee badge
|| Official Sports
|| Est. Shipping
Prices are current as of 15 January 2013 and are stated in US Dollars. Shipping estimates are based on shipping within the United States.
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