04 March 2024

Sunny Singh Gill to be first British South Asian to referee in Premier League

04 March 2024

Sunny Singh Gill will become the first British South Asian to referee a Premier League match this weekend.

Singh Gill has been appointed to take charge of Crystal Palace against Luton on Saturday, Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) has announced.

He took charge of his first Sunday League match aged only 17, and in April 2021 both he and his brother Bhupinder became the first pair of British South Asians to officiate in the same Championship match.

His father, Jarnail Singh, was the first EFL referee to wear a turban when he took charge of Bristol Rovers v Bury in August 2004. Singh senior went on to referee almost 200 EFL matches up to 2010.

In an interview published on the Premier League’s website last month, Sunny Singh Gill said: “You want the younger generation to look at you and think ‘I can also do it’.

“If parents are looking at us thinking, ‘Wow, we have Asian kids in the Premier League officiating games, my son can give that a go, my daughter can give that a go…’

Singh Gill took charge of his first EFL match in August 2022, a League Two fixture between Northampton and Hartlepool.

“Football has always run in the family,” he added in an interview with the EFL published last season.

“Me and my brother grew up loving the game and like most young kids, we just wanted to play but in our household it was a bit different because when we were going to primary school, we knew our dad was going out to referee on a weekend.

“There were times he was a fourth official in the Premier League and our friends would say they saw him on Match of the Day!”

Bhupinder Singh Gill became the first Sikh-Punjabi to serve as a Premier League assistant referee when he ran the line in the match between Southampton and Nottingham Forest in January.

Sunny Singh Gill was scouted by QPR and had trials at the west London club’s youth academy before being released.

Inspired by his father, he took a refereeing course aged 15 but took a five-year break from refereeing between the ages of 17 and 23.

His father talked him into giving refereeing another go.

“I joined Middlesex Academy and from there got promoted in the first year, then did a double jump the following year. It made me even more hungry which is when I started enjoying refereeing more than ever. I felt like I was chasing something and had a purpose,” Singh Gill said in the interview with the EFL last season.

Singh Gill works part-time as a prison officer.

He told the EFL he had never faced discrimination over his heritage, but said it does shine a “spotlight” on him, leaving “no margin for error”.

“I’ve always been in the minority,” he said.

“It was always unusual to see an Asian referee. I didn’t look like the others and that’s the challenge, because if you make a mistake, you’re remembered. But if you want to be successful you need to be resilient, that’s part and parcel of the game.”

Society is going to be looking at me and I might face challenges that I’ve never faced before but I’m ready for those challenges

Speaking after his first match as an EFL referee, Singh Gill said: “It’s such a big achievement for me, but I know I’m going to have to be more thick-skinned and resilient than ever.

“I’m officiating in the EFL, in big games that mean something. Society is going to be looking at me and I might face challenges that I’ve never faced before but I’m ready for those challenges.

“I want to be a role model and to do that I have to lead by example which means I might have to work that little bit harder.”

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