Bhups Gill: Premier League refereeing ambition brings ‘butterflies’ in bid to offer role models to south Asians

Bhups Gill admits having “butterflies” even thinking about his ambition to officiate in the Premier League.

Gill and brother Sunny could potentially officiate a Sky Bet Championship match together as soon as this season, with the siblings making waves in the English game.

The two sons of Jarnail Singh – the first turbaned Sikh to referee in the English Football League – are proud to act as role models for theirs, and other, ethnic minority communities.

Now, speaking alongside their father, Bhups and Sunny are urging more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to get involved in refereeing.

“You get butterflies just thinking about the Premier League,” Bhups Gill told Thursday night’s Professional Game Match Officials Board’s (PGMOL) Breaking Barriers webinar, hosted by Sky Sports News’ Dharmesh Sheth.

“I am so close to it but I don’t really think about it. I know my next promotion is the Premier League, but I’ve just really got to work my socks off.”

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The brothers are acutely aware that precious few other south Asians have that kind of tangible example from their own community when it comes to football officiating.

Aware the Asian community remains vastly under-represented in the refereeing stakes, the pair believe the time is right for more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to take on the challenge.

“We don’t sell referees as we should,” said Sunny Gill.

“No one knows what we go through in the week, how financially rewarding it can be, and there aren’t that many insights into how hard it is, but also how much fun it is.

“The media, the PGMOL, the FA; we have to do more in the public eye to sell what we do. If people were aware how we go about things – weekdays, match days – I think it would actually encourage more people to become referees.

“There isn’t enough minority representation, but the good thing is there’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes.

“The bottom line is we need more role models; from every ethnic background, going through the ranks. The more role models, the more they will see people at the top level who look like and are similar to them.”

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Jarnail Singh: Change in attitudes key

Singh refereed more than 150 games in Leagues One, Two and the Championship between 2004 and 2010 but he admits his parents’ generation were less supportive of a career in sport than is now the case.

“Our parents came to this country with £2 in their pockets and their first priority was to tell their children, either get an education or you have your own business,” he said.

“When we first came here, football was just a bonus. It was a family get-together with friends and there was no incentive to go any further.

“The temperament in those days was completely different to what it is now. As parents, and with my sons’ generation, we know there is a career path within refereeing and in sport.

“So if the child has the ability, then as parents it’s up to us to foster that as much as we can. So that’s changed already.”

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