Assistant referee Bhupinder Singh Gill to make Premier League history

  • First Sikh-Punjabi to run the line in top flight
  • ‘Hopefully this is another moment to inspire next generation’

Bhupinder Singh Gill says he hopes to “inspire the next generation” as he prepares to become the first Sikh-Punjabi to serve as an assistant referee at a Premier League match.

The 37-year-old, who qualified as a referee at the age of 14, will run the line when Southampton host Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, a groundbreaking achievement. “This has to be the proudest and most exciting moment in my refereeing journey, but I’m not getting carried away as it is just another step in the direction to where I want to get to,” said Singh Gill, known as Bhups.

“Hopefully, this is another moment to help inspire the next generation to sign up to a refereeing course and get into officiating. My dream has always been to reach the top of the game, be a role model for future officials and encourage more people from diverse backgrounds into officiating, especially from a South Asian background just like me.”

Howard Webb, the chief refereeing officer of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, said Singh Gill had proven himself as a talented official in the EFL.

“I’m delighted that Bhupinder has been given this appointment in the Premier League – for him as an individual, and for the recognition of the talented and dedicated official he is, having worked his way through the levels,” Webb said.

“Bhupinder’s appointment to the Premier League and the best league in the world will show an even greater audience about what’s possible for people from different backgrounds. It will give other British [South] Asian boys and girls an opportunity to see somebody who looks like them doing something that they thought wasn’t possible for them previously.”

Webb told Sky Sports News. “It’s a great opportunity to use Bhupinder’s expertise in the capacity as a role model, but also for us to have his ability as an official – because he’s good at what he does.”

Bhupinder’s brother, Sunny, is the highest-ranked referee of South Asian heritage in England and joined the EFL referees’ list this summer. Bhupinder made history alongside Sunny in 2021 when the pair worked on the same Championship fixture. Bhupinder was an assistant referee and Sunny the fourth official when Bristol City hosted Nottingham Forest.

Bhupinder Singh Gill (right) with his father, Jarnail Singh, and brother Sunny.
Bhupinder Singh Gill (right) with his father, Jarnail Singh, and brother Sunny. Photograph: Barrington Coombs/Getty Images

They are the sons of the trailblazing referee Jarnail Singh, who took charge of 150 EFL games between 2004 and 2010. He was the first official to wear a turban in senior English football.

“My family are also really proud and excited for me,” Bhupinder said. “I wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for my dad, who has supported me throughout my journey and been a role model for me. He’s taken leave from work to make sure he attends the game alongside my wife and son. It’ll be special to have them there.”

Webb worked with Singh Sr in the EFL in the early noughties. “I go back with their dad for quite some time,” he said. “Jarnail Singh, in addition to being a really, really good referee, is just a wonderful guy. He was always a pleasure to work with.”

Of the sons, Webb said: “They are athletic, they know how to manage people, all these skills that you need to be successful. If you don’t have them, you don’t survive in the professional game. These guys have done more than survive, they’ve excelled and I think will continue to do so.”


Paul MacInnes

The GuardianTramp

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