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Jarnail Singh’s sons looking to follow in his footsteps and break new ground

Soccer – Coca-Cola Championship – Cardiff City v Ipswich Town – Cardiff City Stadium
(Image credit: David Davies)

Bhups Gill admits having “butterflies” even thinking about his ambition to become the Premier League’s first south Asian referee.

Gill and brother Sunny could potentially officiate a 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.

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And now, speaking together with their father, Bhups and Sunny are urging more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to take up the whistle.

“You get butterflies just thinking about the Premier League,” Bhups Gill told the Professional Game Match Officials Board’s (PGMOL) Breaking Barriers webinar.

“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.”

Championship assistant referee Bhups and Vanarama National League referee Sunny had the perfect role model right at home, in father Jarnail.

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.

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“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.”

Singh refereed more than 150 games in Leagues One, Two and the Championship between 2004 and 2010.

The chance of his two sons teaming up to take charge of a Championship match is one that would certainly provide a visible boost for future ethnic minority inclusion in football officiating.

Soccer – Carling Cup – Round 1 – Coventry City v Aldershot Town – Ricoh Arena

Jarnail Singh, pictured, officiated in more than 150 Football League matches (David Davies/PA)

“At the moment, my brother and I could referee together in the Championship,” said Sunny Gill.

“I wouldn’t have thought it could happen so quickly even two years ago, no way.

“It’s possible, but it’s up to us.”

From top referee to proud dad, Singh revealed his delight at seeing the new generations take the game forward.

“I’m even prouder to watch them do this than they were watching me,” said Singh.

“As a father it’s nice for children to carry on what they are doing.

“But what they’ve achieved, my heart’s so big, I’m so proud of them.

“Hopefully they can keep going further and realise their dreams.

“Our parents came to this country with two pounds in their pockets, and their first priority was to tell their children get an education or have your own business.

“When we first came here, football was a bonus; there was no incentive to go further or think about it as a career.

“But the temperament in those days is completely different from what it is now, as parents.

“For my sons’ generation, we know there is a career path in refereeing and 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.”