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Who are the referees in the Bundesliga? What do they do and how are they appointed?

No match can take place without a referee and it's their decisions that stand on the pitch, yet they are figures who prefer to remain out of the spotlight. Sometimes described as the 'men in black', the life of a referee is often shrouded in mystery.

bundesliga.com lifts the lid on the men and women who make football possible.

What does a referee do?

The job of a referee is to oversee the match and ensure that the Laws of the Game are adhered to. They control the time, signal for fouls or when the ball has left the pitch, give red or yellow cards to players have committed infringements and ensure the game is played in the right spirit.

Referees in professional football are specially trained and have to pass certain exams, both physical and pertaining to the rules.

Referee Deniz Aytekin is one of the Bundesliga's and Europe's most experienced officials. - via www.imago-images.de/imago images/ActionPictures

Who do referees work for?

The Bundesliga does not in fact have its own referees. All officials in Germany fall under the supervision of the country's Football Association (DFB), representing individual clubs for regional associations.

These officials begin their career overseeing matches for their regional association. In the same way teams can be promoted to a higher division, so too can referees, who are rewarded for consistent positive performances. Referees, though, can always officiate in a league lower than the highest one for which they are eligible.

As of 2023/24, there are 40 individuals on the DFB's panel of Bundesliga referees. Any of these are eligible to oversee a Bundesliga or Bundesliga 2 match as the main official.

Felix Brych has long been held as one of Germany’s best referees and was the country’s representative at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. - Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/DFL via Getty Images

It is the DFB who assign referees, the assistants, the fourth official and video assistants to a match, although the DFL has the right to object to any assignment.

Bundesliga referees, however, are not full-time DFB employees. Many will have jobs elsewhere, such as being a teacher, banker or doctor and so on. They do, though, receive a base salary, which ranges depending on experience and whether they are a FIFA-listed official. Officials also receive a fee for each game they oversee.

FIFA-listed referees are eligible to officiate outside of Germany, for example in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA European Championship or FIFA World Cup. The DFB will also sometimes deploy its referees in other domestic leagues around the world when requested.

Who are the referees?

The following referees are currently eligible for Bundesliga fixtures (in alphabetical order):

Deniz Aytekin, Florian Badstübner, Benjamin Brand, Felix Brych, Bastian Dankert, Christian Dingert, Marco Fritz, Timo Gerach, Robert Hartmann, Patrick Ittrich, Sven Jablonski, Matthias Jöllenbeck, Harm Osmers, Martin Petersen, Tobias Reichel, Daniel Schlager, Robert Schröder, Daniel Siebert, Sascha Stegemann, Tobias Stieler, Sören Storks, Tobias Welz, Frank Willenborg, Felix Zwayer

In addition, there are a further 16 who are only eligible to officiate as high as Bundesliga 2:

Arne Aarnink, Patrick Alt, Michael Bacher, Tom Bauer, Robin Braun, Max Burda, Florian Exner, Wolfgang Haslberger, Florian Heft, Richard Hempel, Robert Kampka, Florian Lechner, Pascal Müller, Alexander Sather, Patrick Schwengers, Nicolas Winter

Several are also listed as Bundesliga VAR officials.

Watch: Tobias Stieler discusses the first use of VAR in the Bundesliga

As well as them, there are over 30 officials down as assistant referees, also known as linesmen or lineswomen. Assistant referees are also required to be FIFA listed if they're to run the line in international fixtures.

However, a referee does not have to be Bundesliga listed to officiate a Bundesliga team in the DFB Cup, for example. Nevertheless, this is often the case as they are the best equipped to keep pace with a top-flight team due to their training.

That training is a constant process. DFB referees take part in regular workshops to ensure they are informed of the latest changes to rules and stick to a uniform policy.

Watch: How does VAR work in the Bundesliga?

They also do 'homework' before matches to ensure they're familiar with the teams they'll be overseeing, making sure they know the faces and also how they play. According to Deniz Aytekin, who was voted Germany's Referee of the Year in 2019 and 2022, that helps officials ensure they are in the best position as often as possible.

What do referees need?

At all levels of the game, a referee needs a whistle, a watch, their cards and a pen/pencil to write player's names in their notebook when shown a card – hence the phrase 'booking'. Assistants carry a flag to signal their decisions for fouls, offside or when the ball is out of play. The official in the middle signals with their whistle and arms.

In the Bundesliga, referees will also carry another watch that is linked to the goal-line technology and signals if the ball crosses the line, a headset for communication with the other officials, including those in the VAR centre in Cologne, and a spray used to temporarily mark the pitch showing where the ball and players can be at set-pieces.