Asian brothers appointed for EFL game

Bhupinder (left) and Sunny followed in their father’s footsteps by becoming match officials

Sunny and Bhupinder Gill have become the first South Asian brothers to be appointed on the same officiating team for an English Football League game.

Bhupinder will be the assistant and Sunny the fourth official for the Championship match between Bristol City and Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

The pair, who are Sikh, are the sons of former EFL referee Jarnail Singh, who retired in 2010.

“It’s a proud moment for the family,” Bhupinder told BBC Sport.

Andy and Bobby Madley are the most recent example of brothers officiating at the same EFL match when they were the fourth official and referee respectively at Rochdale against Fleetwood Town in 2014.

Bhupinder is an assistant in the Championship and Sunny is a referee at the National League level, with both combining their roles with full-time jobs as a PE teacher and prison officer respectively.

“On a personal note, the game on Saturday is one of the biggest things that we’re going to be involved in,” said Sunny.

“As a refereeing family that has come through the system and followed in my Dad’s footsteps, I never thought we would be on the same Championship game.

“It’s a massive dream but, at the end of the day, I don’t want people to think we’ve made it. This is just a small step we’ve achieved but our goal is to become full-time match officials.”

“If we can be on the same Premier League game or become full-time, that is the end goal.”

Bhupinder added: “I think we’ve only done two or three games together but this is massive as it’s in the Championship.

“It’s the highest stage that we’ve been at together. My dream is to get to that next step which is the Premier League and be a full-time assistant referee.”

Jarnail, who is a referee assessor, will miss the game because of coronavirus restrictions but hopes “in the future there will be an occasion where I can watch them both walk out on the same pitch”.

The Gill’s news comes a week after Rebecca Welch became the first female referee to be appointed to an EFL game.

She took charge of the League Two match between Harrogate and Port Vale on Monday.

Former Premier League referee Howard Webb, who was in charge of the 2010 World Cup final, worked with “top guy” Jarnail during his time with the EFL.

He kept an eye on the development of the two brothers and “has quite a bit of contact” with Sunny as he has progressed through the refereeing ranks.

“It’s really important we have strong role models at the top of the professional game that show to other people who are thinking that refereeing might not be for them because there’s no-one that looks like them, that actually it can be for them,” Webb told BBC Sport.

“The more we can be truly representative, the less this will be a conversation in the future. It will come down to the good old fashioned ‘are you a good referee on the day or in general’.”

Webb is the general manager of the Professional Referee Organization in the United States and oversees match officials in leagues including the MLS.

He added: “To work with your sibling on a game is pretty special. But, make no mistake, if they weren’t good enough they wouldn’t be on the game.”

“As someone who assigns officers in the professional game, quality is the first thing you look for.”

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