Bhupinder Singh Gill made history in Wednesday’s clash between Southampton and Nottingham Forest as he became the first Sikh to act as an assistant referee in the Premier League.
Sky Sports News last month broke the news of Singh Gill’s historic appointment, with the PE teacher lining up alongside fellow assistant referee Marc Perry for Wednesday game at St Mary’s. Thomas Bramall was the match referee for the game.
Bhupinder is the son of English league football’s first turbaned referee Jarnail Singh, who took charge of more than 150 EFL games between 2004 and 2010, but none in the Premier League.
Trailblazer Jarnail still remains active as a referee in both the Combined Counties League as well as at Khalsa Football Federation (KFF) tournaments.
Jarnail, who has previously gained Premier League experience as a fourth official, was beaming with pride as he attended the match at St Mary’s to watch his youngest son make history.
“For the Sikh community and all South Asians who dream of a career in the game, seeing Bhupinder officiate in the Premier League is absolutely massive,” he told Sky Sports News.
“As a father, you can imagine I am very proud to see Bhupinder in the Premier League. It’s every father’s dream to see their children succeed, and do better than them, and achieve more – whether that is in terms of family life, education or sport.
“Hopefully, Bhupinder’s achievement highlights what you can do with hard work, endeavour and passion for the game.
“His hunger for it has been phenomenal in the last few years and I hope both he and my eldest son Sunny can help encourage more South Asians to take up refereeing.”
Speaking ahead of the game at St Mary’s, 37-year-old father of two Bhupinder said: “This has to be the proudest and most exciting moment in my refereeing journey so far, but I’m not getting carried away as it is just another step in the direction of where I want to get to.
“My family are also really proud and excited for me. 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.
“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, referee of the 2010 World Cup final, told Sky Sports News the Premier League is fortunate it can call upon an assistant referee of Bhupinder’s calibre.
Webb has just taken up a new role as the first-ever chief refereeing officer of the body responsible for appointing Premier League officials, Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), and said Singh Gill sends a message of hope to diverse communities who aspire to be in the game.
“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,” Webb told Sky Sports News.
“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.
“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. He’s going to deliver a great performance in the same way that Sunny does in the Football League.”
Singh Gills to be part of the magic of the FA Cup
It also promises to be a weekend to remember for the Singh Gill brothers, with both in action at major stadiums during the FA Cup third round.
Bhupinder will get a fantastic reception from the Punjabi Villans when he returns to a Premier League ground on when Aston Villa host League Two Stevenage at Villa Park on Sunday.
On the same day, Sunny will be cheered on by 2021 Fans for Diversity award-winning supporters’ group the Punjabi Rams when he referees in front of what is likely to be the biggest crowd of his career as Derby County host Barnsley at Pride Park.
Punjabi Rams founder Pav Samra described the Singh Gill brothers as role models to South Asian youngsters who illustrate alternative pathways into football.
Webb added: “I’m delighted for them, I’ve known the family for a long time and I’ve stayed in touch with them as they’ve come through their refereeing careers.
“I knew them [Bhupinder and Sunny] as young lads who weren’t even refereeing but were seeing their father as a trailblazer and wanted to follow in his footsteps.
“I’m delighted that they’ve got these opportunities and that they can show other aspiring officials what’s possible and I know they’re going to do a great job.”
British South Asians in Football
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