If you can see it, you can be it – and for brothers Bhupinder and Sunny Singh Gill, their father, Jarnail, has been a prime example of how important visibility is.
Bhupinder and Sunny are officials in the Premier League and EFL respectively but needed to look no further than their father, the first English league football referee to wear a turban, for inspiration.
Now the brothers want to be positive role models themselves and hope to encourage young officials to follow in their footsteps.
“I want to use my platform to inspire a younger generation of South Asians especially to get into the game, because its needed,” says Bhupinder, who became the first Sikh-Punjabi to serve as a Premier League assistant referee when he ran the line in this season’s match between Southampton and Nottingham Forest.
He was also an assistant referee when Forest travelled to Fulham last weekend.
“There are sport scientists, there are physios, club doctors, coaches – there’s always other routes into the game.”
Sunny took charge of his first Sunday League match aged only 17 and in April 2021 both he Bhupinder became the first pair of British South Asians to officiate in the same Championship match.
“You want the younger generation to look at you and think ‘I can also do it’,” he says.
“If parents are looking at us thinking ‘Wow, we have Asian kids in the Premier League officiating games, my son can give that a go, my daughter can give that a go’.”
Bhupinder and Sunny are part of the Elite Referee Development Plan, which was launched in August 2022 to increase diverse representation among match officials.
A development group of officials with high potential from various areas of the game has 30 per cent representation from non-white heritage.
Jarnail, who officiated more than 150 EFL matches between 2004 and 2010, has taken great pride in the achievements of his sons and hopes others from diverse backgrounds will draw inspiration from their progress.
“If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” says Jarnail. “It’s just giving hope to the next generations that you know what, if you have the ability, there is nothing in there to stop you doing what they’re doing at the moment.”