Why Are Referees Bald?

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You might have noticed that a significant amount of past and present football referees are bald. Anthony Taylor, David Elleray, Dermot Gallagher, Howard Webb, Mike Dean, Mike Riley, Pierluigi Collina… the list goes on.

So many football referees are bald due to the fact that a lot of men experience some degree of hair loss by the age of 35. The majority of referees still officiate in their 40s, which means the probability of hair loss is far greater for referees compared to footballers half their age.

According to the American Hair Loss Association, 25 percent of men with hereditary male pattern baldness begin losing their hair before turning 21. Roughly 66 percent of men suffer hair loss by the age of 35, while 85 percent have thinner hair by the age of 50.

What age do referees retire?

While there is no longer a set retirement age limit for referees, the majority of officials hang the whistle up in their 40s or early 50s. Mike Dean was 54 when he retired in 2022. Chris Foy (52), Dermot Gallagher (49) and Howard Webb (43) were slightly younger when they retired.

FIFA rules allow referees over the age of 45 to officiate matches. However, they must undergo additional physical tests and technical assessments once they reach that age.

Before 2002, English football referees were forced to retire aged 48. The compulsory retirement age was later abolished under EU legislation.

Why are there so few bald footballers?

The increased popularity of hair transplants is likely a key reason why we no longer see as many bald footballers as past generations.

High-profile names like David Silva, Wayne Rooney and Wesley Sneijder underwent hair transplants during their careers. Football managers Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp have also had procedures.

As the statistics earlier in this article highlighted, most men only start showing signs of hair loss in their 30s. The average football retirement age is 35. That means most footballers don’t have issues with hair loss until their playing days are over.

Who are the best bald footballers?

Juventus and Real Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane is undoubtedly the greatest bald footballer of all time. The 1998 World Cup winner suffered with hair loss for many years before shaving his head towards the end of his career.

Arjen Robben, Gianluca Vialli and Jaap Stam are among the other legendary players who suffered with hair loss. Alan Shearer and Pep Guardiola also went bald, but they (mostly) had a full head of hair during their football careers.

Other notable bald footballers: Brad Friedel, Esteban Cambiasso, Fabian Barthez, Frank Lebeouf, Jonjo Shelvey, Lee Carsley, Sir Bobby Charlton, Thomas Gravesen.