After qualifying at 14, James Bell primarily officiated games at his secondary school and in the Sheffield & District Junior League.
Initially balancing his refereeing and playing commitments, he chose the former and steadily progressed through the system, earning promotion onto the National List of assistant referees at the age of 23.
Bell assisted on both the 2016 FA Youth Cup Final between Manchester City v Chelsea and the 2017 League Two Play-Off Final between Blackpool v Exeter City at Wembley Stadium before choosing the refereeing pathway. He took charge of the National League Play-Off Final between Harrogate Town v Notts County in 2020 before receiving promotion onto the National Group.
Bell has since taken charge of semi-finals of each of the EFL Trophy, FA Trophy, FA Sunday Cup, FA Youth Cup and FA County Youth Cup.