Match officials

Matthew Weston, Werner Helsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter we have provided an overview of the physical and perceptual-cognitive demands of soccer officiating. It is clear that match officials have to cope with considerable physical demands. These demands are predominantly volume based, given the distances covered, and the aerobic energy system is heavily taxed during matches. Combined with a high rate of aerobic energy expenditure, match officials are required to perform frequent bouts of brief, intensive running, which adds further to the demands of match-play. The officials are required to keep pace with the match from the first to the final whistle; unlike players, they can be replaced only if they are unable to continue due to injury. It is vital that referees are able to meet the physical demands of the game, as match-related fatigue could negatively impact on positioning and, ultimately, decision making.

The physical performances of officials during matches would appear to be driven predominantly by the workload of players who are younger athletes with a far greater capacity for physical work. If the match activity profiles of referees are not evaluated alongside those of the players it is difficult to determine whether fluctuations in match activities are a consequence of fatigue or pacing strategies, or a response to changes in the overall match tempo, as determined by player activity.

An understanding of match demands, combined with knowledge of the effectiveness of valid fitness training protocols, suggests that high-intensity intervals and bouts of single and repeated sprints should dominate the weekly training routine. To help minimise match- and trainingrelated injury, the implementation of specific injury prevention exercises should be considered by those responsible for the design and delivery of training programmes. The effectiveness of any training programme can be evaluated by regular fitness testing. However, at present, fitness tests for officials lack construct and content validity.

The high volume of decisions made during a match advocates the need for a highly developed perceptual-cognitive skill set as a prerequisite for match officials, especially when considering that their decisions can be crucial to the outcome of the match. Such training may enhance decision-making performance, although the ecological validity of any training programmes requires careful evaluation. Referees and assistant referees should, however, be provided with perceptual-cognitive skill training in an attempt to reduce decision-making errors and increase consistency of rule interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience and Soccer
Subtitle of host publicationDeveloping Elite Performers, Third Edition
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780203131862
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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