Soccer Refs

Top flight soccer refs cover 11k-plus per match, says new study

To compete at the highest level, footballers must be supremely fit. But the next time you are sitting in front of the TV, marvelling at the athleticism of the players, spare a thought for the ref, who has to make split-second decisions while keeping up with the increasingly fast run of play. How hard do these refs actually work? Keen to answer this question, The Italian Football Federation carried out an extensive four-year study examining the work rate profile of their own high-level soccer referees.

More than 30 referees enrolled in the Serie A and B Italian championships took part in the study. Each referee was observed between one and six times for a total of 96 matches, using sophisticated video analysis equipment. The key results were as follows:

1. the referees stood still for 14.6% of the total time played;

2. the total distance covered over an entire match was 11,469m;

3. this distance was covered in a variety of runs (forward, backward, sideways) and at various intensities from walking to high intensity (18.1-24k/h) and maximal intensity (24k/h) runs.

You may still not be too impressed, but remember that football referees are not professionals and hold down quite separate full time jobs. Despite this and the fact that they are usually older than the players they officiate over, they are still expected to keep up with the run of play no matter what the tempo.

The Italians concluded that refereeing top-flight matches is a demanding activity, which is predominantly aerobic, although the anaerobic system plays an important role at certain times. As the players get fitter so must their refs; it's a tough job but somebody has to do it!
The Journal Of Strength and Conditioning Research 15 (2) 167-171

Nick Grantham

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