To determine the movement patterns and physiological demands of top-class soccer assistant referees, we performed computerized time-motion analysis and measured heart rate and blood lactate concentration in 15 assistant referees during 22 competitive matches in the top Danish league. To relate match performance to the physical capability of the assistant referees, they performed a 3 x 30 m sprint protocol before and after matches and a laboratory treadmill test within 3 weeks of the games. The mean total distance covered by the top-class assistant referees was 7.28 (range 5.78-8.16) km, of which 1.15 (0.86-1.44) km was high-intensity running and 1.16 (0.12-2.34) km was sideways running. The amount of high-intensity running during a game was correlated with performance of repeated sprints (r = 0.80, P < 0.05). Mean heart rate was 137 (117-159) beats x min(-1), corresponding to 73% (60-88%) of maximal heart rate and 65% (53-80%) of maximal oxygen uptake. Blood lactate concentration was 4.7 (1.6-11.0) and 4.8 (1.1-13.7) mmol x 1(-1) after the first and second half, respectively. Sprinting performance was poorer (P < 0.05) after than before the games. The peak distance to the offside line was greater (P < 0.05) in the second than the first half (7 +/- 1 vs 5 +/- 0 m). Our results show that: (1) top-class assistant soccer refereeing is characterized by brief intense bouts of forward and sideways running interspersed with long periods of low activity; (2) top-class soccer assistant referees have moderate aerobic energy production during games with episodes of high aerobic and anaerobic energy turnover; (3) assistant referees' performance of repeated sprints correlates with the amount of high-intensity running performed in a game; and (4) sprint performance decreases towards the end of a game, which appears to affect assistant referees' ability to keep up with play.