Physical and perceptual-cognitive demands of top-class refereeing in association football

J Sports Sci. 2004 Feb;22(2):179-89. doi: 10.1080/02640410310001641502.


The aim of this study was to examine the physical and perceptual-cognitive demands imposed on UEFA top-class referees and assistant referees during the final round of the Euro 2000 Championship. To investigate the physical workload, the heart rates during matches were monitored by short-range radio telemetry and translated to different workloads expressed as a percentage of maximal heart rate. For measurement of the perceptual-cognitive workload, video-recordings of games were used to obtain the average number of observable decisions taken by a referee. On average, referees and assistant referees performed the matches at 85 +/- 5% and 77 +/- 7% of their maximal heart rate, respectively. Over the 31 games, the mean number of observable decisions was 137 (range 104-162), 64% of which were based on communication with the assistant referees and/or the fourth official. To optimize the physical preparation of top-class match officials, the results of this study support the application of intensive and intermittent training sessions, which should place priority on high-intensity aerobic stimuli. In addition, video training is discussed as an additional method for improving match officials' decision making.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Perception / physiology
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Workload