Referees undergo a multitude of tests to formally engage in officiating the biggest sporting event in the world

By Klyde Manansala |Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen/Unsplash

Did you know that typical football referees sprint at least 10 kilometers at every tournament they’re officiating? Yes, athletes aren’t the only ones who require stamina and athleticism—so do the men behind the whistle who basically run coast to coast with the players while keeping order in the field.

In order to officiate at the highest level, a referee’s body must be ready to sprint for over 90 minutes—their very own version of explosive game.

In fact, their workouts actually demand more physicality than the actual game itself. If you think you’ve seen how hard athletes train, soccer referees literally take working out to the next level to make sure players get the quality refereeing they deserve. Here’s how they do it:

Repeated Sprint Ability (RSA) Test

Before making it to an international level tournaments like FIFA, referees will need to pass and complete certain fitness tests like the RSA. This test requires a referee to complete six 40-meter sprints with only 60 seconds to rest in between—these sprints must be completed in no more than six seconds. During the one-minute recovery in between each sprint, officials must walk back casually to the starting line. If a referee fails to complete one sprint out of six, they will be given another trial. But failure to complete the the seventh sprint will result in failure.

Interval Test

After rigorous sprinting, a 10-minute recovery will be given—at least—before a referee dashes into a 75-meter track equivalent to 10 laps in 15 seconds followed by the rest distance: a 25-meter walk you need to finish in 15 seconds. If a referee fails to place a foot inside the walking area on time, they will receive a warning from the test leader. The second time they fail again, it will result in interval test failure.

Through the years, football players continuously elevate their skill level and ability. This is why officials of the game need to keep up with the action and increasing physicality demands of the game by completing these fitness tests and workouts. At the end of the day, we must appreciate how dedicated referees are to their job—because you don’t actually notice them unless they make a bad call.