Top ref lifts lid on what it takes to officiate Premier League games

Blowing Whistle

Whether you're an Arsenal, Manchester United, Norwich City or Wycombe Wanderers fan, nobody likes the man in the middle… but Andre Marriner reveals it's a tougher task than most give credit for.

Referees in football don't just need to know the codified rules that define the sport, they also need to have elite-level fitness (in order to keep up with professional athletes half their age), fill out paperwork, do their homework, work-out and travel up and down the country - and sometimes the continent.

Andre Marriner, a Select Group (Premier League) referee since 2005, has revealed the extent of what it takes to officiate at the highest level in England.

It's not just abuse

'I was involved in 36 [domestic] games in the middle and 22 as fourth official,' began the Birmingham-born former Postman and Land Rover employee when speaking on the end of season review conducted by the Premier League.

'On top of that I refereed a World Cup qualifier, two Champions League preliminary rounds and two Europa League matches. Then I was behind the goal on five other European games and fourth official at two World Cup qualifiers.

'That's quite a challenge,' he reflected, before adding that travel, when combined with the congested game schedule, leaves little time for other areas of his job.

'Domestically you’re travelling down the day before a game; if you're involved in a UEFA or FIFA match it is three or four days of the week out. And remember on top of that we've got to train, do all our admin… [and have] a meeting with a body like the Professional Footballers' Association.

'It's funny, I'll take the kids to school on Monday morning and people will still say: 'What are you doing for the rest of the week? You can't have much to do until next Saturday.'

'The reality is that the night before I'll have filed my post-match report and spent time sending my heart rate data to our sports science team, because our physical condition is under constant supervision.

'By the time I'm back home I'll have received my next training plans to follow, so with that there are different sorts of sessions: high intensities, weights, speed and endurance, recovery sessions. You are following a plan which is dictated by your calendar and by what games you’ve got, but it has got to be demanding because we're keeping up with guys half our age.

'Then on the Monday afternoon our weekend appointment comes in and I am starting my research from there. We'll be trying to work out how their team will line up because we want to know our best positioning on the pitch to let the game flow. So it's all homework.'

Marriner's career zenith arrived at the end of last season, when he was awarded the highest honour available to a British referee - officiating the FA Cup final. It was the culmination of 20 years hard work which began in the Birmingham Amateur Football League in the 1990s. At 42, he is now FIFA listed.

He concluded: 'I tell you one thing, I have never been so busy.

'You add in charity games, talks that we'll give in schools and at Referees' Associations all over the country - I'm quite in demand after doing the FA Cup Final - and it all amounts to a big cycle over the year. But I don't think we'd have it any other way, this is a great job and we're all proud to do it.'

image: © Steven Depolo

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch