Blog,  gadgets and equipment

Apple Watch for referees

As referees you need to know how you perform. If you see how much you run, what your heartrate is or where you run on the pitch, you’ll get an idea of how you perform during a game. And you’ll see how you can improve.  On Twitter I got in touch with Louis Bird and he’s passionate about the Apple Watch for referees. In this blog he will explain you the ins and outs of using the Apple Watch during your game as referee. He also uses a timer on the watch, but will focus on measuring activity.

A short introduction to Louis: He is a 20 of age and a level 7 London FA football referee.  His story: “I started officiating because I’ve never been a good enough football player and as I wanted to continue in the sport, I thought becoming a referee would be perfect. Football is my favourite sport and I could never give it up so the fact I get to continue with the sport that I love makes it worth being the match official every weekend.”

When I referee I use an Apple Watch Sport addition with a white sports band in the 42mm case size.

Apple watch for referees

I bought the Apple Watch because of the fact I live within the Apple Eco system and the fact I have an iPhone 6s+ means I can get all my match data easily on my iPhone without any need to connect to a computer. The convenience of the device makes it so quick and easy to use and gain the required data which I need.

During the game you can track distance, heart rate and calories burnt. The most frustrating thing about the Apple Watch is the lack of onboard GPS. This means you cannot see where you ran most on the field of play, it’s very restrictive in that sense. Maybe Apple will add GPS into the second generation of the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch has an optical heart rate monitor built into the watch which records your heart rate throughout the day. This feature is very useful because you can see your heart rate during and after the game. After your game the app will only display the average heart rate, but it is still a very useful feature on the Apple Watch and I’m glad it Apple decided to include it.

The Apple Watch gets more and more accurate as you start to do some exercise while bringing your iPhone with you (explanation of Apple Watch “calibration”). The Apple Watch uses your iPhones GPS to take an average of your speed, so when you run without your iPhone then it guesses roughly your speed and calculates the distance. Because I’ve had my Apple Watch for a long time now it is pretty accurate.

I’ve tested my Apple Watch along side my Nike+ sports watch and I’m happy to say the Apple Watch was showing roughly the same data measurements.

Apple Watch activity.

The data above is the kind of data I would see after each game I officiate in.

The data which the Apple Watch shows you is your active calories, time elapsed and average heart rate throughout your session. You can also set the Apple Watch up with a session that records your distance run throughout your session but I don’t record the distance when I referee so that I can tell the difference between my sessions when I view my data. The Apple Watch does record your total distance throughout the whole day, so even if you didn’t record the distance during your workout then you can still view your total distance.

Apple Watch activity.

The image above shows the main dashboard you will see when you open the Apple Watch app. You can see your stats that you achieved for the whole day. Stats such as distance and steps can be seen here.

When using your Apple Watch during your game you can see your heart rate, distance and calories burnt.

Apple watch on wrist

The image above shows how the Apple Watch displays the data when doing a workout. I took this picture when I went to the gym so that you could see what it looks like to see all the data displayed on the Apple Watch. If you swipe across the watch face you can get other data measurements such as heart rate and calories burnt.

For the most accurate heart rate measurements you can pair any Bluetooth heart rate chest strap straight to the Apple Watch. I’ve done this a few times when working out and it does help improve the accuracy of the data.

Most of the time I check my data straight after my match when I arrive home because I like to see what I’ve just done. I’m always amazed and surprised how far I run during each match I referee in.

Dashboard activity app apple watch

The image above is what you see when you first open the Apple Watch app. The red ring is the calories burnt, the green is ring is the amount of minutes of exercise done and the blue ring is your stand goal. With the stand goal you will achieve the hour when you stand up and move around for at least one minute every hour. When you first set up your Apple Watch it will prompt you to set a calorie goal and this is the goal the watch will want to reach each day.

The best thing about the Apple Watch is that you can swap and change the bands you wear with your watch. I have two Apple Watch bands. I use one watch band when I’m doing exercise and the Milanese loop band which I use for general day to day wearing with my Apple Watch. I use this band every time I’m not doing exercise with my watch. I feel it’s nice to have a different watch band to use for my daily activities.

If you have any questions for Louis, please respond below.

Your performance

A question for all referees: how do you measure your performance? What apps or watches do you uses? Please share your experiences below or get in touch with me via for an article on this blog.



  • The Man in Yellow

    Currently I don’t measure my performance on the field however I am working on it. I am planning on getting a Garmin Forerunner 230 with a separate heartrate monitor, it features GPS tracking, distance and all that fun stuff. I also like how I will be able to see my heartrate with my position and time on the pitch. I’m gonna be honest, not the biggest apple fan. Their products bother me, however the macbooks are okay. Great post!

  • Jan ter Harmsel

    Every referee should choose what works for him, of course. Garmin would have great equipment too. I will try to get some smartwatch soon as well.

  • Will

    If only the Apple Watch (or some other smart watch) could integrate an app such as Pocketlinesman or Referee Wallet. I have used these on my iPhone as a spectator, and one day will test drive them in a low-level game. Such a tool could easily manage game data, with a timer and way to record goals and misconduct. It really seems like the future.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi will, that would be awesome. The Refsix app looks promising then for you. I hope I’ll get a chance to test the watch. If you check you might become happy while reading the possibilities. What’s on there sounds good. Would be great to use it and even greater if that could be connected with the officiatl match reports referees have to fill out (goals, cards, etc.).

  • Dallon

    The Apple iOS App Store actually has two referee apps – GoRef and RefLIVE. I’ve used both. Right now, RefLIVE is easier for me to use. The 3D (Force) touch on the GoRef isn’t as intuitive as the swipe features on RefLIVE. I’m very interested to see how these apps develop over time. I think the idea of keeping your score and card information on a smartwatch has a great deal of potential. I would always keep my paper and pen with me to be safe (just like I used two watches when I officiated), but having a smart watch app like this is great for someone who is not afraid of technology.

    I’m interested to see what the referee app is like for the Premier League referees on the $1,500 (!!) Tag Heuer Connected watch.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Hi Dallon, the message didn’t come through in my inbox, so only seeing it now. Sorry. Also quite curious what that app looks like. Will ask around.

  • Ashton

    Great article Jan! I’ve been using reflive for a while now as well and have to say it’s been great. I did have to upgrade to premium (about $4 a month or something) though as I found the free version didn’t have all the features I needed for the level I referee at

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      What are important features for you then, Ashton? I have an Android watch and use Refsix. They got an iOS option now as well.

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