How Premier League referees prepare for the season

Premier League referees prepare thoroughly for the season. “Players become better, so we have to do the same”, says Michael Oliver on the Premier League website. And every referee wants the best games in the league. “This means I have to keep my standards high as well”, says Martin Atkinson.

Premier League referees training at St. Georges Park.

Premier League referees training at St. Georges Park. Photo is screenshot from video

Preparation of Premier League referees

PGMOL managing director Mike Riley explains why referees need to prepare thoroughly. Because of these two factors: physical ability and mental fitness. Riley explains:

  • EPL referees will will cover more ground than any player on the field of play. Nowadays, referees cover about 11 kilometres per game on average.
  • The top referees in England will do more sprints than any other
  • Combine that with the level of concentration that is required to make decisions

“That is what all this preparation is about”, Riley says.

Better players need better referees

In the clip by the Premier League referee Michael Oliver agrees with this. He compares now with nine years ago, because he sees a big change. “Football is a lot faster now”, he says. Players get better skills. “Because the players continue to get better, we have to do the same.”

How do you improve as refreee? Lots of efforts during the pre-season. Michael Oliver: “All of that comes from hard work.”

The new Premier League referees

  • New center referees in select group 1: Simon Hooper and David Coote.
  • New assistant refreees in the highest group are: Neil Davies and Dan Robathan
  • Bobby Madley is no longer on the list. He quits due to personal reasons.

Click the clip below to watch more about the training of Premier League referees. Curious how referees in other countries train? Check the video from La Liga referees.

Premier League referees running

Screenshot from clip by

Interfering with an opponent (offside case study)

Interfering with an opponent, what is that exactly? The Polish refereeing team made a great call you can learn from in their game between Dynamo Kyiv and Slavia Prague. At first glance the goal seems to count, but the refereeing team was making sure to get clear what happened. Who were involved? Who was in offside position?

Below you can see the video of the match situation. But before you watch, try to write down the criteria for offside. Focus on interfering with an opponent. Below the video you’ll get an explanation, but it’s a good exercise to share your own thoughts first.

The match situation

You’ll notice the assistant referee moving away from the goal-line, because that is the signal a ball has crossed the line. But in the meantime referee Daniel Stefański keeps talking with assistant referee Dawid Igor Golis.

If you check the clip again, you’ll notice two players in an offside position. The goal scorer is not. The question now is: what is the role of the players in offside position? Do you know what the Laws of the Game say about this?

Referee Daniel Stefański

LOTG on interfering with an opponent

The Laws of the Game are clear on this matter. A player who is in offside position after a pass from a team-mate “is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by interfering with an opponent”. And this are the criteria for it:

  • preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or
  • challenging an opponent for the ball or
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts on an opponent or
  • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball

The latter is crucial, because that is what blue attacker 19 does. At the moment of the pass he is in offside position. When he walks away from the goal-line he runs into a defender, who has no longer the chance to play the ball.

So a great call by the refereeing team. Biggest lesson: always communicate as refereeing team.

Interfering with an opponent: Dawid Igor Golis has flagged.

Referee hit by fan – a reason why Uefa should have abandoned the game

Assistant referee hit by fan. A news headline you don’t want to read, but sadly you have. Swedish AR Fredrik Klyver was hit by a beer bottle, thrown by a Sturm Graz fan, and was bleeding heavily. Because of this incident the game was abandoned for half an hour, but the game continued. “It is Uefa who decides”, says Swedish referee boss Stefan Johannesson in Sportbladet. “But personally, I do not understand why they make such a decision.”

In this blog post I’ll share some thoughts on why the game still resumes. Plus you get some tips on how to handle yourself, because it’s important to take care of yourself!

NB: The assistant referee has stitches and went to the hospital after the incident. I’ve been told the Fredrik Klyver is doing okay now and he was on his way to Sweden.

Referee hit by fan

Wrong signal against violence

The fourth official has replaced Klyver after a long break. I quite like how blog Law 5 – The Ref has decribed Uefa’s decision to continue. “According to our opinion this was a very weak signal against the violence, almost an unacceptable choice, if we think to all referees who suffer such acts in amateur and minor leagues.” This is in line with acting against awful behaviour by players towards referees.

Uefa can stand up and take action against this. Because referees do need support. Violence has to stop.

The power of the referee

The referee has a say in the fact if the game continues, but it depends on who is the referee. Referee boss Stefan Johannesson explains that more experienced referees have more influence. “Mohammed (the center referee) is quite new to the international stage and then you have less to say about”, he says. “You can compare it with Anders Frisk in Rome.” In September 2004 he got hit by a coin during AS Rom vs Dynamo Kiev. “Then was an elite referee and when he said he did not want to play the match, Uefa listened.”

What you can do as (amateur) referee

“I can say this: if this happened in Sweden we would have abondoned the match”, Johanneson says. My advice to you is to do this as well. Don’t continue. And these tips by Dutch referee association COVS are also important to do:

  • ask the club secretary in violent situations or when you don’t feel safe to call the police
  • make sure the incident gets on the match report
  • report it to the police if you get assaulted/molested
  • consult a doctor if you got hit
  • take pictures of any injury
  • contact the football and referee association and ask them to support you
  • talk about it with your coach, other referees, someone at the RA, FA or organisations like Ref Support.
  • make sure admin/reports are done before the deadline

Of course I hope it doesn’t happen to you, but take good care of yourself when it does.

The video: Referee hit by fan

Training camp for referees

A training camp for referees. We see it very often these days, both in summer and winter. Before the 2018-2019 season I’ve seen an interesting video clip from Spain plus interviews from a FIFA training camp. This will give you an impression what a training camp for referees looks like.

Training camp for referees in Spain

Spanish referees in Valencia

In Spain the referees reached their final stage of preparation for the season. All referees gather together in Valencia. The biggest topic is the introduction of the video referee.
The referees reach the final stage of their preparation after weeks of work and demands. Days of fine tuning, talks, training and enthusiasm before a new season that will forever change the refereeing in Spanish football thanks to the technological assistance that the VAR will provide.
Watch the video to get an impression about their training camp, the FIFA fitness test for referees and more.

Training camp for referees at FIFA

Uefa also held a training camp for referees in Nyon. Because the season is about to start, most of the elite and first category referees were present. In total there were 94 referees – 73 male and 21 female officials at the summer gathering.

“Our message to the referees is that we won’t settle for anything less than the best,” said UEFA deputy chief refereeing officer Hugh Dallas on the Uefa website. “We have always prided ourselves on high-quality performances as far as European refereeing is concerned.”

Take action to protect the game

Hugh Dallas also stresses that referees need to take action against awful behaviour of players. “The referees have also been reminded to take strong action to protect the image of our game”, Dallas says. He adds: “And deal appropriately with players who are guilty of mobbing/protesting against their decision-making.”

Totally in line with the blog post I wrote after the World Cup so far. But then he mentions something interesting:

“One of the tasks of the referee is to guide, manage and keep all 22 players on the field of play”. For me these are opposite things, because taking strong action does not go well with keeping all players on the pitch.

I am curious what you think. Is it a task of the referee to keep all 22 players on the field of play? Or should you aim for that by game management, but take appropriate measures when that has to be done.

Fantasy Premier League for referees

I made  a Fantasy Premier League for referees. You think you know it better than some coaches? Or just want to have fun with a few other referees.

Proof it! You can easily join the group “Referees (by” by entering the code 2173911-500217. Create your account on

Curious about group standings? Go to the group directly.

Fantasy Premier League for referees

Want to join the league  “Referees (by”?


For the rules of this game, check out the Fantasy Premier League website.

5 summer holidays fitness tips for referees

5 summer holidays fitness tips. When the season is over you might want to relax, but don’t get too relaxed. Take a different approach, because that will get you in a different vibe.

What I did right after the summer break? I did some walks on the Scottish island Skye and went to The Hague’s beach for stand up paddling. This s0-called supping is great fun and will also train lots of different muscles. In this article you’ll get some great advice by fitness experts, like the Dutch pro referee fitness instructor.

Jan SUPping

The 5 summer holidays fitness tips

Here’s how to start with some excercises after a period of physical inactivity.

  1. Don’t do specific training sessions for 3-4 weeks. That’s the advice by Dutch referee fitness instructor Hilco de Boer. The idea behind it is: you give your mind and body a rest. Because your thoughts will be focused on other things than training sessions and games. “You’ll give your mind and body the time to recover from the season.”
  2. Measure how you improve. You could weigh yourself after you came back from the holiday and set yourself a goal for the coming weeks. Another way to get statistics how your performance improves is time your runs and see how you get faster after each training session.
  3. Go back into excercising gradually. Don’t start with a heavy training session. Just give your body a chance to build up the strength. After a holiday it’s not used to the heavy training sessions from before the summer break anymore.
  4. Eat in moderation. Don’t continue with holiday excesses like overeating and drinking too much. Yeah, they are mostly always there. It’s good to have a few weeks of relaxation – don’t forget to take psychological rest -, but now is the time to get back in your physical routine.
  5. Don’t start with running immediately, do some other sports. It’s good for your body to do some other sports before you ease into running again. Go cycling, play some football yourself or ask some friends to do a tennis or squash game. That’s also the advice from referee fitness instructor Hilco de Boer. Because when you do other sports, you’ll give your mind a good rest and different thing to focus on. When you want to start training again, the start gradually with running with this pre-season tips for referees.

Tips via Hilco de Boer, Run Washington, Lifestyle Asia and Slimforce.

What do you do during the summer break? Please share it below.

Jan and one of the summer holidays fitness tips: doing a different sport

Paris World Games referees share their best tips

The Paris World Games referees got some very interesting guests and coaches to help them. What to think of Leif Lindberg, who officiated in both the World Cup and Euro final as assistant referee. And Michel Vautrot, a former French top referee, was there too. For my blog I got the chance to speak with the (assistant) referees from the Tournaments Abroad Academy who officiated the finals. They share their best tips with you in this blog story.

Paris World Games referees

Get the best view, not the closest

A great tip by Claes Knutsson from Sweden.

“I really enjoyed this week working with coaches and observers on the highest level of football. I received good small tips in order to work towards perfection. One example is advice on finding the best angle in order to make good decisions instead of just being really close to the situations all the time.”

So, it’s the angle that is important too. Because when you adapt your positioning, you can get the best view possible. But be aware that the closest position possible is not always the best. Try to get a good overview and good angle to watch every match situation.

Don’t follow the diagonal always

Milan Vyhnanovský from the Czech public has also learned the most about movement on the field of play. “I have never heard so much about movement and positioning”, he says. “It really helped me – I have been refereeing since 2010 and now I realised my positioning and movement have been always wrong.” He tended to go too much to the left of the field of play, but that was not ideal. “I am trying to stay more in the middle as I usually have a better angle and I’m also closer now. So diagonal is not always good – that was something new to me

Anticipate on play

A tip by Ross Mortimer. “I’m a level 5 (Senior County Referee)”

“I think the best feedback I received was in regards to positioning. Generally, the referee should always try to be in between the two defensive ‘lines’, in which I (for the most part) was during my games. However with this needs to come the anticipation of an attack; always be on your toes for either a quick pass for which you will need to adjust your position, or a counter attack by the opposing team.”

This reminds me, Jan, of Leicester City winning the Premier League. That team had a great counter-attack, but it was difficult to anticipate on it. How do you recognize it as referee? These 5 things will make you as referee better aware of a counter attack. The result: you will be better to adapt your position and adapt on play.

With Ross Mortimer (second from the left), Milan Vyhnanovský and Bryan Bijnens

Practice your positioning

A tip by Bryan Bijnens from Belgium, who visited the tournament for the secont time. “Paris is a great city. And if you’re lucky you referee under the Eifel Tower.”

How is your free kick management? “We did a session about free kick management, where we needed to choose which position we would take on different situations.”

“That was very important, because free kicks lead to lots of pulling and pushing or handballs in the penalty area. Sometimes the result is a penalty call. That is why a good position is very important.”

Have you ever thought of practicing this at home or at your referee association? You can do it with drawn images of the field of play or go outside and let every participant take their position. Because you can’t practice during games, some homework is important. Be prepared for every situation!

Try to get a video of yourself

Another tip by Ross Mortimer.

“I think being able to watch yourself back on video is immensely helpful in understanding your development points.”

Quick tip from me: just ask a friend to watch your games and film the whole game. Works very well for positioning.

Accept that you make mistakes

Steve Janssen from the Netherlands has shared a few tips with me, but I’ll focus on just two now. The other ones will be in a separate blog post – no worries.

Steve has some great experience during the Paris World Cup Games. His number one tip is to accept that you make mistakes. “This gives you chances as a referee, because you can anticipate on them.” This will result in the fact that you will not make them again. Steve calls this ‘productive failure’, as you benefit from it.  

That’s also one of the key lessons in the interview with FIFA assistant Peter Blazej. “After these bad moments there always come better moments”, he says. “But it is always important to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them in the future.”

Details make the difference for you

After reading all the tips above, I’d like to add another tip by Steve. Some of the tips focus on the details of for example your positioning. And you might think, these are minor things. “But be aware that in the end the details make the difference between an average or a good game. The difference between an average vs above-average referee.”

Some great lesson to start the season preparation. So keep in mind to think about the details, because that will make you a better referee. 

What will be your challenges for next season? Share them below or read more about goal-setting for referees.

Tournaments Abroad Academy

Want to know more about Paris World Games referees and the Academy? Check the website of Tournaments Abroad. Photo’s in this blog courtesy of TA.