Pre-season fitness tips for referees

Some pre-season fitness tips to get back into refereeing. The professional season has started and for many amateur referees the season will start soon as well (or has already started). But some of you might have just come back from your holidays or are still relaxing on a sunny beach. This story has a few great pre-season fitness tips to get you back on track, so you will be ready for the season.

Personally, my season starts at the end of August. My fitness test is at the 20th of September. That’s why KNVB’s professional referee fitness instructor Hilco de Boer send out some pre-season fitness tips. These tips might be useful for you too, that’s why I share them on my website as well.

Start in time

If you have to do a test, make sure you start in time with training sessions. That’s you you will build up your physical ability. My FIFA fitness test is on the 20th of September, but I can’t start two weeks in advance. I have to build up my physical ability.

Pre-season fitness tips: quality vs quantity

Don’t go for quantity, but choose for quality. Going out for just a run five times a week seems sporty, but you can train your body better with two or three specific training sessions for referees. And the day after a game there’s no need to run for twenty miles, but another recovery training method can be much better. Make sure you pick the right intensity every time you train.

Starting with friendlies

Refereeing friendly games is the way to get back into the rythm. Being on the football pitch stimulates you to get ready for the season. However, the first thing you do after your summer holidays should not be refereeing a game. Make sure you have done five training sessions before you whistle your first friendly game. And during three of these sessions you should have done sprints.

Only refereeing doesn’t make you fit

Being out there again is a great feeling. Officiating games is our hobby, the thing we love. Teams want to practice as well at the start of the season. Plenty of games available for you as referee. KNVB referee fitness coach advises: “Only refereeing or assisting games won’t make you fit and you will not be able to carry on until the end of the season. Make sure you do enough specific training sessions [for referees].”

So a massage or recovery training the day after a match is important, because that specific training helps you improve your physical ability due to a good recovery.

Train during your holidays close to the season

Holidays are nice. And many of you will be off for a few weeks. But don’t forget your physical ability. If your holidays are right before the season starts, make sure you remain fit. “It is needless to say, you should continue your training sessions then”, Hilco de Boer says.


Example of training session to start with

I got a document from KNVB with some examples of good training sessions for referees. I’m not the fitness expert and can’t see you personally. So always make sure you’ll listen to your own body and adapt the intensity of training sessions to your own possibilities and needs. During the coming weeks I will publish tips on fitness for referees on every Monday that will help you get your fitness schedule for the week ready.

After a summer break the following excercise is a great start. It’s a so-called  extensive endurance training session. The intensity is not high, but due to the duration it can make it feel intense. This training improves your endurance level.

Make sure you do a proper warming-up and cooling down yourself.

KNVB has added three different levels. If you use a heart rate monitor: maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) should be 60-75%.

  • Level 1: 3 times 10 minute running with two minutes rest (walking) between the periods
  • Level 2: 3 times 11 minute running with two minutes rest (walking) between the periods
  • Level 3: 3 times 12 minute running with two minutes rest (walking) between the periods

Pre-season fitness tips to start the season: extensive endurance training

More on physical training

Every week I will share tips on physical training and examples of exercises. In an interview I did with Hilco de Boer, he shares why fitness is important for referees. Already curious what a weekly training schedule looks like? Harvey shares his training schedule with you.

What does your fitness schedule look like before the season? Please let me know via a comment or on

Why ball direction is irrelevant (offside case study)

The relevancy of ball direction at offside situations. I never thought it was a big issue, but I was wrong. In matchdays, I post screenshots on my social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As Watford scores the 3-3 equaliser against Liverpool, I share a screenshot from television. The idea: can you see if the attacker in offside position is closer to the backline then the ball or the secondlast defender. But I got a lot of comments on the fact it is a backpass. In this offside case study I explain why the the ball direction is irrelevant.

Please answer for yourself if the player is in offside position. A little exercise now: summarize the offside criteria for yourself. Write them down before you scroll down to the video and explanation.

Ball direction in offside situation

A close offside call

Yes, it’s very difficult to spot, because it is so close. And in the real game it happens at high speed, which makes it almost impossible for the AR to call. To begin with it’s good to know that “it is not an offence to be in an offside position”.

The criteria to be in offside position are:

  • any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half (excluding the halfway line) and
  • any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent

The second-last opponent is too far away to make him onside. Then the position of the ball is relevant, which means not the toes of the player who passes the ball. It’s a very close call. My idea is that he is in offside position, but love to see a 3D model of the situation. Let’s assume he is offside, but is it an offence?

The ball direction is backwards

Let’s get into detail what actually happens after the moment of the shot/pass by Watford 11. The ball goes backwards, touches a Liverpool player, Liverpool goalie Mignolet and the bar. Then Watford attacker Britos, who was probably in offside position, scores. An analysis below the video.

Analysis offside situation

The first thing: the ball goes backwards. Lots of referees replied on the social channels that it therefore can’t be offside. That surprises me, because it’s a wrong assumption. Not the ball direction is relevant, but the position of the players.

Because the Liverpool player is so close to the situation, he can’t respond properly. This not a save or deliberate play, but a deflection.

Interfering with an opponent

As the goalie touches the ball, the attacker has not played the ball yet. But the question is if he’s interfering with an opponent.

The Laws of the game say that players are interfering with an opponent by:

  • 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 to him 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

In this situation the attacker interferes with play and he impacts the ability of the goalkeeper to play the ball.


In this situation the goal should have been disallowed if the attacker is in offside position, because he interferes with the goalkeeper. Please keep in mind the player might be centimeters offside, so it’s something which is very difficult to spot during the game at full speed.

But most of all, I wrote this case study to explain that ball direction is not relevant.

If you see an interesting situation on the pitch, please let me know via

Donatas Rumšas changes jobs to get more time for refereeing

2017 is a great year for Donatas Rumšas so far. The Lithuanian referee gets great news earlier this year. He will go to the u17 European Championships in Croatia. “For me it was a big suprise to be selected”. Donatas Rumšas shares his experiences from this tournament. Plus he also talks about something that possibly is the best step in his refereeing career. He changes his job to have more time available for refereeing.

Congratulations with your appointment for the u17 European Championship earlier this year. How did you experience the tournament?

The impressions from the tournament was very good. We spent there  almost 3 weeks with the referees from all over the Europe. There we had a lot of training sessions, matches to referee and game analysis. It was very nice to share experiences with colleagues from other countries. I can say that those three weeks gave me a lot of as referee and as a person. It was a busy month but I enjoyed the time in Croatia.

Every referee can improve

What did you do to reach the tournament?

To be honest what I did exactly to get there I don’t know.  I had a quite good season before the tournament and I got an invitation for the U-17 final tournament in Croatia. For me it was a big suprise. I did not expect this appointment. I train 5-6 times per week. There are a lot of things to improve for every referee, but now I focus on management of players. And I also work on my personality.

Referee Donatas Rumšas

Referee Donatas Rumšas. Photo provided by referee.

You’ve officiated 4 games, including a quarter final. You’ve worked with assistant referees from Northern Ireland, Russia, Armenia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Wales, Kazakhstan and Israel. How is it to work with a different team for all matches? 

It was very interesting experience for me, because in Lithuania I used to work with more or less the same assistants. In this tournament all the referees and assistant referees have a lot of expierence, so to work with them was a pleasure for me. I have prepared the standard pre-match discussion for this tournament. In this talk are all the main things what I expect from my team.

Refereeing with people from different countries probably gives you nice insights in their way of preparing and officiating. What are the best things you learned from them?

For me the best thing was that I had an opportunity to see how different referees prepare for the game. I found how accurately they are assessing their games, so I will try to implement this component for myself.

How Donatas Rumšas became a referee

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing? 

I started to referee in 2006. I was playing in local city youth team and my coach asked me if I want to try to referee few games. From the first game I like it and till now I am enjoying refereeing very much.

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?

I like refereeing so much because every game is a different. You never know what will happen in your next match and you have to try to do the best you can. Till now I have never thought about quitting refereeing.

Get more time for refereeing

What’s the hardest challenge/problem you faced during your career? And how did you solve it?

The hardest problem for me was to synchronize the job and the refereeing about five years ago. I had to work long hours in that job and quality of refereeing started to decrease. So I left from that job and found another one, which let me spend more time for refereeing.

You’re already in the middle of the season. Is that an advantage for you now the Europa League starts again? (and how difficult is it to referee a game when there’s no season in your country?)

I think it is a great advantage for us because we have a lot of games and we are prepared well. But it is also a disadvantage for the second part of the Europe’s season because we are at the preparation stage at that time. So it is very hard to referee.

What do you expect for the rest of this season? 

This year is also quite good for me, so it would be very nice to keep the high level of refereeing till the end of the season. I am working day by day to be better than I was yesterday and I think there is no soldier who don’t want to be a general.

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee

  1. Believe in yourself – you are a good referee;
  2. Work hard – that is necessary to achieve your goals;
  3. Be patient – nothing happens in one day.

Esther Staubli referees 2017 Women’s Euro final

Swiss official Esther Staubli will officiate the Women’s Euro final in The Netherlands. The game will be played in Enschede between The Netherlands and Denmark.

“It’s a little bit of payback for all the efforts put in year after year, all the training”, she says to Uefa. “I’m still trying to gather my emotions, but they’re not there yet. They’ll come when I fly back home on Monday.”

Belinda Brem, Esther Staubli, Sanja Rodjak Karšic

Belinda Brem, Esther Staubli, Sanja Rodjak Karšic. Photo:

Refereeing team for the final

Referee: Esther Staubli (Switzerland)
Assistants: Belinda Brem (Switzerland), Sanja Rodjak Karšić (Croatia)
Fourth official: Bibiana Steinhaus (Germany)
Reserve assistant referee: Katrin Rafalski (Germany)

Day of a Euro 2017 referee

On Esther Staubli describes her day as a referee. “After breakfast, we go to training for two hours: we have a physical session and a practical session with balls. Volunteers pretend they are football players. In the afternoon, we sometimes have debriefings, but mostly massages and a little time to relax. On matchdays, you wait for the game in the evening. I personally always go for a two-hour nap before the match; that’s very important to me.”

In 2015, after getting the CL final, she describes herself as emotional player. And because of that she has “a certain degree of understanding”. “I don’t take anything personal during the game”. She adds: “I am not proud of” the number of yellow and red cards I got in my career.”.

Preparation for the final

Esther Staubli: “We’re lucky in this tournament because, for the first time, we have a match analyst who gives us clips and very good input about how the teams play, how they organise their set pieces, corner variations and counter-attacks. That helps a lot in our preparation. It also helps to organise our priorities as a refereeing team and our positioning, so that we’re aware of situations.

Previous UEFA Women’s EURO final referees

Source: Uefa

2013: Germany 1-0 Norway – Cristina Dorcioman (ROU)
2009: Germany 6-2 England – Dagmar Damková (CZE)
2005: Germany 3-1 Norway – Alexandra Ihringová (SVK)
2001: Germany 1-0 Sweden – Nicole Petignat (SUI)
1997: Germany 2-0 Italy – Gitte Lyngo-Nielsen (DEN)
1995: Germany 3-2 Sweden – Ilkka Koho (FIN)
1993: Norway 1-0 Italy – Alfred Wieser (AUT)
1991: Germany 3-1 Norway – James McCluskey (SCO)
1989: Germany 4-1 Norway – Carlos Silva Valente (POR)
1987: Norway 2-1 Sweden – Eero Aho (FIN)

Women’s Euro referee hotel in 2017

The Women’s Euro referee hotel opens it’s doors to show how the European top officials are hosted. “UEFA has played a key role in nurturing women referees to attain their current impressive standards”, says Uefa. In an article the European football organisation focuses on the development referees make, but also nurturing referees at the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek is important.

Uefa Euro 2017 Women's Referees

The referees perform really well during the European Championships in The Netherlands. Uefa facilitates them with good training and mentoring. An important person who also helps them is Kevin Blom. He is the local referee coordinator. “In March we already started with the preparations for this tournament”, he says in the COVS referee magazine. “11 female referees and 22 assistants referees will be in The Netherlands. Bilderberghotel in Oosterbeek hosts the referees. Uefa will make all referee appointments.”

Because referees are able to make better rechnical and tactical studies, they can prepare better for their games. “That’s crucial keep the officials one step ahead of what happens on the field and help them in their decision-making”, says Uefa.

Blom’s task is to help the referees wherever he can. “What I do is comprehensive and varied. Travel from the hotel to the stadium, but also arranging fysiotherapy and physical training in Oosterbeek. From the referee’s safety in the stadiums up to giving refs their rooms in the hotel.” Below you can also see what the hotel looks like.

Jean-Baptiste Bultynck has supervised the referee’s  fitness training and preparation in the run-up to the EURO. He will also be in Oosterbeek. “I’m not only impressed by their dedication to fitness, but also their dedication to football and to refereeing.”

Pictures Women’s Euro referee hotel

Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek owns the pictures and gives permisssion to use them on my referee blog.

Women's Euro referee hotel

Fitness room at hotel.

Women's Euro referee hotel fitness room

There is also a football pitch near hotel.

Women's Euro referee hotel football pitch

Sohail Asghar: “As referee I benefit from being a coach as well”

Sohail Asghar is a 21-year-old referee. He has been refereeing since 2011-12 and will start his 7th season as a match official after this summer. He’ll not only talk about his refereeing experience, but also how being a football coach helps him as a referee.

How did you get involved in refereeing? 

Sohail Asghar: “I got into refereeing through a youth club I used to volunteer at. At the time we was organising a local football tournament and the manager of the youth club put us through a referees course. I did the course as it was a free course. I enjoyed the course and then went on to buying a kit.”

Sohail Asghar

Refereeing on different time means different prep

Where do you officiate and what does your refereeing weekend usually look like?

“As a level 5 referee I currently referee in my county Lancashire, England. I referee on the West Lancashire Football League (WLFL) and the Blackburn Sunday League (BSL). My weekend normally consists of me either being assistant referee on the North West Counties Supply League (NWCSL) or refereeing on the (WLFL). I wake up in the morning have some breakfast and at 11am I prepare for my game which takes place in the afternoon. On Sundays the games on the BSL take place in the mornings so my preparation is different as I wake up at different times and eat differently.”

Do you go to a referee association or train for yourself?

“As I am part of my Counties Referees Development Group we have physical training which takes place for an hour and then 90 minutes of classroom training with referees who are at the same level as myself. Currently, my local RA’s do not run physical training sessions however, previously did. I attend Accrington and Blackburn referees society meetings each month.  I go to the gym five days a week and sometimes train myself at the local parl.”

Swimming and archery

In your Twitter bio you mention also archery leader and swimming instructor. How do these things relate to refereeing?

“I think these sports benefit me physically and mentally. Archery helps develop mental toughness and focus. Swimming has holistic benefits. I do these sports for fun and enjoyment as they are promoted by my religion alongside wrestling. They relate to refereeing by developing different skills which benefit me as a referee such as mental toughness in refereeing focusing for 90 minutes.

How coaching helps Sohail Asghar

You are a football coach too. How does that influence/help you as a referee?

“A coaching role in football benefits me by understanding how coaches and players feel when decisions are made for and against my team. It allows me to watch other referees and to learn from them. Being a coach gives me a different view of the game, because a coach is like a spectator watch from the side-lines so you are watching the game from a different position and sometimes see things differently.”

What do you tell the kids you coach that will help referees?

“I tell the kids that they need to show respect to the referee and anything they disagree with to either speak to me or the referee in a stoppage in play showing respect. I have told the players if the referee does not give us a free kick play on till the whistle is blown.”

Goals for the future

What are your refereeing goals for next year? And how are you going to achieve them?

Sohail Aghar’s goals as referee. “To say motivated. Refereeing on a consistent basis, getting fitter and hopefully that will lead to a promotion.”

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee

  • Be strong
  • Work hard
  • Make sure your administration is up to date (i.e. open dates and close dates)

Getting ready for the 2017-2018 season

Getting ready for the 2017-2018 season is very important. Harvey Newstead will share how he’s getting ready for the start of his 4th season as match official. He will become a Level 7 on his 16th Birthday on the 8th August, officiates in futsal as well and is in the Norfolk FA Centre Of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) programme for the second season consecutively.

Harvey explains how he started and what is roles are in a previous interview on this blog. In this story you’ll read how he looks back on last season and how he gets ready for the 2017-2018 season.

Harvey Newstead getting ready for 2017-2018 season

Review of the 2016-2017 season

A quick re-cap. What is the best referee moment of last year?

My best moment as a referee is quite hard to choose. But it would have to be officiating a charity game at Carrow Road with two other family members. Or officiating a Cup final in front of 175+ people at the FDC. However, being selected for CORE again and Youdan Trophy 2017 would have to be very special moments for me. I’m sure the tournament and next season will bring even better moments for me.

How will you use last season to help with this season?
Last season was very successful in so many ways for myself. I get the feeling I improved as a referee throughout the season, because of the vital feedback I received. Gaining more crucial experience has made me even better as a match official. And lastly, because of these performances I was rewarded with some big end of the season games including cup finals.

Harvey showing a yellow card

Busy season

The 2016-17 season was a very busy season as I officiated in 117 games in total. Refereeing 68 9- or 11- sa-side matches, assistant referee 17 times and fourth official four times. Other games came from futsal, Premier League events and tournaments. My mentor Glenn Sandell assesses or watches many of my games I. Also my uncle and cousin – Peter and Lewis Venables – watch me referee. I was also lucky enough to have FIFA Assistant referee from Norfolk Lee Betts come to watch a few times throughout the season too. From these games I was given invaluable experience which I will take on into next season.

Coping with big matches is also something I will take into the new season.  Two examples from last year: 2 County Cup semi-finals and the Premier League U15 Cup semi-final as assistant last season. I was also part of many Premier League Tournament events. And lastly, I ended my season with 12 cup finals across many different age groups and acting as referee, assistant referee and fourth official. So that was a great experience. Also refereeing high quality academy football matches is something that will help me moving into next season. The same goes for a tournament at the end of this month.

Harvey's training session

Train after the season

How do you train after a football season?

Training and the season had to be less of a priority near the close of the season due to exams. However, the season was over during the build up to the exams. After this all, I had a few weeks off to relax and just reflect on a great season. Having time off allows me to play tennis and also start my coaching back up again. I went into school for three to four weeks and got time to coach at FA birthday parties in Norfolk.

That period is also a good to start training mentally. Which I do by by attending CPDs and development days. I will do some law tests to get ready for the new season whilst doing fitness work. And I attended a Youth Council day at St George’s Park and also the Referees’ Association Development weekend.

Harvey at national football centre

Refereeing with CORE

What is the CORE invite?
The CORE invite was from my County FA. CORE stands for Centre of Refereeing Excellence. I am at county level and will hopefully move onto the national levels in the next season. CORE allows referees to get coaching at games and officiate Norwich City Academy matches.

Are there any physical requirements for your CORE?
There are no physical requirements for the County CORE. However, I will still train to perform to a high level and look to have good physical fitness.

Fitness in preparation for the new season

Fitness goals for next season?
I wouldn’t say that I have any specific goals or targets for next season. But the priority is: being able to be in the best position possible to have the best viewing angle of play whilst keeping a high concentration level.  I will keep to a fitness plan, so possibly a target for me is to stick to it!

How do you get fit for the first game in summer period?
Starting back can be tough, but finding motivation is what can help. For me I enjoy training as I am really looking forward to the new season. I use a similar plan as in a blog post from a few months ago. I have had a few friendlies which give you a feel for your fitness, but my motivation is very high as I get prepared for Youdan Trophy 2017.

How will you evaluate my games in the upcoming season?
Next season I will be analysing my refereeing performance as well. How? By looking at what I do well and what I need to improve on. I will also be taking down all match statistics, so I can look back on them after the season. One thing I’ll be adding is doing a fitness analysis of my game. I will look at heat maps for positioning and also my distance and speed.

More on fitness

The next couple of weeks before the start of the official games Dutch Referee Blog will focus on fitness for referees. Harvey has some training excercises for you and I will also share KNVB’s exercises to prepare for the FIFA fitness test.

I’d love to know your fitness schedules before the start of the season. E-mail them on