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Int J Sports Med. 2011 Mar;32(3):190-4. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1269843. Epub 2010 Dec 16.

Variability of soccer referees' match performances.

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Teesside University, Sport & Exercise Sciences, School of Social Sciences and Law, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom.


The aim of the present study was to determine the between-match variability in soccer referees' match performances. 1 269 individual match observations were undertaken on 59 referees (range 2-79 games per referee) officiating in the English Premier League and Championship from 2003/2004 to 2007/2008 using a computerised tracking system (Prozone (®), Leeds, England). Between-match coefficients of variation (CV) were calculated for all games and then compared between referee age and experience groups. High mean CVs were observed for high-speed running distance (25.9±10.1%), recovery time (32.7±13.8%), explosive sprints (34.3±16.6%), total number of sprints (54.0±20.7%) and number of match fouls (28±4.6%). Smaller CVs were observed for total distance covered (3.8±1.5%), top sprinting speed (5.6±10.9%), distance from the ball (4.2±1.9%) and the distance from fouls (9.9±4.3%). Variability in match activities was not influenced by referee age or experience. The present study's findings demonstrate that variability in soccer referees' match performances is high in some variables and not dependent on referee age or experience. Such variability means that research requires large sample sizes to detect real systematic changes in a number of performance characteristics when studied during matches.

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