What do Premier League referees do between Saturdays?
One national newspaper’s report of Andre Marriner’s sending off the wrong man in the Arsenal match against Chelsea, suggested that it was due to tiredness. Apparently, he had travelled a thousand miles immediately before the game. I’m sure that the referee himself wouldn’t like to use that as an excuse but there can be no doubt that for Premier League referees, life if not exhausting, is certainly increasingly demanding. Something not always realised. Marriner said earlier this season that when he takes his children to school on Monday morning he is often asked, ‘What are you going to do for the rest of the week? You can’t have much to do until Saturday.’ The reality for Marriner and the other members of the Select Group of referees is very different.
Taking it from the day before, on Sunday he will have filled in his post match report and sent in his heart rate data to the Sports Science team at the PGMOL. Obviously, unlike footballers, the referees are not together in one place, so this is how their physical condition is kept under constant supervision. By the time he’s got home from the school run he will have received the week’s training plans for the week ahead. These will include a variety of sessions, high intensity, weights, speed, endurance, recovery. There is no escaping from the training for the heart monitor data has to be downloaded and the Sports Scientist will soon know if he has been slacking, which could result in being taken off games. Recently incidentally, there was a report that the top referees were actually fitter than the players.
Later on Monday, he will receive next weekend’s appointments, listing which teams he will be refereeing and he can start his research. Pierre Luigi Collina pioneered watching videos of his next teams in action, to look at their styles of play, do they play the passing game or the long ball? Have they any injuries or suspensions which may enforce changes? This is to work out the best positioning needed to maintain control of the game. More homework is the assessor’s and Match Delegate’s reports to be assimilated, to see if there are any trends being flagged up that may need to be discussed with his coach. This will be at the fortnightly training camp at the FA’s St George’s Park training centre, which all premier League referees have to attend. Then of course, there are the games themselves.
It just happens that Marriner’s match work load is on record for last season. In the thirty eight week season, he was involved in seventy matches. In the Premier League he had thirty six games as referee and twenty two as fourth official. He had also two Champions League preliminary rounds and two Europa League matches, five additional assistant referee duties at other European matches and fourth official at two World Cup qualifiers. But look at the facts behind them. A domestic match means travelling down the day before and if it is a UEFA or FIFA match then it is three or four days away in a week and remember that the training must go on.
In an attempt to improve player’s behaviour, Select referees visit Premier League clubs to discuss aspects of the Laws, such as reminding players of what sort of challenges are likely to result in cards. Introduced last season was refereeing one of their practice games later on in the season and Marriner thought this had been received well by players but of course adds another mid-week duty. In fact, there were a couple of months last season when he only had one day off.
That Marriner’s action at Stanford Bridge was due to tiredness is debatable but there must be a fear, that with only sixteen Select List referees, they are at risk of being overworked.