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Turning Perceptions Into Reality: How Soccer Referees Use Software

Published: 2023-06-30
Turning Perceptions Into Reality: How Soccer Referees Use Software
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Keith Hackett, counted among the top 100 referees of all time, discusses a case study of how soccer referees have leveraged technology.


Managers, players, and the media often have differing views on a referee's performance, lacking a balanced perspective on their decisions. It is important to acknowledge that referees will make errors, and the role of Referee Managers and Coaches is to examine these decisions in detail and find ways to avoid errors in future games.

During my tenure as the boss of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, I recognized the need to incorporate Sports Science to improve the accuracy of our group of professional referees. To achieve this, I introduced various tools and technologies, such as Communication Kits, Sports Psychology, Nutritionists, and Goal Line technology. I also recognized that many of the World's top managers were using Prozone, and I worked with this company to develop the PZ3 Prozone Referee.

In this article, I will provide you with insights into how I utilized Prozone technology and the benefits it delivered to the management team and match officials.


PZ Referee Match Viewer

The ProZone Referee, Match Viewer product, is an invaluable tool for quickly and effectively assessing a referee's match performance. This interactive system provides instant access to all referee events and "Critical Incidents" during the game.



The interactive video allows for a minute-to-minute assessment of the referee's performance, highlighting each action on a timeline. Coaches can individually assess each decision to determine the percentage of correct decisions made. For the first time, error-free evidence can prove if the referee got 99% of decisions correct.



One-On-One Assessment

ProZone's unique match clippings service enables the selection and export of referee events in video file format, making it ideal for one-on-one assessments between the referee and their coach. Referee coaches can provide feedback to the referee using video clippings, fostering discussions on various aspects, including good practice, player and game management, positioning, and decision-making.


Group Assessment

The match clippings service also allows for assessment feedback in group discussions. ProZone supports the PGMO's group feedback sessions by presenting match clips following certain themes to select group referees. This enables them to share opinions and advice on good practice, player management, directives on simulation, mess confrontations, penalty incidence, red cards, and management of players on corner kicks.


Referee Cam

ProZone facilitates the selection of different match cameras, including a "referee cam," providing in-depth assessments. This feature allows analysis of the referee's body language, movement around the field, player management, speed in defusing situations, dealing with confrontations, and positioning during specific situations.


Corner Kicks



Goal Kicks

ProZone Referee has been developed in conjunction with the PGMOL and top Premiership referees to support better analyses of referee and assistant referee performance. It provides quality fitness information, exact positioning, and key incident occurrences, enabling point-to-point feedback for critical assessment.


Referee Match Fitness

Comparing fitness levels in 05/06 of Premier League players and referees, central midfielders cover an average of 11.5 km per game, while Premier League referees cover an average of 11.6 km per game. The ProZone System allows us to monitor referees' fitness levels throughout the season, ensuring they maintain high fitness and perform beyond the physical demands of the game.

Faster, Fitter, Stronger: Why Premiership Referees Need to be Athletes?

Football is evolving to become faster, fiercer, and more furious. ProZone figures demonstrate the game's increasing speed, with a 40% increase in sprinting in the last four years. Despite the game becoming quicker, final-third entries have surprisingly reduced. Tactically, teams patiently keep possession before launching sudden, explosive attacks.

On average, central midfielders cover 980 m per game at high-intensity speeds, while Premier League referees cover 860 m per game at high.

The ability to analyze and assess their decisions with precision allows referees to continuously improve and minimize errors. Prozone's innovative features, such as the Match Viewer, One-On-One Assessment, and Referee Cam, provide invaluable insights and feedback to referees and their coaches. As the game of football progresses, it is imperative that referees adapt and utilize advanced technology like Prozone to uphold the integrity and quality of the sport.



High Intensity

With the ever-increasing pace of the game in the Premier League, it is important that referee’s are able to perform high-intensity running and sprinting throughout. ProZone measures an official’s speed, intensity and explosive movement, all important for getting into the right position as a soccer referee to make an informed decision.

Thierry Henry


Mark Clattenburg




Monitoring Movement

We were able to use ProZone to monitor the referee’s movement, positioning, distance from the players and ball, and spring profiles.





There is an in-depth assessment of every foul the referee awarded in the game. A referee was on average 14.3m away from fouls during the 05/06 season.




Free Kicks

ProZone was used for free kick management education and assessments. It was able to provide examples of good positions for decision-making, proper ball positioning, wall management and distances, and more. It also provided a digital means for assessing freekicks for encroachment, referee management techniques, positioning, and mobility.


Above is an example of a freekick with the encroachment of the player, shown entering the circle. The player is then cautioned and the free kick is re-taken, with the player now giving enough distance as seen below:



ProZone was also able to provide trend analysis reports, allowing the referee to keep track of his own performance levels from week to week. They could track the number of fouls and cards, assessment marks, % decisions correct, critical incidents, and fitness statistics. 

These are some of the main ways ProZone was used to analyze and support referee performance and education.