No matter what level of referee you are, your watch is one of your most important tools. Here’s how to pick one and which referee watch is the best.
Soccer Referee Watch Guidelines
The center referee is responsible for keeping time during the match. Even in college or high school games that keep time on the scoreboard, the referee still has to keep a watch running in case of problems.
The assistant referees and fourth officials are also required to keep time. This allows them to keep a record of the match and provide a backup in case the referee’s watch malfunctions or the referee forgets to start it.
What time does the referee need to keep track of?
The referee needs the ability to:
- Know the current time of day to start the game on time
- Count up or count down to the correct playing time
- Track stoppage time for injuries, water breaks, subs, goals, and other stoppages
- Adjust half lengths for different levels of play or extra time
Why do soccer referees wear two watches?
Soccer referees wear two watches for two reasons.
First, having two watches provides a backup if one watch’s battery dies during the game or breaks after getting hit by the ball.
Second, many referees who use stoppage time features or in leagues that stop the clock leave the second watch running. If they forget to stop and start their main watch, they can use the second watch to help correct their timekeeping.
What features should soccer referees look for in a watch?
These are the key features to look for in a referee watch.
Soccer referees wear one watch on each wrist. Soccer referees don’t use handheld stopwatches or neck lanyards.
If you go with a handheld or neck lanyard, you will find yourself fumbling around with it, won’t look the part, and will lose the respect of the players and coaches.
It sounds pretty obvious that you need a stopwatch, and it is, but not all watches have stopwatch features.
If you’re buying from a referee store, you’ll probably be fine, but even digital watches sold in general stores might not have a stopwatch feature. Don’t forget to check.
A countdown timer is a must for high school and college games where the clock goes down.
Some referees prefer to use a countdown timer on one of their watches in all of their games. This helps them figure out how much time is left and saves math when jumping around between games of different lengths.
Having a watch that beeps or vibrates when it reaches time saves you from going minutes over when you forget to look at your watch. It can also save you when you do a game with shorter halves and time goes faster than you expect.
Some referees worry that players might hear the watch beep and demand to stop play immediately. Some players will, but they all know that there’s possible stoppage time after the main timer runs out.
Stoppage Time Counter
Some soccer referee watches have a separate stoppage time counter.
Instead of stopping and starting the main watch, you stop and start the stoppage timer which runs in a smaller display. This takes the guesswork out of how much time to add at the end of each half.
On some watches, the stoppage timer is tied to the alarm, so if you have 3 minutes of stoppage time, the watch won’t beep until the 48th minute.
GPS features can help referees track their running during the game. In addition to your running distance, you can often download your GPS data.
Using an app that links to the watch, you can see what portions of the field you covered and even where you were at a specific time during the game.
Many referees also choose a watch with a heart rate monitor to track their fitness.
Why should soccer referees avoid the Apple Watch and other smartwatches?
The Apple Watch and other smartwatches don’t make for good referee watches.
The touch screen makes them hard to start and stop while you’re on the move and trying to keep an eye on the field. It’s also easy for the watch to stop itself when it goes under your sleeve, brushes up against a player, or gets hit by sweat or rain.
The screen off feature also makes it hard to glance at the time on the run. And even with the screen turning off, some watches can’t even make it through two full games.
Finally, some referees have embarrassed themselves texting or making phone calls during the game. That’s not something you want to be associated with. And if you forget to set airplane mode, texts or calls you don’t want to take can become a distraction.
What is the best watch for soccer referees?
If you’re looking for a soccer referee watch, there are four brands you should consider.
Casio watches like the Super Light Illuminator or Smart Power Watch are great budget options.
Casios meet the basic requirements with a timer and alarm. They’re also durable and have a long battery life.
If you want a higher-end watch, use a Casio as your second. If you buy two Casios at the same time, be aware that there’s a good chance that their batteries could die at the same time.
Robic is a smaller watchmaker that has several models specifically for referees, such as the Official’s Watch.
What sets them apart from Casio is that they have bigger numbers, and many of their watches have a stoppage time feature.
One word of caution on these watches is that it can be harder to find replacement batteries or bands. They usually have good durability, but you may find yourself needing a new watch when something wears out.
Spintso is the watch of choice for soccer referees in many professional leagues. These watches have all the bells and whistles, including stoppage time, GPS, and heart rate monitoring.
Some models also have advanced interval training features. You can program in the intervals for the FIFA referee fitness test or other training programs.
Garmin produces several watches for fitness enthusiasts that also perform well on the soccer field. These include the Forerunner and Vivoactive lines.
The main strength of these watches is their GPS, heart rate, and other fitness tracking features that you can also use in your other workouts. They’re easy to keep time with and have an alarm, but they don’t have a stoppage time function.
Compared to Spintso, Garmin is a better general-use watch, while Spintso is made specifically for referees. While both are in the same price range, Garmin is available in many more retailers, and it can be easier to find and get a good deal on a Garmin.
It’s important for soccer referees to pick a reliable watch that will get the job done.
There are several budget options available, but when you’re buying something that will last for years, you might want to invest in a watch that will do everything possible to enhance your performance.