Alan Wiley might look as if he carries a few pounds more than other officials but the pre-season fitness tests he is subjected to are the same as any referee.
The tests establish speed and stamina. Wiley would have had to complete six 40m sprints in 6.2 seconds each, with 90 seconds recovery time in between. But the "interval run" as it is known, is the pre-season challenge which many referees find the toughest. Wiley and the 18 other referees managed by the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) each have had to run 150m of a running track in 30 seconds 20 times, with a 50m walk between each of the start points to provide some recovery time. There is no slouching between start points. If a referee fails to arrive at the next interval run start point inside 30 seconds he gets an official warning. If he fails to do so again, he has failed the test. Any referees who fail the fitness tests face demotion from the elite group of Premier League officials.
Wiley attends a two-day training camp at Warwick University every other week. "I still do my other job on a Monday and then when I get home do some weight training because it is part of the programme set for us," he told the PGMOL website recently. "On Tuesday morning I drive to Warwick University, where we do fitness work in the morning, then video work in the afternoon. On Thursday I go back to work and on a Thursday night I would probably recover. Friday is a day off from my other job so I would do some speed work on a Friday morning and then in the afternoon I start getting all my kit together ready for my weekend game."
Wiley is not Ferguson's favourite official, having awarded the penalty for Michael Carrick's handball which saw United lose 2-1 at Stamford Bridge two seasons ago and dismissed Nemanja Vidic in the 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool last season. But the scientists have one over on Ferguson if he, of all people, attempts to suggest that age is slowing Wiley. Scientist Matt Weston's paper Ageing and physical match performance in English Premier League soccer referees – which drew on four years of Prozone research – compared the total distance run between younger referees (aged 31-43) and older officials (aged 43-48).
It concluded: "The reduced physical match performances associated with increasing referee age did not appear to impact upon the older referees' ability to keep up with play."