TAG Heuer puts Pires and Desailly through the referee pressure test

Two Premier League legends and former international teammates, Marcel Desailly and Robert Pirès, were put through their paces in TAG Heuer’s latest Pressure Test.

Premier League referee, Kevin Friend, assessed the former players’ ability to accurately judge a series of penalties taken by local Academy players, with Pirès and Desailly having to explain why each should be allowed or disallowed. Referees Chief, Mike Riley, has also provided insights into how top-flight referees handle the pressure in the big games.

For each penalty taken, Pirès and Desailly had to be fully aware of what was going on in and around the penalty area as the shoot-out included instances of encroachment and a change in the nominated penalty-taker, both of which are illegal in the laws of the game.

Throughout the challenge, Pirès and Desailly were wearing the TAG Heuer Connected Watch, which is worn by all Premier League referees.

The video can be downloaded here:

Pires Re-lives 2005 Penalty Nightmare

Ahead of the double-header between Arsenal and Man City in the Carabao Cup Final on 25th February and in the Premier League on 1st March, Robert Pirès was forced to re-live his infamous penalty nightmare against City in 2005. In this shoot-out, two Academy players expertly showed him the right way to do it, with Kevin Friend telling Pirès afterwards to practice more in training and not touch the ball twice, which was the mistake he made in his penalty-fail with Henry 13-years ago.

Added Pressure in Big Fixtures and from the Crowd

Referees Chief, Mike Riley, has said that referees do not change their preparation going into high-pressure fixtures, like the two huge back-to-back fixtures being played next week between Arsenal and Man City. Riley says, “You have to treat big games the same as any other match. Ultimately it’s 11 players against 11 players and you referee it in the same way.”

In the TAG Heuer Referee Pressure Test, Desailly appreciated how tough it is for referees to cope with the intense pressure of heightened crowd noise. As these atmospheric sounds were played through the legends’ headphones, Desailly said “it was very difficult with this noise around me it was very tough to make quick and accurate decisions.”

Friend Impressed With Pires’ and Desailly’s Awareness and Knowledge

When analysing their performance, top-flight referee, Friend, said that both players “did really really well, they’ve both got a very good knowledge of the laws of the game and the process you need to go through for the penalty-kick and actually an awareness of everything that was going on around them.”


It was extremely close, but Robert Pirès was announced as the winner by presenter Jules Breach. Visibly happy with his triumph over his old France teammate, Pirès then described how the challenge was “very difficult because you need to take a quick decision, you need to see the goalkeeper and players and need to be focused and calm to make the correct decision.”

Incorrect Decisions Are Part of Being a Referee

A key part of being a top referee is to not let incorrect decisions that have been made faze them and influence subsequent decisions.  Referees chief, Mike Riley, said that “incorrect decisions are part of being a referee. Of course, every referee wants to get every decision correct, but that’s not always possible. So, we work with the referees and help them to park wrong decisions and simply focus on the next decision to make.”

This is the first episode in a series of three Referee Pressure Test Challenges set by TAG Heuer and Premier League referees.

Further Reading