Europe's leading referees and newcomers to the international referees' list step up their preparations for a busy year ahead when they attend UEFA's winter courses in Limassol, Cyprus, next week.
The 19th UEFA Advanced Course for Elite and Premier Referees features 45 UEFA Elite and Premier referees, while the 20th UEFA Introductory Course for International Referees involves over 30 new European international referees.
The courses, which are being held between 30 January and 4 February, not only look back at the early part of the season but also serve as an important refresher for the match officials' coming assignments in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA national-team competitions.
A thorough schedule has been organised for the week's events, which are being hosted by the Cyprus Football Association (KOP/CFA) and which will also entail a meeting of the UEFA Referees Committee.
The compulsory introductory course aims to help the 34 new international referees, selected by FIFA from 24 countries, get ready for officiating at European matches – beginning with youth mini-tournaments and the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds, and hopefully moving on to distinguished careers.
UEFA's new referees will take the full FIFA fitness test and other physical assessments, and will also be tested for knowledge of English, now the common refereeing language. The theoretical part of the introductory course will see UEFA Referees Committee members and instructors give decision-taking and positional advice with the use of footage from recent UEFA games, as well as through practical sessions.
Finally, the new referees will be briefed about the tasks they have to fulfil in relation to UEFA's administration. The course runs from Sunday to Wednesday.
The advanced course brings together seasoned match officials in the shape of 24 Elite and 21 Premier and Premier Development referees. As with their more junior counterparts, the programme of events will include physical – notably comprising the FIFA fitness test – theoretical and technical sessions. The advanced course has been extended by one day, compared with previous years, so participants will arrive on Monday and leave on Thursday.
Another novelty, explained UEFA general secretary, Gianni Infantino, in a welcome message to delegates, is that "this year a comprehensive visual examination will be undertaken by each of the referees, as well as the usual weighing sessions and medical check-ups, illustrating that the Referees Committee is concerned not only about the good shape/fitness of the officials, but also their health."
The course will gain too from the know-how offered by a number of match officials who refereed at last summer's FIFA World Cup – "a competition that showed the level of European football and refereeing," said Gianni Infantino. It will also look at experiences with the experiment involving additional assistant referees, which this season has been extended to the UEFA Champions League in addition to the UEFA Europa League.
"Experiences from the first part of the UEFA season will be shared during the course," added the UEFA general secretary. "I wish all participants, presenters and support staff in Cyprus a pleasant stay."
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