Referees tune up for a hectic year

Europe's leading referees are ready for the second half of the season, with UEFA EURO 2020 also approaching for some of them. UEFA's winter courses in Majorca gave the match officials the chance to show why this continent's refereeing elite are so widely respected around the world.

Referees during a fitness session in Majorca
Referees during a fitness session in Majorca ©Sportsfile

UEFA’s winter introductory and advanced referee courses in Majorca have primed the continent’s top male and female match officials for a challenging year of club and national-team action.

The close attention paid by UEFA to refereeing continues to have a positive and rewarding impact, as Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti tells us… Why does UEFA bring its referees together at this time of the year?

Roberto Rosetti
Roberto Rosetti©Sportsfile

Roberto Rosetti: It’s always an important course for us, because we look back on the first half of the season and prepare for the second half – and we welcome young male and female referees who are new to the international list. This year’s week in Majorca has been particularly significant because, in addition to appointments in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Women’s Champions League, our top men’s referees are also getting ready for UEFA EURO 2020 in the summer. We’ve been doing a lot of fine-tuning work for the various assignments that are coming up. What’s been on the agenda in Majorca?

Rosetti: With the advanced referees, we’ve been analysing video clips of incidents and situations, holding discussions with referees and hearing their feedback, and looking at how we can improve – because the overriding target is to continuously improve and achieve consistency in referees’ decision-making. The referees at the introductory course are newcomers to the FIFA international list, so we’ve used the week to introduce them to life as an international match official, briefing them about our expectations, what their various duties are as a representative of UEFA, and the qualities that they need to show on and off the field. And, of course, we’ve carried out fitness checks to make sure that the officials are all in top condition.

VAR training during a fitness session led by UEFA expert Werner Helsen (centre)
VAR training during a fitness session led by UEFA expert Werner Helsen (centre)©Sportsfile The video assistant referee (VAR) system has also been a key part of the course. Now that the system is up and running in many European competitions, what’s your assessment of how the system is working?

Rosetti: We believe that VAR is a crucial project for football, because it provides vital help for referees to take decisions. We’re very happy with the figures that we’ve seen in the UEFA Champions League group phase – a decision has only been overturned every four matches, which shows the quality of the referees’ performances. But I must emphasise that we only want to use VAR for clear and obvious situations, and not for controversial moments. We love football, and we don’t want to change the game. We merely want to help referees. What instructions have you given the referees for their coming assignments?

Rosetti: We’re continuing to ask them to be strict on serious foul play and violent conduct, to protect players in this respect, and not to tolerate mass confrontation of officials or dissent in particular. Football must convey a positive image, especially to the younger generation, and referees have a key role to play here.

Referees analysing a video clip of a match situation
Referees analysing a video clip of a match situation©Sportsfile

During the course, the new international referees were briefed about the need to show integrity, and contribute to the campaign to fight match-fixing and corruption in football…

It’s one of our key messages – our referees have to act as role models and ambassadors for the game. We ask them to adopt the “Three R’s principle” if they are ever approached to manipulate the result of a match - Recognise what is happening; Reject the approach; Report the matter.

UEFA,com: One of the advantages of the course is that it gives new international referees the opportunity to come together with their more experienced counterparts, and to listen and learn about what it means to be a top match official…and how to set off on the road to success.

Rosetti: There’s no better opportunity for the young referees to learn than to speak and hear from those who have done the job for many years and gathered a wealth of experience. In Majorca, two of our most seasoned referees, Björn Kuipers and Kateryna Monzul, gave a fantastic presentation to the new FIFA officials on the top referee’s life, the qualities and attributes that a referee needs to succeed, the need for dedication, courage and self-belief, the desire to seek constant improvement…the young referees were able to take on board a vast amount of knowledge and experience that will no doubt serve them well in the future. Watching the training sessions, it’s clear that the modern-day top-level referee has to be fitter than ever…

Europe's female referees have raised the fitness bar another notch
Europe's female referees have raised the fitness bar another notch©Sportsfile

Rosetti: We’re delighted with how Europe’s top male and female referees have responded to the challenge and kept up with the demands of football today. They are unbelievably professional in their preparation - their attention to their condition and health is extremely meticulous. Over the years, with our help, their fitness levels have developed to the stage where they are now as much high-performance athletes as the players are. They know what they have to do – they’re ready for the coming matches. We’re very proud of them. What’s been your overall message to the referees as they set out on a challenging year?

Rosetti: We’ve urged them to seek excellence, to be prepared physically and mentally, and to demonstrate why many consider Europe’s match officials to be the reference for refereeing across the world. We also need them to be prepared for matches in tactical terms – to study the teams and players that they will be managing on the field. We require them to be professional, be consistent and focussed on their job, for the good of football. Finally, tell us what’s so good about being a referee…

Rosetti: Well, being a referee is actually a fantastic school of life. You learn to take decisions, to show responsibility, to interact with others, to manage people. You learn about being courageous in what you do. If you love football, it’s certainly a fantastic opportunity to be a referee and such an integral part of the ‘beautiful game’.