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Athens training for referees

Europe's leading men and women referees are gathered in Athens for the annual UEFA winter courses, looking to maintain the highest standards in their upcoming assignments.

Referees during fitness testing at a UEFA referees winter course
Referees during fitness testing at a UEFA referees winter course ©Sportsfile

Europe's leading men and women referees are in Athens this week for the annual UEFA winter courses.

The 23rd UEFA Advanced Course for Top Referees and the 24th UEFA Introductory Course for International Referees bring together the match officials for technical and practical sessions, designed to help them maintain the high standards that are expected of them by European football's governing body.

Members of UEFA's Referees Committee – experienced former international referees themselves – will be in Greece to give presentations, lead discussions, and guide and instruct the match officials as part of their crucial role in nurturing and further improving the quality of European refereeing at the highest levels.

The advanced course is being attended by 82 referees, including 18 elite-category women's referees. Fifty-one new European men and women referees on the FIFA list will participate in the introductory course, during which they will receive a comprehensive briefing on their duties and responsibilities as a UEFA referee. Athens will host referees from 43 different European countries, and one referee representing the South American confederation CONMEBOL.

Experienced match officials will be preparing for the knockout phases of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League this spring, as well as the forthcoming matches in the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying competition. The women's elite-category match officials are gearing up for assignments in the later stages of the UEFA Women's Champions League, and some are candidates for this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup final round in Canada.

The new internationals will undergo a medical check-up and their physical fitness will be assessed by means of a so-called Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test – which examines the ability to recover after intensive exercise – for the first time. In addition, the referees' knowledge of English – the common refereeing language – will be assessed through interviews with UEFA Referees Committee members. The winter course provides the newcomers with important knowledge and advice for the future. "Most of the new internationals will have their first international experience, and will benefit from the expertise of the UEFA Referees Committee members, which will give them parameters for their career as referees on and off the field of play," said UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina in his welcome message to the course.

A selection of advanced course participants will undergo an injury prevention screening, before the whole group undertakes a "Yo-Yo" fitness check. UEFA's Belgian referee fitness expert Werner Helsen and his team will be leading the fitness work in Athens.

At technical sessions, the winter course participants will attend presentations given by Referees Committee members, and video sessions will analyse footage from UEFA competition matches over the past and present season. Discussion and feedback sessions also enable the referees and Referees Committee members to exchange views and experiences.

Modern-day football requires referees not only to be athletes in peak physical condition, but also to be tactically aware, to enable them to read and react to match situations, and this aspect of the referee's job will be on the agenda in Athens. The referees will also be appraised of their role as representatives of UEFA, and urged to protect the image of the game, as well as achieving uniformity and consistency in decision-making.

UEFA organises two major referee events each year – in addition to the winter sessions, a start-of-season gathering in August sees match officials briefed for the new season and given specific instructions for club and national team duties by the Referees Committee, in particular regarding changes to the Laws of the Game.