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Female assistant referees take first steps on road to Women’s EURO


Europe's leading female assistant referees have started a journey which could lead all the way to the UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 tournament in England.

A fitness check was on the agenda in Nyon
A fitness check was on the agenda in Nyon ©UEFA

UEFA has given an unprecedented opportunity to Europe’s leading female assistant referees to stake their claim for a place in the team that will run the line at the UEFA Women’s EURO 2021 tournament.

The 38 candidates gathered at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon to attend the first-ever FIFA women’s assistant referee course. All have high hopes of figuring among the 24 assistant referees who will be selected for the eagerly-awaited EURO final round, scheduled to take place in England in two summers’ time.

The course was split into two groups - here the first group of assistant referees with the UEFA team
The course was split into two groups - here the first group of assistant referees with the UEFA team©UEFA

UEFA organised the course not only to kick off assistant referees’ preparations for EURO 2021 – but also to ensure that more European assistants benefit from the experience of colleagues who have already officiated at FIFA Women’s World Cup and UEFA Women’s EURO tournaments.

“We asked our member associations to send us female assistant referees who are officiating at matches in the top two domestic men’s divisions in their countries,“ said UEFA refereeing officer Dagmar Damkovà.

The second group of assistants
The second group of assistants©UEFA

“While we know the experienced assistants, there are still some assistants in Europe whose qualities we need to see at first hand – and if they are officiating in their two top men’s divisions, it obviously means they have certain qualities.”

The Nyon course featured sessions dealing with key areas for assistant referees including offside, reading the game, match situations, and concentration and awareness.

VAR briefing

Participants were also given a thorough insight into the video assistant referee (VAR) system supporting the referee’s decision-making process, which has gradually been introduced in various UEFA competitions this year.

Sharpness and speed are major attributes for assistant referees
Sharpness and speed are major attributes for assistant referees©UEFA

“Some people may think that the Women’s EURO is a long way away, but time passes quickly,” said Damkovà. “We want to ensure that both UEFA and the assistants are prepared properly. We’re asking them to work hard, seek constant improvement and prove that they are good enough to be in the EURO team.”

Unlike the men’s game, major international women's football matches do not require the ‘trios’ of referees and assistants to represent the same country.

Dagmar Damkovà
Dagmar Damkovà©UEFA

“We do not want high-quality female assistant referees to be at a disadvantage because of this,” Damkovà explained. “It gave us another reason to bring some of them to Nyon and involve them in the EURO pathway.”

Historic appointment

UEFA's overall refereeing programme is placing particular emphasis on female refereeing - part of the organisation's efforts to ensure that women's refereeing keeps pace with the overall progress of women's football.

“We want to invest in women’s refereeing,” said UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti, “and the course for the assistant referees is another very good step for the future.”

History was made in August, when French referee Stéphanie Frappart led a team of predominately female officials overseeing the UEFA Super Cup match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC in Istanbul.

Frappart was the first female referee to take charge of a major European men's showpiece occasion. Female assistant referees are also being appointed to officiate at UEFA Europa League matches – demonstrating UEFA’s firm belief in the calibre of its female officials. 

Fitness check

Belgian referee fitness expert Jean-Baptist Bultynck led a fitness session designed for the specific demands of running the line. “There is a clear difference between training for referees and training for assistant referees,” he said.

Jean-Baptist Bultynck supervises sprinting work
Jean-Baptist Bultynck supervises sprinting work©UEFA

“The main difference for assistant referees concerns short distances, sharpness and speed in the first 5-10 metres, as well as sideways movement. We concentrated in the session on checking the assistants’ sideways movement and sprinting capacity, as well as looking at their decision-making.

“The aim is for them to always search for improvement in the lead-up to the Women’s EURO.”