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Referees urged to maintain 'feelgood factor'

UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti has called on UEFA’s match officials to help keep the positive feeling currently surrounding European refereeing as the new season gets underway.

Referees took a fitness test in Vienna
Referees took a fitness test in Vienna UEFA

Europe’s top male and female referees gathered for their pre-season course in Vienna with Rosetti encouraging them to set even higher benchmarks in 2021/22. “We start from zero again,” he emphasised to almost 100 officials. “The hard work begins here.”

This summer’s UEFA EURO 2020 finals ended with widespread plaudits for both the refereeing team and video assistant referees (VAR), bringing the officials renewed respect for their decision-making, accuracy, professionalism and match management skills, all of which made a telling contribution to the tournament’s success.

With the profile of European women’s football also set to reach new heights this season thanks to the new-style UEFA Women’s Champions League competition and next year’s Women’s EURO in England, the Vienna course served to set in motion a crucial campaign for female officials as they look to continue their splendid development in tandem with the constant evolution of the women’s game.

Deserved praise

UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti was delighted with the referees at UEFA EURO 2020
UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti was delighted with the referees at UEFA EURO 2020UEFA

“We’re coming off an excellent 2020/21 season, when the level of refereeing was outstanding in all of our competitions, as well as in the club competition finals,” Rosetti said. “EURO 2020 was also exemplary from a refereeing point of view – not only on the field, but also because of the great atmosphere and team spirit generated during the tournament. The referees totally deserved the praise that they were given. They were helped in no small way by the fantastic contribution of UEFA’s fitness team and the UEFA staff.”

“But that’s all in the past now. We face tough challenges this season, and we mustn’t rest on past achievements. The key objective is to improve on the high-quality standards that have been set.”

Protecting the players – and the game

Along with fitness tests, the two-day course in Vienna focussed on UEFA’s refereeing guidelines, and the referees were given a detailed briefing by the deputy chairman of UEFA’s Referees Committee, Hugh Dallas, and UEFA refereeing officers Vlado Sajn and Dagmar Damková on what is expected of them this season in the overall drive to achieve uniform and consistent decision-making.

Almost 100 top referees attended the course in Vienna
Almost 100 top referees attended the course in ViennaUEFA

Key topics included penalty-area incidents, clarifications to football’s laws on handball which are now in force for the new campaign after being applied at the EURO, and the need for referees to take strong action against reckless challenges and serious foul play which could endanger a player’s safety. “We’re continuing to put priority on protecting not only the players, but also the image of the game, “Rosetti explained.

Referees also received important instructions on how to act in cases of on-field concussion. In addition, the calm reaction of English referee Anthony Taylor when Denmark’s midfielder Christian Eriksen required emergency medical treatment after collapsing on the field in the EURO match against Finland was highlighted as an example to follow if such critical situations arose.

Women’s EURO target

Europe's female referees are ready for a memorable campaign
Europe's female referees are ready for a memorable campaign UEFA

Europe’s female referees embarked on a momentous season in Vienna. They will be playing a major role in the UEFA Women’s Champions League’s success story as the competition moves into a fresh and exciting era with a new group stage format and increased exposure. Places in the referees’ team at next summer’s eagerly awaited Women’s EURO are also at stake.

The referees have been urged in particular to prove to UEFA through their performances on the field that they deserve a place in the EURO team, and to make the selection process as tough as possible. The challenge laid down in Vienna was for the referees to seek improvement every match, work for consistency in decision-making, and continue to show their adaptability and acumen in keeping pace with the massive developments taking place in women’s football.

“The referees are looking ahead to an important period,” said Rosetti, “and we’ll be providing a comprehensive programme to help them meet their objectives and move forward.”

VAR in focus

A VAR team working at UEFA EURO 2020
A VAR team working at UEFA EURO 2020UEFA

The coming season will see UEFA fine-tuning and expanding its video assistant referee (VAR) activities, following positive reactions to how the system functioned at the EURO. “We are working every day to develop and improve the system,” Rosetti said. “I think it’s impossible to imagine football now without VAR.”

“We are also introducing VAR in the European Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, as well as in the UEFA Europa League group stage, which demonstrates the major impetus that UEFA is giving to the system.” Priority attention will also be given to VAR for the female referees, given that the system will be deployed at the coming Women’s EURO.

Keeping the respect

Rosetti expressed the hope that the spirit of respect that characterised relations between referees, players and coaches at EURO 2020 will carry over into the new season. “This respect is important for the game,” he explained. “I feel it’s also crucial that referees have been showing great human qualities, because this earns them the respect of players and coaches as well.”

“We’re working together with former players, in priority with [UEFA chief of football development and ex-Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Ajax and Inter Milan star] Maxwell Sherrer, to develop a strategy in this respect – there’s definitely a spirit that we’d like to keep.”