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How UEFA HatTrick funding is supporting match officials in Lithuania

About UEFA Members

Šarūnas Tamulynas, head of refereeing at the Lithuania Football Federation, offers his first-hand insight into how his team uses UEFA HatTrick funding to benefit match officials in his country.

"UEFA’s financial support has been really valuable for Lithuanian match officials," says Šarūnas Tamulynas.

In his role as the head of refereeing at the Lithuania Football Federation, Tamulynas oversees the performance and development of the country’s elite men’s and women’s match officials – a team of more than 50 individuals.

Operating in one of Europe’s smaller footballing nations, Tamulynas is eager to maximise support, including that available through the UEFA HatTrick programme. Every season, each of UEFA’s national associations can apply to UEFA’s Referee Convention Panel for up to €100,000 in HatTrick funds to help raise refereeing standards.

"Our referees department budget last year was about half a million euros, so the €100,000 is a significant boost. For countries like Lithuania – we’re a small country, fewer than 3 million people – this has a huge impact."

Expanding referees’ learning opportunities

"Our opinion is that it is most important to provide education," explains Tamulynas. "We can now use the money that comes from our association for salaries and equipment and put UEFA’s funding purely into the referee education process – seminars, courses, mentors. It has a huge impact on the quality of our development and our capacity to educate, which is of huge importance.

"Equipment comes and it goes. But education? Knowledge is not something that we throw away, it will stay with our referees forever. We always put UEFA Referee Convention money into education and development for our referees."

UEFA support for continuous football referee development

The additional resources offered through the UEFA HatTrick funding have allowed Tamulynas to provide tailored development pathways for each of his team.

"The funding helps us create development plans for all our referees, and the guidance from UEFA on criteria and how to develop referees is great. We also run a mentor programme, where our beginner referees work one on one with active officials."

Football is a constantly evolving game, which means that continuous development and education is vital. "UEFA hosts Referee Convention workshops every three years, where we meet a lot of people from other national associations," says Tamulynas. "Everybody shares their experience, their best practice, and I’ve already implemented some of it in our referee education process. It's a big opportunity for us.

"Between those workshops, we receive visits from members of the Convention Panel. We have direct access to these specialists and can contact them anytime. Getting a perspective from somebody with such huge experience is invaluable."

That investment is paying dividends, with Lithuania’s match officials increasingly refereeing at the highest level. Across the 2023/24 season, for example, Lithuania referee teams have officiated FC Copenhagen’s home UEFA Champions League group game against Manchester United; Benfica’s clash with Toulouse in the first knockout round of the UEFA Europa League; and the UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 match between Maccabi Haifa and Fiorentina.

Referee Donatas Rumsas during the FC Copenhagen - Manchester United match in the UEFA Champions League
Referee Donatas Rumsas during the FC Copenhagen - Manchester United match in the UEFA Champions LeagueGetty Images

Technology in refereeing

In addition to providing financial support, UEFA is always looking to leverage technology to assist referees, improve the accuracy, consistency and speed of decisions, and enhance the flow of the game for players and fans.

A recent development was the introduction semi-automated offside technology (SAOT) in 2022. SAOT used multiple cameras strategically positioned around stadiums triangulate 29 body points per player to generate real-time imagery for review by video assistant referees (VARs).

Interested in refereeing? UEFA’s ‘Be a Referee!’ campaign can show you how to take your first steps towards becoming a match official.