The UEFA Regions' Cup offers a fantastic stage for players to make a name for themselves and referee observer Robert B Valentine is sure the finals will also be the first step in a successful career for many of the officials.
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The UEFA Regions' Cup provides a fantastic platform for players to make a name for themselves and referee observer Robert B Valentine is sure the tournament will also be the first step in a successful career for many of the match officials.
Valentine has been involved with UEFA for over 40 years and was himself a referee between 1954 and 1988, taking charge of FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship matches. He has no doubt over the benefits young referees can gain from an amateur competition like the UEFA Regions' Cup. "The tournament is very important," he said. "For instance, I attended the game between the team from Ireland, Region 1, and the one from Spain, Castilla y León. They are from different cultures with different mindsets as to how to play the game. The referee did well – it will be good experience for him. He's going to have teams from northern Europe against ones from the south and so this is the first stage in being exposed to that."
As a referee observer, Valentine's remit is help develop the next batch of UEFA match officials. "My role on a matchday is to first of all view the referee's performance," he added. "We have to understand these are young international referees at the beginning of their career and so we are not looking to be critical of them, but in a coaching capacity to see if they make some small mistakes which can be rectified for future matches."
All referees at the finals have been promoted to the UEFA list in the last 18 months. As well as at this competition, young officials also gain a grounding at UEFA youth tournaments in order to equip them with the skills and experience which they may, one day, use on the highest stage of European football. "UEFA try to develop the referees in an international sense while they are also still refereeing the top leagues in their country," continued Valentine. "Tournaments such as this and the Under-19s and Under-17s would be the first 18 months to two years of a referee's career development – it's the basis for what they will do in later years."
Valentine admits to having "a small feeling of satisfaction" when he sees referees he worked with in the formative years of their career now officiating UEFA Champions League matches and hopes some the class of 2009 may follow in their footsteps. "I have no doubt that five or seven years from today, some of those teams taking part in this Regions' Cup will look at the TV and say: 'I remember that referee, he was at the Regions' Cup.'"