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First UEFA steps for new international referees

A group of European referees have taken a major stride forward on what they hope will be a successful journey to the summit of their profession

The referees took a fitness test in Nyon
The referees took a fitness test in Nyon UEFA

Forty-five match officials, male and female, from across Europe came to UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, for the latest UEFA introductory course for international referees – for many of them, it was their first major contact with the European body after earning the international badge that entitles them to officiate in competitions at international level.

The introductory course serves as a primer for new international referees to prepare them for an exciting new stage in their budding careers – and to help them become fully acquainted with the UEFA refereeing way of life.

“Joining the UEFA refereeing team is one of the most important moments in a young referee’s career,” said UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti.

“The main purpose of the course is to brief the referees about our concepts, technical guidelines and other requirements,” Rosetti added. “We explain what we want to see from them on the field of play and how they should represent UEFA, and convey UEFA’s refereeing values – underlining the discipline, hard work and dedication that they need to get to the top.”

Packed programme

Experienced former international referee Björn Kuipers - now a UEFA refereeing officer -. gave invaluable advice to the new referees
Experienced former international referee Björn Kuipers - now a UEFA refereeing officer -. gave invaluable advice to the new referees UEFA

Björn Kuipers, who refereed the UEFA EURO 2020 final last July before retiring and becoming a UEFA refereeing officer, proved an ideal and influential role model for the international ‘rookies’ to listen to in the course’s opening address. In addition to presentations, the newcomers analysed match clips, took a fitness test and studied aspects such as game and player management, as well as technical topics such as challenges, penalty-area incidents, handball and offside.

The referees have gained their international badge through performances in their countries’ domestic football, and candidates for the international stage are nominated by their national associations. UEFA maintains close contact with the associations to monitor referees’ progress, and many of the officials also gain crucial initial experience by attending courses at the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) in Nyon.

Demanding standards

UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti: “Joining the UEFA refereeing team is one of the most important moments in a young referee’s career"
UEFA Referees Committee chairman Roberto Rosetti: “Joining the UEFA refereeing team is one of the most important moments in a young referee’s career"UEFA

The key for the officials is to quickly absorb what is expected of them. “It’s a new level, a further step up for them,” Rosetti reflected, “because we set very demanding standards for them. At their first course, they take the UEFA fitness test to check their physical condition. They also take a video test and a test on the Laws of the Game, and they are given a medical check-up.

“We give them time to adapt within our sphere – they’re experiencing one of the greatest times in a refereeing life. It’s a great challenge and opportunity for them to develop as referees and as people, and they also have a fantastic chance to exchange opinions and ideas with referees from other countries who are at the same stage of their careers.”

Europe's new intake of international referees at the Nyon course
Europe's new intake of international referees at the Nyon courseUEFA

The new referees will soon be handed important UEFA assignments in various UEFA competitions, at the start of a career path that they hope will take them to the top and emulate a distinguished list of match officials who also set out on their journey at past introductory courses.

Quality the key

Rosetti emphasised that the road ahead for the new international referees involves no time pressure. “There are no rules in this respect,” he explained. “The referees should always consider their next match as the most important target, take a step-by-step approach, work hard, and not think too much at this stage about taking charge of big matches.

“Quality will be the key criterion for them – thinking about their refereeing, staying focused, analysing their matches and performances…trying to be better every day. And keeping in mind that good performances will be the key to their progress.”

VAR course

A practical session at the VAR course
A practical session at the VAR courseUEFA

Meanwhile, as the video assistant referee (VAR) system continues to prove its worth as a vital source of support to referees in their decision-making process, UEFA has staged a course for 30 VARs from national associations across Europe.

The theoretical and practical course in Nyon, which also made use of UEFA’s VAR facilities, was aimed at introducing additional video assistant referees into the VAR team responsible for applying the system at matches throughout UEFA’s competitions.

“We have just appointed 108 referees and 108 VARs for 108 forthcoming matches,” said Roberto Rosetti, “and it’s clear that we need more VARs to be ready and prepared for duty.” An expert team led by UEFA Referees Committee member Carlos Velasco Carballo led the two-day proceedings.

Important VAR experience

“We decided to implement this course, and asked associations to provide us with VARs who were not involved in our competitions but who had important experience in their domestic competitions.”

The VARs invited to Nyon were given comprehensive instructions and guidance about UEFA’s VAR procedures, including the proper interpretation of the ‘line of intervention’ – when an intervention by the VAR is required for an on-field situation.

They were briefed in particular about UEFA’s concept of ‘minimum intervention for maximum benefit’. “Football remains the priority,” said Rosetti.

“Our objective is that VAR interventions should only be made in the event of a clear and evident mistake by a referee, or in cases of serious missed incidents.”