Referee’s Euro duties keep on growing
THE unofficial 17th team at Euro 2012 will be the UEFA appointed match officials.
As the media attention builds in anticipation of the big kick off tomorrow, it won’t be until after the first ball is kicked, will attention focus on the teams of six officials charged with ensuring that the laws of the game are adhered to.
Euro 2012 represents the first time that six match officials will be used in a major finals tournament.
The preparation for the Euro’s began for the match officials before the qualification campaign began.
Over the past two years UEFA has assessed a core group of 33 referees and their respective teams in qualification games as well as Champions League and Europa League games during that period and whittled it down to 12 referees, who will be accompanied by their respective teams of two Assistants Referees (AR), two Additional Assistant referees (AAR’s) and a fourth official.
In January, UEFA’s Elite Referees gathered for a four-day winter training and workshop in Antalya in Turkey, where fitness was assessed, extensive visual examinations completed along with 15 hours of lectures focussing on DVD analysis of match incidents from the group stages of this year’s competitions.
This workshop was the build up for the knock-out stages that commenced in February, but also a prelude to the build up for the Euros.
Having been lucky enough to have attended workshops at this level for the past three seasons, I can testify to the fact that no stone is left unturned by UEFA in ensuring that the preparation of referees, both physically and mentally, is at the highest level.
In early May, all of the participating match officials at Euro 2012 attended a four-day workshop in Warsaw where they will be based for the duration of the tournament.
At this workshop the officials again had to undertake a fitness test as well as intense DVD analysis of the afore mentioned games in the knock out stages of UEFA club competitions.
Twenty hours of lectures were also conducted culminating in guidelines being provided for the Euros.
These guidelines focussed on protecting the player’s safety, protecting the image of the game and forming consistency in decision making.
By now people who watch Champions League and Europa League games will be familiar with the ‘referees behind the goal’, the AAR’s.
The AAR experiment is one the International Football Association Board (IFAB) introduced two years ago to try and improve incidents within the penalty area primarily.
It still remains an experiment and will be introduced to championship finals for the first time in Poland and the Ukraine.
Their role is to assist the referee primarily with regard to incidents within the penalty area.
You will never see an AAR point for a decision whether it is a corner, penalty, goal kick, or gesture for holding, shirt pulling or simulation.
The reason for this is that they are not permitted to do so.
They are permitted to communicate to the referee by microphone only, and not through body language or gestures.
I am often asked why they don’t give decisions?
My answer is simple; they do give decisions, but they give them by word and not by action.
That is why it is not picked up by TV. There have been numerous cases where they have communicated correct decisions and cases where they have communicated incorrect decisions.
The AAR’s at the tournament will have worked with their referees many times during the course of the season.
They are also FIFA international referees themselves with a wealth of experience.
When it comes to the area of fitness and nutrition the match officials at the Euros will be as prepared as the players.
As the game has evolved, so has the sports science aspect and this is an area that I have much experience in.
During a recent press conference to discuss the preparation of match officials for the tournament, UEFA’s head of refereeing, Pierluigi Collina commented that referees prepare like athletes. The physical demands of top flight football mean that fitness levels for referees match those of the players.
The statistics have shown that a referee will cover more ground during the game than most if not all players.
Referees will cover on average 11 kilometres per game at varying speeds and directions.
The referees receive weekly training programs from UEFA’s fitness coach, Dr Werner Helsen and are required to feedback the training information garnered from Polar Watches (these monitor Heart Rate and performance) through downloading the information from the watches and sending the information to Dr Helsen to analyse.
Dietary requirements are no different to those of professional athletes.
Body fat percentage is monitored and checked and if this area falls outside the parameters then match officials are not considered for games.
During the tournament the match officials will have plenty of time in between games.
This time will be filled with daily training sessions, the intensity of which will be determined by the match schedule per referee team.
They will also undergo match analysis of their respective games in a two hour long debrief as well as collective analysis of match situations that occur during the tournament.
They will of course have some down time where they can avail of golf, tennis etc.
They are also away from their families for a minimum of two weeks but what will invariably be up to five weeks for some so a lot of time will be spent on Skype to keep in touch.
The referees have been at many seminars together over the past number of years and some of them will have formed close friendships.
But like the teams, they’ll also be competing with each other for games, especially after the group stage.
I have close friends refereeing in the tournament and hope that they remember the tournament for their positive performances rather than a decision that may have a baring on a teams progression in the tournament.