Training Europe’s leading assistant referees is a significant element of UEFA’s comprehensive referee development programme - and the men who assist the men in the middle have received expert advice and motivation for their duties at their latest UEFA course in Malaga.
Forty-one international assistant referees travelled to the Spanish resort to test their fitness and analyse a role that has grown in importance in the high-speed, high-stakes modern-day game. The course focused on various aspects of the assistant referee’s role, in particular Law 11 of the Laws of the Game relating to offside. Video clips of various incidents were studied and discussed, and clear guidelines were delivered to all of the assistants to ensure uniformity in decision-making in UEFA’s competitions. Assistant referees must also have a clear understanding of all laws including Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct - as they must be ready to inform the referee of any infringement that occurs outside the latter’s vision, and this aspect of the role was another key discussion point in Malaga. The assistants undertook a stringent fitness test, led by UEFA referee expert Werner Helsen and his team, with particular attention paid to the crucial speed and agility that is required by assistants over short distances.
UEFA refereeing officer Hugh Dallas was assisted at the course by former FIFA World Cup final assistant referees Philip Sharp and Leif Lindberg, together with experienced colleagues Giovanni Stevanato and Maciej Wierzbowski. “It’s great that we have such former top assistant referees who have operated at the highest level to pass on their vast experience and knowledge”, said Dallas. The assistants present in Malaga were unanimous in praising UEFA for giving them a clearer understanding of what is expected from them at the top European level. They worked hard on the field of play as well, with youth team players from local La Liga club Málaga CF assisting in helping simulate various offside scenarios. The officials then received instant video feedback and advice on how to improve their accuracy in their decision-making. “We also explained the importance of the assistants being prepared in advance of a match, by knowing the tactics of the teams that they will be officiating, and studying the movement of players and being aware of the team formations”, said Dallas, “as this will help them throughout the match. Tactical awareness is such a crucial part of the match officials’ preparation in modern-day football”, he explained. Alongside its tried and trusted work with referees, UEFA will carry on fostering assistant referees and aiding their development. “It’s important that UEFA doesn’t stand still,” Dallas said, “and that we continue to discover the new generation of match officials, including assistant referees. This course has gone a long way to serve that purpose”.