The Malta FA Refereeing Department organised the customary Autumn seminar for a total of nearly sixty match officials and referee observers, in the restored and renovated architectural beauty of the historical Fort St. Angelo in Vittoriosa between the 10th and 12th November.
In his introduction, Director of Refereeing Kevin Azzopardi said that the main aim of this seminar (three months after the Pre-Season one) was to take stock of the good performances so far, what could be improved, and what went wrong. His style of administration may look relaxed but positive results are expected by him and his team who, however, have a duty to support referees (whenever possible). This is a season which brought about and will continue to introduce various changes (strategy, online portal, new kits for the next three years, vanishing spray in the Premier League, an insurance scheme being discussed). He said that the list of international appointments so far this year is 22 (in 2015 it was 15) and acknowledged the referees’ merit to this; while appealing to one and all to “let’s continue working together.”
The main guest for this event was former French international referee and UEFA Refereeing Officer Marc Batta who expressed his pleasure to be in Malta and share his knowledge and experiences with local referees for them to improve. His lectures dealt with Positioning, The Advantage Clause, Effective Teamwork, and Communication & Personality (management of play/ers) by means of powerpoint presentations and DVD clips taken from various European leagues and competitions, from which the importance evidently came out that the referee must train hard (physically and mentally) to be prepared to follow the action focused and concentrated throughout the whole match and able to give the correct decisions expected of him.
Other topics were addressed by Director of Refereeing Kevin Azzopardi on Tackling Major Decisions, and by national instructors Charles Agius on Handball and by Gaetano De Gabriele on Adopting the Right Attitude on and off the field of play.
Group Discussions for referees were led by Director of Refereeing Kevin Azzopardi and Refereeing Assistant Marco Borg, while for assistant referees (on offside) was conducted by Assistant Director Philip Agius; refereeing Officer Alex Arena met with referee observers.
On the three different days, participants were tested in General Knowledge and English Proficiency by means of quizzes and a Laws of the Game test conducted by Refereeing Officers Andrè Arciola and Adrian Azzopardi, who also gave feedback on same.
Meanwhile the new referee kits for the next three years were presented during a press conference which was addressed by MFA General Secretary Bjorn Vassallo, Marc Batta and Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport, Hon. Chris Agius.
Bjorn Vassallo said that now that he is moving on to pastures new at FIFA, thanked the match officials for their support during the past 6½ years in the implementation for what the Malta FA had in mind for the refereeing sector at the time and for the future; the result being that through a strategic plan now we have more and better referees, and top class ones. He thanked Mr Batta for accepting to share his expertise with us.
Marc Batta acknowledged the intensive work carried out and enjoyed the involvement of the participants over the past three days; he appealed to them to be consistent (with the help of their refereeing officers and observers); and wished them well for the future.
Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovatioin, Youth and Sport, Hon. Chris Agius thanked Mr Batta for sharing his vast experience with our referees; Kevin Azzopardi, his administrative team and the referees who altogether are an important stakeholder in the game. Thanked outgoing MFA General Secretary Bjorn Vassallo and wished him success for his new appointment at FIFA, and welcomed the incoming Dr. Angelo Chetcuti in his stead (who was present).
Kevin Azzopardi said that during this same week he attended a UEFA Workshop which made him realise that our refereeing sector is one of the best in Europe regarding strategic organisation and initiatives being taken; and that is the reason why our hard-working officials in 2016 kept getting international appointments (40% more than 2015). He said that two UEFA international projects for our referees are in the pipeline; more referee exchanges are in hand for later on in November and in 2017; the Referees’ Academy is going strong with another 20 candidates this season; and for 2017 we managed to keep the same number of international officials (17).
Azzopardi thanked Mr Batta for accepting the invitation to be the main lecturer at this seminar; Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovatioin, Youth and Sport, Hon. Chris Agius, for his support; Heritage Malta as hosts; the MFRA; and sponsors AutoFactors; his administrative team’s contribution (also noted by Mr Batta) for the great job being done; and Bjorn Vassallo while giving him his best wishes (and also on behalf of the refereeing fraternity) for his future career with FIFA
The seminar came to a close with Kevin Azzopardi going through some administrative matters; with his concluding remarks being that there is overall satisfaction about the match officials’ performances so far this season.