Seminar for match officials and referees' observers

A year after conducting a seminar for Elite and Category 1 Match Officials, and Referee Observers, last weekend Mr David R. Elleray – UEFA Referees’ Committee Member responsible for Maltese referees, CORE course leader and a former international referee – was invited to conduct two separate seminars to oversee the work carried out and progress made over the past year.

Both seminars were held at the Centenary Hall, Ta’ Qali Centenary Stadium.

Thirty-two Elite and Category 1 Match Officials, two referees from the Bulgarian Football Union (who were in Malta to referee two Women’s International Friendly matches Malta vs Estonia), Referees’ Committee members and Referees’ Instructors attended.

In his introductory address, Malta FA Director of Refereeing Mr. Adrian D. Casha, welcomed and thanked Mr Elleray for coming over to Malta as the UEFA official with responsibility of Maltese referees. He said that he was happy to say that we have the support and respect of UEFA in the work being carried out.

Mr Casha took the opportunity to mention the referees exchanges with different countries taking place since last season which have gained momentum during the current one. He said that one may ask: why are we here today for this seminar? The answer is simple: because this seminar is another opportunity for growth, appropriately timed before the beginning of the BOV Premier League’s 2nd round.

Mr David Elleray first of all conveyed greetings from UEFA President Michel Platini’s and of the Referees Committee. He then wanted to make it clear that CORE means Centre for Refereeing Excellence – and indeed UEFA wants excellent referees. He said that so far, he has seen and observed 9 Maltese officials (three trios) who have changed almost completely in attitude since attending these courses. At UEFA one gets promoted on talent, work and performance; UEFA wants people with open minds. He said that referees must be aware of the reading of the game – this is why his talks will deal with Concentration, Awareness and Credibility – to perform better and merit Respect for taking the big decisions.

“Mistakes help you get better and eventually enable you to be in charge of top matches”, he said.

After the introductory part, the whole morning was dedicated to sessions conducted by Malta FA Referee Instructors. All lectures involved powerpoint presentations and the participation of participants, either by individual interaction or in small groups. Alexander Arena spoke on the Use of Cards: An Aid to Communication; Saviour Darmanin addressed Playing Advantage; Gaetano De Gabriele delivered a presentation on Management Issues: Control and Awareness; and Adrian D. Casha ended this first part on the subject of Managing Restarts.

During the whole afternoon, Mr Elleray dealt with the main theme of this seminar Concentration, Awareness and Credibility. He started by showing a good number of DVD clips with the action taken from this season’s local BOV Premier League matches and discussing the good points and not so good ones with the referees themselves, who were grouped in trios (mainly referee and two assistants). He said that a mistake can be avoided by more concentration when it happens not one second later. A referee must have what he called a “football brain” to recognise the main decisions and get them right, and controlling the physical side of the game, better.

On awareness, he emphasised on “what could happen next” and on the same lines, the correct application of the advantage clause. With reference to credibility, Mr Elleray pointed out that a referee must “understand football” – in this way his decisions will be as expected and accepted by the players, their coaches and the public.

Saturday morning started with a presentation on Running Technique by the referees’ fitness coach Ronald Zammit; followed by Philip Agius speaking on Assistant Referees Interventions; and Tom A. Restall addressing Confrontation and Dissent; after which the main guest speaker of this seminar David Elleray continued his lecturing on Concentration, Awareness and Credibility.

Again, with the referees divided into groups of three, a couple of DVD clips from local BOV Premier League matches were shown and discussed – a striking feature being the importance of referees’ body language, positioning, disciplinary action to be taken and restart of play. To conclude, he mentioned that this is a challenging year ahead for Maltese referees in their endeavour of achieving promotion in UEFA – which is looking for quality referees.

Mr Elleray made it clear that the size of the country is not a barrier; and adviced that we have to work hard without excuses, with an open mind to get better and learn from mistakes – the tools are available for us to deliver better performances.

In his closing address, Malta FA President Mr. Norman Darmanin Demajo touched on the subject of perceptions regarding the refereeing standards according to the public’s opinion and according to the referees’ opinion – this in relation to the referees’ image which is very important. He said that we are in this sector together and we have to go forward together; we are improving a lot but still not enough. The President thanked all those involved in the refereeing sector led by its director Adrian D. Casha and Charles Agius as chairman of the Referees’ Committee. Finally, he thanked Mr Elleray for the running of the seminar.

Meanwhile a total of 25 referee observers attended the seminar for referees’ observers.

In his introduction, Malta FA Director of Refereeing Mr Adrian D. Casha, thanked the referee observers for their presence and the service they are giving. He said that we must be aware how much our role is important to the game when we contribute to raise refereeing standards. “The performance of our referees depends on our performance”, Mr Casha said.

Opening the seminar, Mr David Elleray spoke about the two days of good work with the referees during their seminar. He said that as referee observers we are not only guardians of standards but we must also identify areas of improvements and ways to tackle this challenging aspect and achieve results. We must be able to highlight serious errors – at present maybe the local referee observers are being too nice with the referees. There is no room for excuses; we must have an open mind. The referees want us to help them get better – this is the only way to achieve promotion in UEFA.

The Role of the Observer was Mr Casha’s topic where he pointed out that ‘observing’ means a lot of things. He said that we must be positive and fair with the referees, helping them to transform their own performances.

In the following session, MFA Referee Instructor Mr Victor Mintoff dealt with The Marking System: Achieving Uniformity. He asked: how easy or difficult is it to achieve uniformity in the referees’ marking system? He mentioned the objectives of the report and the evaluation scale, after considering the taking of important decisions.

In the last session of the seminar also entitled Concentration, Awareness and Credibility, Mr Elleray started with an exercise for referee observers during which they were given a report (all details erased) drawn up by a referee observer of a BOV Premier League match, and aided by DVD clips they had to analyse and confirm or otherwise its content and final marks given to the match officials. Afterwards, a discussion took place with Mr Elleray identifying some details and the final marks which needed to be included and modified, respectively.

Mr Elleray said that referee observers have the responsibility to make our referees better locally and when officiating UEFA matches. There is a lot to be done; we need to serve the referees not trying to be popular with them by giving them favourable reports. Referees do not have to like referee observers but respect them; they want referee observers to be strong, honest and supportive – not just their praise. The challenge is for a re-thinking process in the better perception of Maltese refereeing.

As final remarks to the closure of the seminar, Mr Casha said that these last three days were a learning experience for all attendees; in today’s case, by attending such seminars and instructional meetings referee observers will enrich their teaching abilities and be in a position to give a better service for the good of the game through refereeing, in which the Malta FA is investing a lot.

Photos (1 and 2): Copyright © Joe Borg

Photos (3 and 4): Copyright © Paul Zammit Cutajar