FIFA reduced the number of local referees and assistant referees on the FIFA panel for 2014 as part of a process which is meant to avoid having referees with just one appointment during the whole year and hence not having enough matches during which they could evaluate their progress. This was announced on Thursday as the FIFA Badges were presented by MFA president Norman Darmanin Demajo during an event at the Grand Hotel Excelsior.
Malta, in fact, lost one referee and two assistant referees. Following this decision by FIFA, referee Kevin Azzopardi has now quit his career as referee. Mariano Debono also quit as assistant referee due to persistent injuries. Duncan Sultana is the other assistant referee not to be confirmed on the FIFA panel.
To reduce the number of international referees, FIFA adopted the ‘last in, first out approach’.
The referees to be presented with the FIFA Badge were: Esther Azzopardi Farrugia, Marco Borg, Clayton Pisani and Alan Mario Sant as FIFA Referees – Alan Camilleri, William Debattista, Christopher Francalanza, Mitchell Scerri, Edward Spiteri and Ingmar Spiteri as FIFA Assistant Referees – Franco Cachia as FIFA Futsal Referee – and Stefan Pace and Jude Amin Utulu as FIFA Beach Soccer Referees.
Director of Refereeing Adrian Casha said that 2013 was an important year for the refereeing sector with an increase in the number of FIFA and UEFA appointments. Kevin Azzopardi, Marco Borg, Clayton Pisani and Alan Mario Sant were given seventeen appointments compared to twelve in 2012.
Esther Azzopardi continued to establish herself as one of the leading female referees and was appointed for the Women’s EURO last July in Sweden. Mitchell Scerri was one of eight assistant referees in the UEFA Under-19 Championships in Lithuania. Franco Cachia retained his First Category status for Futsal referees while in Beach Soccer, Jude Amin Utulu received an appointment in the Euro Cup Winners Cup in Italy last April.
Thanks to the hard work of the Refereeing Department, Marco Borg controlled two full internationals between Italy and San Marino, Poland and Slovakia while Clayton Pisani controlled Cyprus vs Czech Republic at Under-21 level. Referees’ exchange programmes continued with Wales, Latvia and Ireland while new programmes were established with the Netherlands, Andorra, Finland and San Marino.
Fyodor Zammit, Luke Portelli and Emanuel Grech successfully completed an intensive course and obtained a diploma at the Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) at the UEFA Headquarters in Nyon while Alan Mario Sant and Mitchell Scerri were selected for the first advanced course at the same centre. Adrian D. Casha was one of the CORE instructors and put in charge of referees from Moldova and Ireland.
In collaboration with the MFRA, a training camp/seminar led by FIFA Instructor Steve Bennett was held in Hungary for Elite Category and Category 1 referees together with referee observers. A FIFA seminar for futsal referees, led by FIFA Instructor Perry Gautier was held in September while Alan Snoddy was the main guest for a seminar for category 2, 3 and 4 referees which was held at Savio College.
The Refereeing Department headquarters within the Centenary Stadium now hosts seminars, courses, meetings and other events for the various referees including those in the Referees’ Academy.
Following an agreement with the Dutch FA, this sent two instructors, one for a workshop for Assistant Referees and another for Additional Assistant Referees. Local referees were given the opportunity to control matches in an international youth tournament in Den Haag.
The introduction of the Additional Assistant Referees was another step forward as Malta was one of the first countries to implement this. New kits were provided for international referees and those in the Elite Category. Specialised training is being provided to assistant referees.
The first Referees’ Academy and Talent & Mentor Programme – both based on two years – were completed and new courses started in order to make up for the lack of referees.
There was an investment in the communication equipment for Premier League and now for First Division matches. Polar watches were bought for all Premier League referees and international assistant referees. More watches will be provided to the other assistant referees in the Premier League and to the referees in the Talent & Mentor Programme
In collaboration with the MFRA, referees were provided with new Adidas kits and training apparel as FXDD extended their sponsorship in agreement with TeamSport.
UEFA Refereeing Officer, Hugh Dallas, who visited Malta in November had words of praise for the work of the Refereeing Department, saying “the model currently in place can be used as a shining example for other National Associations within UEFA.”
Apart from the presentation of the FIFA badges, Kevin Azzopardi and Mariano Debono were both presented with a memento for the services rendered.
Photo: Copyright © domenic aquilina