Refereeing

Refereeing must develop constantly to meet the demands of the modern-day game, and UEFA's refereeing activities have kept pace.

The EURO 2016 referees
The EURO 2016 referees ©Sportsfile

Overview

Refereeing at the highest level must develop constantly, to keep in tune with the demands of the modern-day high-pace game.

The speed and movement of today's top-level football, allied to the intense media focus on the action on the field, means that match officials must be well-prepared, highly-trained athletes who also have tactical acumen, the mental strength to withstand pressure and the ability to take split-second decisions with confidence and consistency.

UEFA's refereeing activities have kept pace with the demands placed on the men and women in the middle. In conjunction with its 55 member associations, UEFA takes great care in nurturing and promoting the European refereeing sector – fostering the elite and up-and-coming referees, and ensuring that newcomers to the UEFA list are given the proper instructions and advice for their duties.

The UEFA Women's EURO 2017 referees and fourth officials
The UEFA Women's EURO 2017 referees and fourth officials©Sportsfile

The UEFA Referees Committee, aided by the UEFA refereeing unit at the body's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, deals with all matters concerning refereeing. The committee members are experienced former international referees themselves, who pass on a wealth of advice and experience to the next generation who are following in their path. Former Italian referee Roberto Rosetti is UEFA's chief refereeing officer.

UEFA holds two major referee gatherings each year – the UEFA winter courses at the end of January for newcomers to the FIFA international list and the elite European match officials, and an August event to herald the new season. The courses feature, among other things, fitness tests, analysis of match situations to help referees in the constant search for improvement and consistency in decision-making, and exchanges of experiences and ideas among the refereeing fraternity. In 2013, the leading women referees were also invited to UEFA's referee courses for the first time. UEFA also holds courses and workshops for assistant referees and futsal referees to help them in their specialised role.

Training at the UEFA summer gathering in August 2016
Training at the UEFA summer gathering in August 2016©Getty Images

Fitness training and preparation are prime components of the modern referee's day-to-day programme, and a dedicated team led by Belgian expert Werner Helsen is on hand at all times to advise the referees on fitness issues and dietary matters, as well as to run and supervise the training sessions at UEFA courses.

Referee observers, all experienced former referees, travel throughout Europe to assess the referees. They attend UEFA matches at all levels to watch the match referees, mark their performance and act as crucial advisors to them after the game in discussing incidents and decisions taken.

The UEFA Convention on Referee Education and Organisation, which now has 55 associations as full members, aims to enhance referee education, promoting the role of the referee and improving refereeing structures and development within Europe.

Discussions between referees are a key element of UEFA sessions
Discussions between referees are a key element of UEFA sessions©UEFA.com

UEFA's fostering of young match officials has borne impressive fruit. Many of the top referees have risen to the summit of the profession after being given guidance through the UEFA talents and mentors programme, where a group of up-and-coming referees were fostered by experienced mentors, themselves seasoned former international referees. 

From summer 2010, young European match officials have been given further invaluable support through the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE). The central objective is to develop the technical skills and fitness of promising young referees and assistant referees who show the potential to become future international match officials. Promising women referees are also now part of the CORE activities.

Documents
General terms and conditions for referees (2014 edition)
UEFA Convention on Referee Education and Organisation – Edition 2012

Video Assistant Referees

The Video Assistant Referee system (VAR) was introduced into UEFA competitions in 2019 following extensive testing and training of referees.

Background and timeline
On 3 March 2018, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) decided to allow the use of VAR in football following a two-year period of "live experiments with video assistance for clear errors in match-changing situations". IFAB also made various amendments to the laws of the game 2018/19 required to ensure they reflect the use of VAR where applied, including the introduction of the VAR protocol of the laws.

At their meeting on 27 September 2019, the UEFA Executive Committee decided that VAR would be introduced to UEFA competitions from the start of the 2019/20 season. Following an autumn of testing and training, that start date was then brought forward to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 (February–March 2019) at the December meeting of the Executive Committee.

VAR explained: the four match-changing situations
VAR explained: the four match-changing situations

Training
Following the September announcement, courses with the referees took place in Zeist (Royal Netherlands Football Association HQ), Madrid, Istanbul, Lisbon and Malaga. The courses catered for referees with VAR experience as well as male and female officials new to VAR. Meanwhile, background testing of the operational and technological aspects took place at national team and club matches.

Operational set-up
In principle, there is a video assistant referee, an assistant video assistant referee and two video operators on site at all UEFA games where VAR is being utilised. When the VAR team is in place, there is no AAR (additional assistant referee).

How it works
The VAR team at the stadium will constantly check for clear and obvious errors related to the following four match-changing situations:

1) goals
2) incidents in the penalty area
3) red cards
4) mistaken identity

Find out which competitions VAR will be used in
Find out which competitions VAR will be used in
  • The VAR team will check all match-changing situations, but will only intervene for clear and obvious mistakes. The referee can hold up play while a decision is being reviewed. 
  • If the VAR review provides clear evidence for a serious mistake in one of the game-changing situations, the VAR can then ask the referee to conduct an on-field review. The final decision can only be taken by the referee. 
  • The VAR is also able to take into account any infringement that could have taken place in the immediate build-up to the incident (the attacking phase of play).
  • For 'factual' decisions (e.g. offsides, fouls in or outside the penalty area), the VAR can simply inform the referee of those facts and the on-field view screen isn't needed, but it is always the referee who takes the final decision.
  • The on-field review process will be communicated within the stadium using either the stadium screens or the public announcement system.

Key documentation
IFAB protocol 
Programme insert for UEFA Champions League clubs

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