In his editorial column in the latest edition of official UEFA publication UEFA•direct, the UEFA president Michel Platini speaks about the organsiation's efforts to nurture tomorrow's European referees through its new Centre of Refereeing Excellence.
"The best referees are the ones no one talks about." There is certainly some truth in this popular maxim, as clearly it is the players who should take centre stage, not the referee.
There is even more truth in the notion that "if you're good enough, you're old enough" and that a precocious talent, if carefully nurtured, has every chance of fulfilling its potential at the highest level. This is true of players, so why not referees?
Referees must be given every opportunity to do their jobs well. First, they should be given the best possible conditions in which to operate. The additional assistant referees experiment is being conducted with this in mind: it is designed to enable them to see more and better. But before all else, it is the quality of the referees themselves that counts, which is why we have launched the Centre of Refereeing Excellence in Nyon, which welcomed its first group of trainees this autumn.
Open to promising young referees from all UEFA member associations, it aims to give them additional training at an early stage of their careers, under the supervision of experienced instructors, in order to help them to develop their skills and, in the not-too-distant future, officiate in international matches, where it is hoped they will feel comfortable in an atmosphere they are already familiar with thanks to their training in Nyon.
This initiative complements the numerous measures already taken by UEFA and its member associations to improve the quality of refereeing and enable the 'men in black' to perform to the best of their abilities.
For in the end, there is one thing better than referees that no one talks about and that is referees that people talk positively about, with all the respect due to officials who, although they do not take centre stage, play an indispensable role on the pitch.
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