The care given by UEFA to nurturing European match officials has been successfully extended to include up-and-coming women referees, who are now a new component within the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) programme which gives crucial guidance to officials at a key early stage of their career.
Eighteen young referees and assistants from 18 UEFA member associations came to Nyon for the inaugural CORE Women's Development course. They trained and learned, with expert coaching and refereeing assistance designed to help them move forward in their careers, and were also given the opportunity to take charge of matches in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands during their stay.
UEFA is integrating female referees into the CORE programme at a time when women's football is enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity. This month, Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge home stages the UEFA Women's Champions League final, and UEFA Women's EURO 2013 follows in Sweden in July.
While top-level European women referees – who have now joined their male counterparts at UEFA's courses – are getting ready for work on a major stage, the younger generation is gaining experience thanks to CORE, which seeks to raise refereeing standards within Europe's member associations, with a keen eye on tomorrow.
"We've had a very successful first CORE Women's Development course," said David Elleray, a former international referee from England and CORE senior course leader. "The referees have done well. They've found it demanding and challenging both physically and intellectually. There has been a lot of practical work, and [while here] they have taken charge of matches in Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.
"The referees are younger ones who are showing potential for the future, and others who have received good observer reports, and who we would like to see operating more intensely," added Elleray.
The CORE course is also tailored to motivate the referees to keep on improving. "I think they found the level of expectation at CORE stronger – the professional approach, the discipline, the routine," Elleray explained. "We've also changed mindsets, and made them aware of learning from mistakes – you have to admit mistakes before you can learn from them."
Elleray and fellow UEFA Referees Committee member Bo Karlsson were in excellent women's refereeing company at the course, as they were joined by the Czech Republic's Dagmar Damková – herself a Referees Committee member and a former international referee who handled the 2011 UEFA Women's Champions League final – and Sweden's Jenny Palmqvist, referee at last year's decider. Both were on hand to provide advice and help the young arbiters hoping to emulate them one day.
"I'm very happy about this course, because it's the first one for women, and this is a great opportunity for the referees," said Damková. "For most of them, this is something new because they don't do something like this in their country, where they prepare themselves. They will have heard recommendations that will be helpful for them, and it's up to them to [benefit]."
"I've been impressed with what I've seen," said Palmqvist. "The referees in the other categories will have to look out! These girls are hungry for success and they've proved here that they want to reach for the top. They have a great chance to be here early in their careers and find out what can, and will, happen. We hope the girls will make use of this chance."
The referees themselves have enjoyed the CORE experience immensely. "It's been great to be here," said Norway's Marte Soro "We have received a lot of advice on how to improve, and it's been nice to meet friends and colleagues from other countries. We have different things to teach each other and learn about, and situations to discuss, and these can only help us get better."
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