UEFA Women's EURO 2013 is just around the corner – and the tournament referees and assistants have been at UEFA this week to receive last-minute instructions and recommendations, and fine-tune their preparations for the finals in Sweden between 10 and 28 July.
The preparatory workshop involved the eight referees, 12 assistants, three fourth officials, one reserve referee and two reserve assistant referees who have been working intensely for duty at European women's football's blue-riband national-team event. Practical workshops and fitness work were on the menu at the House of European Football in Nyon.
Women's football continues to develop apace, both in technical and tactical terms, and women match officials have been benefiting from UEFA's professional and dedicated approach towards helping them in their progress. Earlier this year, the European body sent a clear signal about the importance of women's refereeing by inviting top female referees to join their male counterparts at the UEFA winter refereeing course in Rome.
UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina and UEFA Referees Committee members Bo Karlsson and Dagmar Damkova – the latter a former leading referee herself – were present in Nyon to give the match officials advice and recommendations, as well as experienced encouragement to stand them in good stead at the final round.
"This is the last time the referees will meet before the EURO," Damkova told UEFA.com, "and this is the right time to give instructions, review topics we have already addressed and remind the referees about issues such as consistency. The workshop has also helped to motivate and refresh them for the job ahead. We are showing them that we are here for them."
This week's workshop looked at many of the elements that the referees and assistants will need to be alert to and follow, to ensure high-quality performances in Sweden. These include changes to the Laws of the Game regarding offside, handball-related decisions, control and awareness of what is happening on the field, and the crucial teamwork and communication between referees and their assistants.
"The biggest issue nowadays is offside. This will be the first event after the changes have come into force – it will be the first test for the girls," Damkova explained. "Handball is also a crucial topic and has been for a long while, as there can be different opinions about each situation. We are showing them the things they need to take into consideration and which must influence their final decisions."
In addition, the delegates undertook fitness training at the Colovray Stadium opposite UEFA's headquarters, supervised by the UEFA referee fitness and training team led by Belgian expert Werner Helsen. The referees and assistants were also weighed during the workshop – another indicator of just how seriously UEFA is preparing its women match officials for life at the elite level.
"Demands are getting higher and higher," said Damkova, "because nowadays the referees are not just match officials, but athletes as well. Nowadays they almost need the same care as football players."
The female referees have welcomed UEFA's attention and approach as a vital step forward. "The UEFA Referees Committee wants to show that we care about women's referees," Damkova emphasised, "and we must not divide men's and women's refereeing, because areas such as offside and handball are the same for both. So the instructions are the same. Both the men's and women's referees appreciated the UEFA course in Rome because they were able to share ideas and experiences."
Damkova gave words of encouragement to the referees and assistants as they now look towards July. "They will be working as a team on and off the pitch, in the hotel and at training sessions," she said. "They must trust in their knowledge and ability, and believe they can do it. They are at the top level, they must be self-confident – but they must not forget to enjoy the experience as well."
Kirsi Heikkinen (FIN) 26/09/1978
Bibiana Steinhaus (GER) 24/03/1979
Katalin Kulcsár (HUN) 07/12/1984
Silvia Spinelli (ITA) 29/10/1970
Teodora Albon (ROU) 02/12/1977
Cristina Dorcioman (ROU) 07/08/1974
Jenny Palmqvist (SWE) 02/11/1969
Esther Staubli (SUI) 03/10/1979
Kateryna Monzul (UKR) 05/07/1981
Lucie Ratajova (CZE) 02/12/1979
Sian Massey (ENG) 05/10/1985
Tonja Paavola (FIN) 25/03/1977
Marina Wozniak (GER) 07/09/1979
Judit Kulcsár (HUN) 27/04/1980
Romina Santuari (ITA) 14/03/1974
Hege Steinlund (NOR) 23/12/1969
Petruta Iugulescu (ROU) 20/09/1979
Maria Súkeníková (SVK) 16/11/1975
Maria Luisa Villa Gutiérrez (ESP) 14/05/1973
Helen Karo (SWE) 01/11/1974
Natalia Rachynska (UKR) 14/08/1970
Carina Vitulano (ITA) 22/07/1975
Esther Azzopardi Farrugia (MLT) 12/12/1981
Monika Mularczyk (POL) 28/06/1980
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