Europe's international women's referees have been in Nyon for their latest UEFA course and they offered evidence that the standard of women's refereeing is improving in line with the technical, tactical and infrastructure developments that now make women's football a force to be reckoned with.
A total of 32 referees attended the course, which featured members of the UEFA elite and elite development categories, in addition to new international referees. The course agenda included practical and fitness sessions, with UEFA Referees Committee members on hand to give expert advice on, among other things, positioning and movement, handball, offside, free-kick management and injury prevention.
The women referees also looked at events at last week's UEFA Europa League final from a refereeing point of view, while the new international referees were given an insight into their duties as a European match official by the UEFA administration.
Dagmar Damková, the former international women's referee from the Czech Republic, is a member of the UEFA Referees Committee and was in Nyon together with committee colleague Bo Karlsson to observe the progress being made by the European women's match officials.
"It's very important for the referees to meet, and also to meet the Referees Committee members, to receive instructions and to achieve uniformity in decision-making," she told UEFA.com. "For the new referees, it is a new step in their lives – they feel that being here gives them extra motivation.
"The elite and new referees were together for some of the presentations, so they can discuss things together – the new referees can learn from the elite referees and ask questions. We also cover the same topics as the men's referees, as there is one football with the same rules for everybody."
Video clips helped the referees to identify areas for further improvement, and the analysis of the UEFA Europa League final between Club Atlético de Madrid and Athletic Club in Bucharest was a welcome element of the activities. "We don't want the referees just to think about their own marks," Damková explained. "We want them to go deeper and see the game as observers, to see the match through different eyes and think about things more."
Damková, an international referee since 1999, took charge of the 2011 UEFA Women’s Champions League final between Olympique Lyonnais and 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam in London, and earned a distinguished reputation for her qualities as a match official. She feels that her role gives her an invaluable chance to hand down her own international experience to her colleagues.
"I enjoy this – I had 16 or 17 years, and got somewhere [as a referee]," she said. "It's good to be able to share with the referees. And, at this course, it has been noticeable how the women referees want to discuss things and learn."
Women's refereeing has evolved and flourished in tandem with the women's game. "Nowadays, you really have to prepare for the games," Damková reflects, "because tactics are now involved, and you have to analyse the top matches – EUROs, World Cups – because there are special moves for corner-kicks, for example, and this is something that you have to be ready for. Fitness levels have also increased a lot. Women's football is faster now – the players train more, so referees have to train more."
Women referees are now considered good enough to referee high-level men's matches, and Damková herself has taken charge of men's matches in the Czech league. "You have to earn the respect of the players – and once you get this respect, you feel it strongly," she emphasises.
What advice would she give to a girl who is thinking of taking up refereeing? "
I think first of all, you should find a mentor, somebody who helps you and is there in hard times. You should have someone who supports you and is honest with you, so you learn from your mistakes. You must be humble, but you must work hard and be confident."
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