The successful UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) is embarking on its third season, which will run until August 2013, and is remaining true to its aim of developing the skills and fitness of potential European international referees of the future.
The CORE programme, which is managed at the Colovray Sports Centre opposite UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, began in 2010. To date, almost 300 referees and assistants have attended CORE courses, and more than 60 have already been promoted to the FIFA international lists.
As with any innovative scheme, CORE continues to evolve, and the third cycle is introducing two development courses for women referees and assistants who are already on the FIFA list, and whom the UEFA Referees Committee feels would benefit from a CORE course.
In addition, the Referees Committee has refined its Talent programme and under the CORE umbrella will organise two development courses for Category 2 and 3 male referees. The objective is always to raise refereeing standards within Europe's national associations – with a focus on the future.
"The CORE programme grew out of a feeling among the Referees Committee that referees were arriving at the international level, and not all had the required level of English or fitness that we expected – their early period was being wasted because they weren't prepared," Referees Committee member, CORE course leader and former international referee David Elleray told UEFA.com
"We felt we needed to prepare the young referees and assistant referees in every country at a better level. The idea is that we take people that national associations think have the potential to be FIFA officials within one to five years."
CORE courses involve two stages – Introductory and Consolidation. "In simple terms, we teach the referees on the first course, and we test them on the second course. In the Introductory course, they have major presentations on how UEFA expects matches to be controlled, how to deal with serious fouls, how to deal with confrontation, how to work as a team, and they learn about fitness and lifestyle.
"The referees have the opportunity to take English lessons between the two courses, and they do a lot of practical work – local clubs send us players, and we hold match situations which we film and analyse. And at the weekend, they referee a game in France or Switzerland, with two cameras deployed – one filming the referee and one filming each assistant for half of the game.
"At the end of the Introductory course, guided by the coaches, they set themselves various targets and objectives to work on, and they report to their referee coach and fitness coach at the end of every month. In the Consolidation course, we see what progress they have made in their refereeing, with their English, with their fitness, and at the end, they either receive a diploma or a certificate of attendance."
Coach education and development is another essential component of CORE's activities. Some 80 refereeing coaches from 47 national associations have worked on CORE courses and have had their coach and mentor skills refreshed and enhanced. The CORE philosophy and structure have proved to be of such quality that some member associations have adapted their referee talent and education programmes to work along similar lines.
UEFA has expressed its satisfaction with the progress being made by the referees and assistant referees from the first two seasons of the CORE programme, especially in terms of technical performances, fitness levels and knowledge of English – the common UEFA referees' language.
"What we're seeing is that it's raising the level of refereeing, fitness and English throughout the whole of UEFA," Elleray explained. "In simple terms, it's all about succession planning, identifying future potential talent, and supporting the UEFA referee convention, to improve the quality of refereeing, referee coaching and referee development in each country. As a result, those match officials who come through to UEFA will be better, and we can take the referees earlier and almost advance their progress."
David Elleray derives great pleasure from helping nurture the UEFA referees of tomorrow through the CORE initiative. "My whole life has been in education, so to some extent I've always been focused on trying to help young people realise their potential, to see it and achieve it," he reflected. "There's great satisfaction from helping people – suddenly the scales fall off their eyes, and people say that their whole attitude to life has been changed.
"We always say that the great thing will be when the first CORE referee takes charge of a UEFA Champions League game – and so many referees keep in contact and say what an amazing experience CORE has been."
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