Europe's top referees travel to Turkey this week for the annual UEFA winter courses – with preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 and the knockout stages of UEFA's club competitions the focal point, as well as introducing international newcomers to their responsibilities at European level.
UEFA has decided to hold the 20th UEFA Advanced Course for Top Referees and 21st UEFA Introductory Course for International Referees in the Mediterranean city of Antalya. Winter courses previously took place there in 2001.
Europe's football governing body organises two main referee courses a year: a summer gathering where match officials are primed for the new season and given specific instructions for club and national-team duties, and a winter get-together designed to guide the referees into the second half of the campaign.
The winter introductory course serves to welcome new international referees to the tasks ahead. FIFA's list of European international referees this year features 43 new names who are representing 28 European national associations, and the introductory course will be their first official experience of the international circuit. Twenty-four of the newcomers have already attended courses at the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) in Nyon, which is preparing promising young officials for the future.
"Their preparation for officiating at UEFA matches will start here," said UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina. "Their first appointments as international referees will include youth mini-tournaments or the qualification rounds of the UEFA Europa League or UEFA Champions League."
The FIFA novices undertake an extensive medical check-up and take the FIFA fitness test. For the first time, they will have their visual abilities tested by specialised sports optometrists. With referees needing to maintain focus and concentration amid the high pace of the modern elite game, it is essential that they are able to fix their vision on incidents, focus on close or moving objects and react to movement around them.
The newcomers will also receive various instructions from the UEFA administration on matters such as writing reports and how to conduct themselves as UEFA representatives at matches. With English the common UEFA refereeing language, members of the UEFA Referees Committee will interview the match officials to evaluate their working knowledge of English.
Furthermore, the introductory course will contain presentations by Referees Committee members and video sessions analysing specially prepared footage from UEFA games over the past year. Participants will also learn about specific training sessions, including exercises relevant to their movement during a match.
For the advanced course, UEFA has invited the 22 elite category referees and 17 elite development category referees, plus a small selection of first category referees. In addition, five Turkish FIFA referees who are not members of these categories have been invited, to bring the total of delegates to 56.
Among this number are the 12 match officials chosen by the Referees Committee in December to take charge of games at UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine this summer, as well as others who will be present at the tournament as additional assistant referees and fourth officials.
"Basically, the referees selected will follow the normal preparation that UEFA has for the elite referees," Collina explained to UEFA.com after the EURO appointments were announced. This means that the winter course in Antalya will be followed by the referees resuming their UEFA competition duties in mid-February. The EURO officials will then attend a workshop in Warsaw at the end of April and beginning of May, and will also be given specific preparation by UEFA's expert team under the leadership of referee fitness expert Werner Helsen.
Referees in the advanced group will have to pass an intermittent recovery fitness check, and will get instructions from Referees Committee members concerning their assignments in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League knockout stages, in particular with a view to achieving consistency and uniformity in decision-making.
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