UEFA's Centre of Refereeing Excellence training programme for young referees has reached two notable landmarks – its 500th referee/assistant referee participant and 100th coach.
Since its launch in September 2010, the UEFA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) in Nyon has proved its immense value by training and preparing the male and female referees of the future. Now the CORE programme has reached two notable milestones at its latest session – the 500th referee/assistant referee participant, and the 100th coach.
Young Spanish referee Iñaki Vicandi Garrido is the proud owner of the 'Mr 500' tag, while coach Rune Pedersen – a former leading match official from Norway who took charge of games at the 1998 FIFA World Cup as well as in the UEFA Champions League – is the distinguished 'century-maker'.
In every two-year cycle, national associations are invited to send to CORE a referee and two assistant referees who show potential to become FIFA officials. Under the leadership of former top-level referee David Elleray, a member of the UEFA Referees Committee, all CORE courses comprise a ten-day introductory session followed by an eight-day consolidation course a few months afterwards. In particular, the officials are given the opportunity to officiate at matches in Switzerland and France and gather crucial experience.
Each CORE course involves eight referee trios who work closely with four referee coaches, two assistant referee coaches and two fitness coaches. The Introductory segment focuses on learning, while the subsequent Consolidation course looks at the progress made and targets achieved by the officials in their refereeing, fitness and English. The referees are in regular contact with their coaches between the Introductory and Consolidation courses.
"We're particularly happy that we've achieved these milestones," Elleray told UEFA.com. "It means we've reached every country within UEFA, most of them three or four times, as well as some countries outside UEFA. Different coaches come for each course, but we have a group who come regularly; a crucial part of the CORE programme is about developing coaches."
Almost 200 match officials who have attended the CORE programme have reached the FIFA international list. "Through CORE, they are much better prepared," Elleray said. "They progress more quickly and their early matches are much more successful because they understand what is necessary for them to succeed. They have a better knowledge of the requirements for international football."
Pedersen is an experienced UEFA mentor to the young referees. "We have detailed discussions with the referees, we see them train and watch their matches, and we help them set targets – then we come back in October and see what progress they have made," he explained. "CORE courses give us time to work with the referees and share all of the challenges they have. Hopefully we can give them the things that we have learned ourselves as referees.
"Developing a referee nowadays is very different to the past," Pedersen added. "The young referees are very fit and very willing to learn. The CORE philosophy and structure have been adopted by many national associations. We see that referees are now more prepared for the international scene."
Iñaki Vicandi Garrido, who is 28, comes from Bilbao. He began refereeing at the age of 13, saying: "While other boys at school wanted to play matches, I wanted to referee them." He was promoted to the national categories at 18 and has now graduated to the Spanish second division.
"It's a really big challenge and also carries responsibility," he says of his visit to the CORE course. "I'm representing my country here, as well as UEFA. I'll do my best – I realise that I'm lucky to be here so I want to make the most of the course.
"I'm learning a lot from the coaches and from David [Elleray]," Vicandi Garrido added. "I'm very much looking forward to refereeing in Switzerland and I'll try to use the skills that I've learned in Spain, and start to use what I'm learning from the CORE course, which will certainly help to make me a better referee."
Elleray talks of the special bond between CORE referees. "What we're now finding at mini-tournaments and other tournaments is that when CORE referees meet, even if they weren't on the same course, they feel part of a special family," he said. "Referee observers say they can tell who has been a CORE referee or assistant through their professional preparation." Genuine proof of quality – and further milestones will follow in the future for a UEFA refereeing programme that is going from strength to strength.