Wednesday 29 May 2013
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This year's Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong will not just be about the action on the pitch as a series of programmes aimed at helping grow the game at grassroots level in the region will also be taking place.
Premier Skills is the Premier League's lead international project which operates in 20 countries around the world. In partnership with the British Council, Premier Skills involves UK coaches visiting countries such as China, Botswana and India to train community-level coaches and referees.
During the Barclays Asia Trophy, coaches from the three participating Premier League clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Sunderland, will be fronting a five-day coaching programme for 48 coaches from Hong Kong and South China while Premier League referees Anthony Taylor and Neil Swarbrick will lead a three-day Premier Skills referee clinic for 30 Hong-Kong based amateur officials.
Since it started in 2010, Premier Skills Referee Development has trained 273 referees at grassroots levels in 14 countries across Africa, Asia and Central America.
The first phase of the course is designed to enable participants to develop their basic refereeing skills for when they return to their communities, the second phase aims to get the participants to use the knowledge they have gained in the field, and translating them into match situations.
To give a flavour of what will be on offer in Hong Kong, former Premier League referee and now Professional Games Match Officials coach Alan Wiley describes what happened when he travelled to Kuala Lumpur recently with PGMOL training manager Ray Olivier to work on a pilot of the second phase of the Premier Skills Referee Development course.
The course took place at the Garden International School in the Bukit Kiara area of Kuala Lumpur with 19 students between the ages of 18 and 48 participating. They are a mixture of regular referees, students who attended the Phase 1 course and others who are coaches and want to learn aspects of refereeing to enhance their knowledge for when they take charge of matches.
We started off by hosting a fun University Challenge-style laws-of-the-game quiz, then followed with a presentation on recognising unfair challenges. We looked at Law 12, which governs fouls and misconduct, and discussed various challenges and their severity. The participants were given four different coloured cards – green (no foul), blue (free kick), yellow and red – and as they were shown a series of match incidents, they had to hold up a card according to what sanction they felt appropriate.
At the beginning of the exercise, all four colour cards were being held up for the same incident but by the end, and after working through the definitions of careless, reckless and serious foul play challenges, all the participants were showing the same cards.
The second day was about introducing the students to the fitness training that Premier League referees carry out and not even the tropical rainstorm that descended on us during the session could dampen their enthusiasm. We gave the students training on being an assistant referee, focusing on how to move correctly along the touchline, signalling and offside judgment.
After a short time the participants grasped how to move and how to keep their view infield and eventually all the students were signalling in the right manner.
There was also a marked improvement in the number of accurate offside calls by the end of the session. At the beginning of the exercise there were many wrong judgements but with tuition and encouragement to raise their confidence, by the end the vast majority of offside judgements were being called correctly.
We went back into the classroom for a presentation on free-kick management with Ray and I talking about the process that a referee goes through to control every aspect of the set-piece, such as measuring where the defensive wall should be. We returned to the pitch afterwards for a practical session to put their skills to the test. The students were asked to stride out 9.15m and at the beginning there was a difference of 6m between the shortest and longest! But with practice and encouragement, that figure was greatly reduced to less than a metre by the end of the session.
After reflecting on the knowledge gained on day two, the final day continued with a presentation on simulation. The participants were shown a video highlighting different examples of incidents when there was no contact between players, where the forward had initiated the contact with the defender, where the forward had exaggerated the contact with the defender and where it was very difficult to make a decision.
The students were given another flavour of the fitness work undertaken by match officials with this session concentrating on speed and agility. The exercises included running round a left curve, then a right curve, sprints over 10-30 metres, fast footwork through a rope ladder and jumping with over low hurdles spaced close together. This was to show the participants that the movement of a referee is seldom in a straight line and often requires fast speed over short distances.
We stayed out on the pitch for a practical session on penalty kick management, covering the law in relation to the position and movement of the goalkeeper, the kicker and all the other players remaining outside the penalty area.
After lunch, a classroom presentation followed on referee positioning in open play before we discussed the subjective topic of handball. The participants were asked to come up with what they thought should be the criteria for handball and they mentioned every aspect, namely the proximity of the player, the speed of the ball, the distance between the two players involved and whether it was deliberate or not.
It was then time to put their new-found referee knowledge to the test as we returned to the pitch to play a short-sided match with three of the participants selected as the match officials. The students rotated so that everyone had a chance of being an official.
The consensus reached was that it was not as easy as it looks, but they enjoyed doing it, which was very important. While the game was in progress, Ray and I shadowed the assistant referees and the referee to help them in their movement and decision-making.