Thursday 07 March 2013
Five of the most promising match officials in Asia have praised the professionalism of Barclays Premier League referees after coming to England to watch their counterparts' work at close hand.
The officials, from China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Uzbekistan met and trained with the Select Group of referees from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited at St George's Park as part of a knowledge-sharing programme that began in 2010.
The Asian referees also went to three matches, and sat in as the referees were debriefed with DVD analysis afterwards, as well as listening to a presentation given by 2010 Fifa World Cup final referee Howard Webb.
The aim of the trip was to assist the development of the officials as they receive guidance, advice and methods that they can take to enhance their refereeing back home.
"This week has been very helpful and it’s fantastic to learn more"
"It's a great honour to be here," Chinese referee Shen Yinhao told premierleague.com. "In our time here we learned a lot.
"There is very strong body language and very good communication with the players. Not only did we see the referee during the match but we also saw him warming up and cooling down afterwards. The teamwork is very, very good.
"There is a big difference in the matches compared to China, the match standard, the speed, tactics and there is higher intensity. The referee needs to prepare every time.
"The biggest thing I have learnt is about the attitude of the referees, about how they approach the game. This week has been very helpful and it’s fantastic to learn more."
Yusuke Araki, from Japan, was impressed with the back-up support, such as ProZone data, DVD analysis and fitness coaching, the referees receive and was also struck with how the officiating is much more than simply knowing the rules.
"The referee knows not only the game, they know the football culture, the traditions, the teams and their tactics," said Araki. "We must know more history and the culture and the tradition of football in Japan."
The Premier League plays an active role in helping to develop refereeing standards across the world with knowledge transfer initiatives already in place with associations in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
This scheme, however, benefits a whole confederation and it plays key role in the development of officials from Project Future, a course unique to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), where talented referees are given an intense two-year education programme.
The link between the Premier League and the AFC began in 2009 after a meeting between Premier League Chairman Sir Dave Richards and former Head of Refereeing at FIFA George Cumming, who is now a senior consultant at the AFC.
"You can't develop the game on the field... if you don’t develop the referees as well"
"The idea of this trip is to give the referees a taste of something different," said Cumming. "This is a very important part of their development because it widens their refereeing and football horizons. They have had a chance to soak up English football. It’s an extension of their experience.
"It's great that the Premier League is doing this and the referees are very welcoming. In October this link-up became a two-way thing when three of the development group from the PGMOL came to Kuala Lumpur for a week to work with these guys.
"The Premier League is global and the fact that there is a link with Asia at this level is very important. The relationship has been very beneficial."
Cumming added that the Project Future initiative and visits to other countries such as the one to England has a positive knock-on effect on the game in Asia.
"You can't develop the game on the field as far as coaching and players are concerned if you don’t develop the referees as well," he said. "You can't have one falling below the other.
"It's essential what referees do off the field as well as on it. There has got to be a bigger package than just a guy who can blow for a free kick. They have got to be able to conduct themselves properly off the field, they are ambassadors. The training of the whole package is important and that’s what we try to do."