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Saturday 27 July 2013

Hong Kong grassroots officials gain PGMOL expertise

Anthony Taylor among FIFA referees at knowledge transfer workshops to help Asian match officials

  • Attendees give their verdict on the severity of a foul at the Referees Conference

  • PGMOL General Manager Mike Riley gives a presentation at Olympic House

  • FIFA referee Anthony Taylor shares a joke with a grassroots match official

  • Match official Neil Swarbrick offers his advice during the knowledge transfer conference

  • Asian referees got to see the Barclays Premier League and the Barclays Asia and Trophies

During the week of the 2013 Barclays Asia Trophy, the Premier League and the Professional Game Match Officials Limited [PGMOL], the organisation that manages referees in England, have been working hard to help their counterparts not only in Hong Kong but also beyond in Asia develop the skills closer to the high standards set by the officials in the Barclays Premier League.

"The Barclays Asia Trophy has been a great opportunity for the PGMOL to help the AFC to deliver some of its objectives"
Mike Riley

Over the course of the week, PGMOL referees Anthony Taylor and Neil Swarbrick, who have also been officiating in the 2013 Barclays Asia Trophy matches, have given coaching sessions to grassroots officials in Hong Kong.

This process of knowledge transfer culminated on 26 July in two events that were aimed not only at Asian referees but those who manage them, too. In the afternoon, a workshop was hosted in Hong Kong by Mike Riley, the General Manager of the PGMOL, with representatives from all across the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

"One of the key objectives for the AFC over the next five years is to work with referee managers to get the organisational structure in place in each country that provides the best opportunity for referee development," Riley said. "So, the Barclays Asia Trophy has been a great opportunity for the PGMOL to help the AFC to deliver some of its objectives.

"This work with the AFC during the Barclays Asia Trophy has been built on the foundation of the work we have been doing with the AFC over the past five years, to develop refereeing standards in Asia, and in England, through knowledge transfer with our referees going over to officiate in Asia and theirs coming over to England."

Two key areas

During the workshop there were two key areas of discussion, the protection of referees and, related to this, the retention of match officials in each country. In many Asian countries, referees are not well remunerated or can be amateur and so having to work in an environment where they are consistently questioned by players, managers and media can hinder keeping them and so advancing them to higher levels of development.

"At the workshop we learnt about how we can use an incentives system to keep referees on board"
Charles Cheung

"At the workshop we learnt about how we can use an incentives system to keep referees on board," Charles Cheung, the head of referees at the Hong Kong FA said. "We suffer referees dropping out because we don't have a good incentive system.

"All our referees are amateur, so if in games they are challenged by players it is not a good experience for them. If they cannot get to a higher position as a referee, some may decide to quit. So we learnt about setting targets for them giving them positive objectives."

For Nazeer Hussain, of the Singapore FA, another organisation with limited resources, what he learnt about retaining referees was especially useful. "Hearing the opinions of others allowed me to bring back to Singapore a lot of helpful information such as the idea of giving awards to referees to recognise their achievements, reviewing allowances and creating a better career path for referees," he said.

The senior officials also discussed how increasing the dialogue that referees and their organisations have with players, managers and the media can help to ease the pressure that officials in Asia face.

Better communication

Yoshimi Ogawa, a director at the Referees Department of the AFC, said in his native Japan, where he officiated, the concept of referees communicating with players and managers had been traditionally discouraged. However, at the workshop, the referee managers were told how increasing the communication can make the referees' task easier.

"If we can communicate better the situation for referees, the managers and players will understand better why decisions are made."
Yoshimi Ogawa

"In Japan, the media have 'criticised' referees for their decisions and they have not had the chance to defend themselves," Ogawa said. "We learnt about how referee departments should seek to defend their members through the media without being negative. We learnt from Mike that the more people are involved with the referees, such as the players' unions and managers' associations, and improving the dialogue with them, the better.

"If we can communicate better the situation for referees, the managers and players will understand better why decisions are made."

The second part of the knowledge transfer involved a conference in the evening at Olympic House, next to Hong Kong Stadium, where the Barclays Asia Trophy matches are being held. Taylor and Swarbrick spoke to more than 140 referees of varying levels of development, mainly from Hong Kong but from other Asian nations, too.

Among the attendees were grassroots referees who had been taught by the two PGMOL refs during the week under the Premier Skills programme, which is run by the Premier League and the British Council.

Earning respect

The attendees learnt about how to define the severity of challenges. Watching videos of fouls from past Barclays Premier League matches the delegates showed yellow or red cards handed out to them according to how they interpreted the challenge. Other topics presented included interpretations of handball and player management.

"The best way to gain respect is to stop problems happening before they occur"
Anthony Taylor

"The best way to gain respect is to stop problems happening before they occur," Taylor told the delegates. "This can be achieved through body language, use of the whistle, and different approaches of dealing with players."

There was a lot of debate between the speakers and delegates over how to manage players, with Swarbrick showing a stepped approach to seeking to control a player who was consistently falling foul of the Laws of the Game. For some of the administrators to see Gardner and Swarbrick get their message across clearly and in an interesting manner to the audience was innovative.

"The demonstration of having the top referees interacting with younger or upcoming counterparts was very interesting for me," Gautam Kar, head of the referees department at the Indian FA, said. "Anthony and Neil were as good as any instructors in our region in their preparation and how they shared the knowledge. In India only once a referee has finished do we begin to train them as instructors. So it was wonderful to see officials in their prime having that ability to teach already."

Riley hopes that the activities in Hong Kong will have positive long-term benefits for referees, not only in Asia but back in England. He says that despite the different cultures and languages, referees across the world face the same challenges and such co-operation that took place in Hong Kong can only help to improve how they meet them.

"It was fascinating during the workshop to find that all the things we discussed were common, but we all had slightly different approaches and levels of resources to deal with them," Riley said. "So the meeting helped to build these ideas and build a network going forward so that we can take the strength of each organisation, add them to what we do and hopefully we will all develop together."

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Key Points

  • Professional Game Match Officials Limited hold coaching sessions for grassroots officials in Hong Kong
  • PGMOL General Manager Mike Riley and match officials Anthony Taylor and Neil Swarbrick engage in knowledge transfer workshops
  • Conference also held at Olympic House, Hong Kong, attended by 140 referees from Hong Kong and other Asian nations