Friday 14 March 2014
The latest group of referees from Asia have been visiting England as part of a partnership between the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) to improve the standards of refereeing.
Visits from refereeing bodies and officials from across world to learn from PGMOL are a common occurrence. In March 2010 PGMOL's knowledge transfer programme extended to the AFC and their Project Future programme, a course unique to the AFC where talented referees are given an intense two-year education to turn them into top-class match officials.
"I was impressed by how professional they are on and off the pitch"
Each year five of the top Project Future graduates spend a week in England to get guidance, advice and methods from their Premier League counterparts. This year that honour fell to Chen Hsin-Chuan from Taiwan, Kim Woo-sung from Korea, Takuma Matsuda from Japan, Nayim Qosimov from Uzbekistan and Zaid Thamer from Iraq.
Upon arrival in England they first went to Anfield to witness the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Swansea City that ended 4-3 in the home team's favour. From there they went to St George's Park to join one of the fortnightly gatherings of the Select Group of referees that the PGMOL holds. At St George's they had a session in the classroom on player management, before moving to the field for a training session.
In the evening they joined Phil Dowd, the fourth official during the match at Anfield, to go through Prozone, the match analysis system used by the PGMOL. A scheduled 30-minute session stretched to the full 90 minutes as the Asian refs discussed in detail the various points, such as what constituted serious foul play and consistency in decision making during a 90-minute match.
On the second day they rejoined the Select Group referees for more training before meeting Howard Webb. Given that one of the aims of Project Future is to develop referees who can officiate at the FIFA World Cup, they received some invaluable advice from the man who refereed the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final.
As well as learning from the referees, another benefit of the visit, according to George Cumming, former FIFA Director of Refereeing and the man who led the development of Project Future, is for referees to see the professional approach the Premier League and the PGMOL take towards refereeing, its administration and management.
"One of the big things in any association is administration, continuity and lack of it, so coming to England means these refs get to see a professional approach to the game and it gives them ideas to take back and build into their game," Cumming said. "How the referees are assessed in England is very interesting for the Asian refs to see.
"In most countries referees are marked out of 10 or 100 but in England the PGMOL changed it to be done as a percentage of performance for correct decisions. This is a positive way of looking at things and helps the referees develop.
"Seeing the English approach gives them ideas to take back and build into their game"
For Chen, as well as pride at being able to meet Webb, his favourite referee, the most interesting thing he learnt from his English counterparts was about player management and he is keen to take it back to when he officiates in top-flight matches in Taiwan.
"I liked what we learnt from the Premier League referees about how to handle aggressive behaviour from players," Chen said. "It was good to see how they handle the situation and show cards.
"They showed us how to be calm and see the incident clearly and how to use communications with their assistants and the best use of body language. One day I want to be like Webb and referee in a World Cup."
With the help of the PGMOL that dream could become a reality.