Europe's top referees travel to Rome this week for the annual UEFA winter courses – with preparations for the knockout stages of UEFA's club competitions on the agenda, as well as introducing international newcomers to their responsibilities at European level. For the first time, elite women's referees have been invited ahead of UEFA Women's EURO 2013 this summer.
European football's governing body organises two main referee events a year: a summer gathering, in which match officials are briefed for the new season and given specific instructions for club and national team duties, and a winter get-together designed to guide the referees into the second half of the campaign.
The 21st UEFA Advanced Course for Top Referees and 22nd UEFA Introductory Course for International Referees include an interesting innovation. "For the first time ever, women and men will be sharing technical and practical sessions," said UEFA's chief referee officer Pierluigi Collina in his welcome message to the courses. "I am particularly convinced that this is a good initiative, as women’s football, and therefore women's refereeing, is becoming more and more important."
A total of 29 different national associations will be represented by newcomers to the FIFA list for European international referees, with 45 new names attending the introductory course. "It will be their first experience at international level for most of them, although 17 have attended the CORE courses in Nyon, confirming its importance for refereeing development," said Collina. "This will be the starting point of their preparation for officiating at UEFA matches, and their first appointments as international referees will include youth mini-tournaments or the qualification rounds of the UEFA club competitions."
The new internationals will undertake an extensive medical check-up and a FIFA fitness test. The referees' understanding of English – UEFA's common refereeing language – will also be scrutinised. In technical sessions, the participants will attend presentations by UEFA Referees Committee members, and video sessions analysing specially prepared footage from UEFA matches over the past and present season.
For the advanced course running from Monday to Thursday, 22 male and 16 female elite category referees will take part. In addition, there will be 15 male and five female representatives from the elite development category, as well as 16 first category and three second category male referees. Among this number are nine women's referees who have been chosen to officiate at UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in Sweden this summer.
A selection of these top referees will go through an injury-prevention screening on the day of their arrival. "The UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League knockout stages are round the corner, and need to be prepared thoroughly, so [the referees] will also receive instructions from the UEFA Referees Committee members via the analysis of previous situations in matches," said Collina. "As usual, all the referees will undergo a very tight programme that will be very fruitful for their preparation."
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