The two finalists have been decided and with the 2012 UEFA European Under-17 Championship reaching an exciting climax, the hard work undertaken by the match officials off the pitch in Slovenia can get overlooked. All European final tournaments have UEFA Referees Committee members present, to not only ensure that the less experienced referees at the tournament get the advice and development they need, but also to inform the teams about exactly what match officials are looking for come the day of a game. UEFA.com spoke to UEFA Referees Committee members Vladimir Sajn (SVN) and Kyros Vassaras (GRE).
- Could you tell us your role in Slovenia?
- Sajn: Our role is to explain the UEFA guidelines to the young referees. Here we have mostly referees with just one or two years of international experience, so we are here to help them with the guidelines in order to achieve as much consistency and uniformity in these tournaments as possible. We are here also to support them in any other aspect they need.
- Have you seen a benefit from your presence at these tournaments?
- Sajn: Certainly. We have individual feedback and analysis with the refereeing teams after every matchday with hot topics and the whole group discusses the important match situations. Hopefully they will go back home with new perspectives or new information. It is important to say that they are not inexperienced referees, as they are top in their particular countries, but on the international stage they are inexperienced. It is beneficial for them to learn and do well here. If they do, the doors to their future are open.
- Do you also educate the players at these tournaments?
- Vassaras: We do. The Referees Committee produce a DVD in order to go over interesting clips and topics and to inform the teams on the instructions that we have provided referees. The type of decisions to expect from referees, for example. We try to educate them on avoiding unsporting behaviour, simulation, and holding and pushing in the penalty area. It is better for the teams not to have yellow cards and it improves the image of the game. It is also for the protection of the players and to promote respect, both between the players and towards the officials.
- Have these methods been proven to be effective with players?
- Sajn: Very much so. We started this at EURO 2008 and we were very happy with the results. We had very few dissent cases there, as we told them we would be very strict. There were also just two cases of holding in the area. After that we decided we would go forward and introduce this system
into all the age group final tournaments. This is our fifth year doing this now and I feel there are fewer misunderstandings between players and officials and fewer unnecessary bookings.
- How have the teams responded to the sessions?
- Vassaras: The feedback from the teams this year has been very positive. When we finished our presentations, they agreed that we have to keep doing it and told us they would like to have it in their own countries at U15 and U13 level. It is really positive to think that there is a drive to introduce this at grassroots level across Europe.