Europe's leading male and female referees are primed for the new UEFA club and national-team competition season, and have been given a crystal clear instruction by UEFA to take into the campaign – "We expect nothing but the best". Ninety-four referees from UEFA's elite and first categories – 73 male and 21 female officials – came to Nyon for the annual UEFA summer gathering. Over the three days, a review took place of last season's club competition knockout phase, and UEFA Referees Committee members were on hand to give the officials crucial guidance and advice for the months to come. The referees – now considered athletes in their own right in the modern high-pace top-level game – also underwent stringent fitness testing.
"Our message to the referees is that we won't settle for anything less than the best," said UEFA deputy chief refereeing officer Hugh Dallas (photo). "We have always prided ourselves on high-quality performances as far as European refereeing is concerned. We accept that referees make mistakes – just like players and coaches, they are human," he added, "But our job as referee coaches is to teach our referees to keep these errors to a minimum, and to ensure that they have little or no impact on the final outcome of matches. Honest and open dialogue is a feature of our discussions with the referees – they are committed to reaching the highest standards, and our role is to prepare them and help them maintain the high standards previously set." Dallas reflected that a major source of motivation for Europe's referees in the coming season should be the clear development of refereeing in other continental confederations, as witnessed in the recent FIFA World Cup in Russia. "I think we've witnessed over the years that European referees have always taken the lead on the world stage," he said. "But now we are clearly seeing that the quality of refereeing elsewhere in the world is continuing to rise. Other confederations have learned from UEFA and have followed our educational programmes – new benchmarks are being set, and it's now up to our referees to keep themselves at the top of the pile." The referees have also been reminded of their duty to protect both the players and football’s image. "One of the tasks of the referee is to guide, manage and keep all 22 players on the field of play," said Dallas. "That is where their man-management skills come into play – talking to players, establishing relationships and trying to make players understand the referee's role. We don't want it to be a case of ‘them and us’, as our aim is to work together with the players and help deliver a successful product. In addition, they need to protect players from serious injury on the field," he continued. "We don't want to see players only in the early part of our competitions – we want to see them throughout the length of the competitions. The referees have also been reminded to take strong action to protect the image of our game, and deal appropriately with players who are guilty of mobbing/protesting against their decision-making”.