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Referee Academy

Referee Academy Producing A Better Class Of Official

by Mark Stokes

A popular show on Reality TV these days details the life of those in our society who do the ‘Dirtiest Jobs’.

But if those folks can win the sympathy of millions via the media, then spare a though for the man whom no one loves, who puts himself at the mercy of groups small and large and who’s wrong even when he is right.

The soccer referee is a special breed of person, so special that only those who have undertaken the task of controlling 22 altered egos, often on one’s own and without the eyes so dearly needed in the back of one’s head, can understand his plight.

Just this month we have seen the man in the middle beaten from pillar to post at the Euro 2008 tournament, even when his decisions are deemed officially correct. And who can forget the public humiliation handed out to Esse Baharmast, at World Cup 98 in France? The American official deemed Norway’s late goal in a 2-1 defeat of Brazil to be good, but because of this was ripped to pieces, along with US soccer standards, by pundits across the world. In maddeningly typical fashion the silence was deafening two days later when an eagle-eyed cameraman introduced a heretofore unseen angle on the ‘errant’ goal, which exonerated Baharmast completely.

Closer to home we are exposed to the referee in our local fields and parks where amateur soccer is finally becoming the popular sport they said it would never be. Because of a shortage of officials only the upper echelon of games are decorated with referee and two assistants – the result being that most contests pit the official in an even more unrewarding situation.

But, thankfully, help is on the way! If the global game is narrowing its margins for referee error all the time then it should also be said that we are making improvements in our own Massachusetts back yard.

Del Rainho is just one of a handful of referees who have been identified and creamed off by the Mass State Referee Committee. Last April Del was fast tracked to the Mass Referee Academy armed with a set of credentials which place him in an elite category – a group who has the potential and desire to become better officials.

The goal of the Mass Referee Academy is to identify the top thirty or forty officials in the state and to discover in the classroom their particular grasp of the game, while simultaneously assessing their fitness levels.

Several scenarios from the professional game are presented to the budding officials via DVD, the subjects then being required to handle that situation in their respective ways.

The invitation only academy had its first class this year at the Marriott Hotel in Norwood (MA.). Thirty-two hopefuls populated the conference room on seven successive Monday nights (7pm – 10pm) viewing game situations on video and covering other topics like foul recognition, dealing with dissent, game control, tactics, reading the game, player management, use of the advantage rule, style of play, positioning and recognizing and dealing with misconduct.

Since the beginning of the current season those officials have been out at various fields mentoring other referees (which in itself has helped in their education), and will continue doing this in state tournaments and local amateur games. These officials and others who might be interested will begin the second phase of the experiment in January 2009 – the goal being to create a catalogue of referees that can work at any level of the game, and be successful doing it.

The Class of 2008 enjoyed the company of Tom Supple (FIFA assistant referee), Niko Bratsis and Claudio Badea (national referees respectively).

Ray Cabral (Coach at U-Mass Dartmouth) and Nigel Bright (SDI) were also present while Milan Robins (SDA), and Andy Weiss (SRA) also attended as classroom instructors.

Ask the man in the street about the state of officialdom in the modern game and he’ll likely tell you that video technology is long overdue. Such thinking gets a big thumbs up from this author as something would go along way to eradicating the glaring mistakes in the game we love so much.

In the interim we must play with the cards dealt us by the Swiss based authorities but at least we can rest in the knowledge that those who oversee referee standards in Mass are doing everything in their power to ensure that our officials are fully schooled, fitness tested, and the best they can be.