Euro 2020

Europe’s assistant referees raise the bar Behind the scenes at UEFA – Euro 2020

by: Adam Smith


More than 70 elite assistant referees from across Europe spent a week in Mallorca for their latest UEFA winter course. They received the honours of the President of the UEFA Referees Commission, Roberto Rosetti, for the quality of their work, their flexibility to adapt to the development of football and their determination to improve match after match.

Mr. Rosetti gives us an overview of the essential role that assistant referees play and the challenges faced by those who “walk the sidelines” in their quest for excellence. Why did UEFA bring the assistant referees together in Mallorca?

Roberto Rosetti: The next few months are shaping up to be a busy one for us: the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League are approaching, and UEFA EURO 2020 will follow this summer. Some assistants will join the refereeing teams of this tournament. That is why we have brought them all together to refine the final preparations for the important missions that lie ahead. This attention underlines the importance that UEFA attaches to assistant referees…

Roberto Rosetti: It is true that their task is increasingly important in elite modern football, which is why it is essential that we collaborate on the different facets of the Laws of the Game and that we strive to achieve a common goal of ensuring a consistency in the decision-making of th e refereeing team on the field. What were the specific themes discussed during the week in Mallorca?

Assistant referees analyzed video clips of various match situations.

Assistant referees analyzed video clips of various match situations.©Sportsfile

Roberto Rosetti: First, we tested the fitness of the assistants, especially their sprinting abilities and lateral movements. Fortunately, they all passed the tests. During the practical sessions, we discussed a wide range of topics: offside and interpretation of it, hand faults, etc. The assistants worked as a group to analyse video clips showing incidents that occurred during UEFA matches in recent months. We encouraged them not only to provide feedback on these incidents and the decisions taken as a result, but also to reflect on aspects of their role in the broadest sense. Was the video refereeing assistance system on the agenda?

Roberto Rosetti: Of course, because it is now an integral part of football, and assistant referees contribute greatly to the success of this system and its development. In Mallorca, the assistants participated in simulation exercises of different situations during which they were invited to react and make a decision. Are you satisfied with the way assistant referees have adapted to video refereeing assistance?

Roberto Rosetti: We are very satisfied, because the assistants had to adapt their role: for example, they are asked to wait to raise their flag in certain situations, whereas before they raised it immediately. Football is evolving, refereeing is evolving, and we have seen that the assistants have fully understood the need to adapt in turn. They were open-minded during the course by reacting positively to such developments. Assistant referees seem determined to respond to UEFA’s efforts to raise standards.

The fitness of the assistant referees was put to the test in Mallorca.

The fitness of the assistant referees was put to the test in Mallorca.©Sportsfile

Roberto Rosetti: We are constantly looking to improve the quality of the assistants, and they keep pace with our requirements. We are very impressed by their work ethic and preparation, and their willingness to optimize their performance. UEFA provides them with the best possible training, we constantly monitor their progress… and they rise to the challenge with flying. It’s all to their credit. How important is teamwork between a referee and his assistants on the playing field?

Roberto Rosetti: It is absolutely crucial. They must work together to form a strong and focused professional team, both in their communication and in their decision-making on the ground. We encourage refereeing teams to become like a family. It is not just about how their members work together on the ground; they connect with each other by spending time together off the field while travelling to matches and discussing refereeing issues. There is no doubt that building a close relationship and true team spirit is an essential element for success. Finally, in your opinion, what significant improvements have the assistant referees made in recent years?

Sprints were on the training program.

Sprints were on the training program.©Sportsfile

Roberto Rosetti: First, they have kept up with the pace at which football is developing at the highest level. Secondly, alongside the referees, they have become full-fledged athletes: true professionals, they take care of themselves and have understood that, in order to be carried out, their task requires adequate preparation, attitude and approach to their share. Third, they took into account our advice that they should improve their playing skills and understand specific situations during a game. In short, our assistant referees are in an ideal position to successfully fulfill their role of providing referees with the best possible support, both on and off the field.