On Friday 5th and Saturday 6th July, the RA held their Annual Conference at the Hinckley Island Hotel, with over 500 referees in attendance on the Saturday event – one of the best turnouts in many years. As a member of the RA, you are able to attend the RA Conference for free!

Aldershot at the RA Conference 2013
Aldershot at the RA Conference 2013

Organised by the RA-FA Youth Council, Friday afternoon saw over 100 young, aspiring referees descend upon Hinckley United FC to be put through their paces, under the expert guidance of the likes of Howard Webb, Martin Atkinson, Kevin Friend, Jon Moss, Michael Oliver, David Elleray, Mike Mullarkey, Adam Watts (PGMOL Senior Coach for Assistant Referees) and Simon Breivik (Head of Sports Science @ PGMOL). Sessions included being recorded making ‘offside’ judgements, being given advice on an in-play refereeing scenario, working as a team in deciding whether an offence was inside or outside the area, and a FIFA standard fitness test. Richard and Matt were lucky enough to take part, and it was one excellent way of developing your skills as a referee – we will be taking some of the ideas and hope to put them into practice soon. Some of the world’s media were there too – links to the session can be found on the BBC Football Focus, Sky Sports and The FA‘s websites.

Courtesy of RA-FA Youth Council
Courtesy of RA-FA Youth Council

On the Friday evening, the RA-FA Youth Council organised an evening meal for the same young referees with a Q&A session with four Select Group referees and assistants, including Howard Webb and Martin Atkinson, and Adam Watts. The questions from the floor provoked some emotive and very interesting answers from the panel, and every referee was able to take something away from the evening for their own games.

Courtesy of RA-FA Youth Council
Courtesy of RA-FA Youth Council

Saturday saw a minibus full of Aldershot RA members depart early in the morning and travel up to Hinckley for what was easily the best day of refereeing development that members had all season! After an introduction to the day, members split off into individual workshop sessions, learning about all sorts of different refereeing topics depending on their areas of interest. Workshops, geared towards the shift in play in the 21st Century, included:

  • The role of the Assistant Referee
  • Managing the Game
  • The role of the referee Assessor
  • Dealing with the illegal use of the arm
  • Judging tackles
  • Fitness, lifestyle and training
  • The role of the RA
Aldershot Youth RA members at lunch...
Aldershot Youth RA members at lunch…

We asked some of the members who attended what they thought of Conference and what they learnt from the day. Here is what they had to say…

From the workshops, we really enjoyed the fitness session with Howard Webb and Steve Brevik. It was interesting to listen to Howard’s insights, as clearly he has the same issues that everyone has about what he eats and the fact that he has to wrestle with his conscience if he succumbs and takes a chocolate bar from the fridge. At the end of the day we can train as much as we like but what we eat is more important and this is clearly an area where we all think we know best but in reality don’t. The second highlight was the access to the all the premier league refs at the end for photos and autographs. There was no sense of stuffiness about any of them and you really did feel that it was a case of “we are all in this together”. – Brian & Ed

The ‘dealing with challenges’ workshop was a good insight onto the quick decisions made by premier league referees and those down to grass root levels, in that you have to make a quick decision using a lot of body signs on whether the challenge is careless. Using this to make the correct card to give will help me to progress in refereeing. – Jamie

I learnt a lot from the day, and the one thing I would take from the ‘illegal use of the arm’ workshop is that none of the players should use their arms illegally whether that is in the penalty area or not. If it happens in the penalty area during a corner, the best way to deal with this is by warning both the defender and attacker involved that they run the risk of giving away a penalty or foul. – Harry

It was a fantastic day, and so much fun. The ‘role of the assessor’ was a good session – I looked at development and how to develop referees rather than marking referees, giving good exit routes to problems the referee faces and look at self learning – something Hampshire are moving towards already. – Steve

Overall, an excellent day was had by all in attendance, and the thoughts from everyone who went show that learning from those who work at the top of their game is well worth it. The challenge now is to see whether we can get even more members to attend next year!

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