Charles Corver, Dutch referee of the century, has passed away at age 84

Charles Corver, former FIFA referee, has passed away at the age of 84 on November 10th 2020. That’s what Dutch football association KNVB has announced. Charles Corver was named Dutch referee of the 20th century by football weekly Voetbal International.

He officiated in four European Cup finals and the final of the Intercontinental Cup. And yet, despite his impressive career, his name is associated most often with that incident in the semi-final of the 1982. Do you remember? That’s during the World Cup when German keeper Harald Schumacher crashed into French midfielder Patrick Battiston. “Well, it’s not always your best performance that brings you fame,” says Charles Corver, when he was 80 years old in an interview on Dutch Referee Blog. “A single decision can linger in football fans’ minds forever. By the way, at the time no-one held that mistake against me; I even received a 9.5, the highest mark during the tournament, from my assessor. And the KNVB, UEFA, FIFA all assigned me to some pretty great matches later that year.”

(Thanks again to Ben from RefereeingBooks.eu for translating this story – much appreciated)

Charles Corver in Uefa Cup game between PAOK and Sevilla

Charles Corver in Uefa Cup game between PAOK and Sevilla

You can look back on a wonderful career. Having officiated in four European Cup finals, including the 1977 European Cup final in front of 92,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, and the final of the 1974 Intercontinental Cup (the precursor of the FIFA Club World Cup). How do you look back on your career?

“My fondest memory is the final of the Intercontinental Cup between Independiente of Buenos Aires and Atlético Madrid, as that assignment came totally out of the blue. In previous years these ties had become infamous for the violent on-pitch conduct and dirty tactics. So when FIFA selected me to officiate this important but likely very difficult tie, it came as a big surprise. Apparently, Artemio Franchi, who headed FIFA’s referees committee at the time, had a lot of confidence in my ability.” Charles Corver recalls the tie with satisfaction. “The papers, too, heaped praise on me for my performance.”

What does it do to you when in spite of your distinguished career most fans seem to remember you only for that Schumacher-Battiston collision?

“It was the best semi-final ever played during any final tournament on any continent. I never saw the incident, as everyone’s eyes in the stadium followed the ball. The moment I saw Battiston prone on the pitch, I went over to my assistant Robert Valentine from Scotland, who told me it was not intentional. Even Dutch television commentator Evert ten Napel admitted that he too followed the ball’s course, which went just wide. Throughout the rest of the match the players never gave me grief for the decision either. Yes, in retrospect, I should have sent Schumacher off, of course, for using excessive force.”

Watch the Schumacher Battistion collision >

“The initial highly complimentary reviews were soon followed by severe criticism. I wasn’t too happy with that, obviously. But both FIFA and UEFA rewarded me with some great ties that final year of my career. They recognised my achievements, which was wonderful. Hardly had I come home from Spain when I was assigned for a European Championships qualifying tie. I officiated Denmark-England and a quarter final match in the European Cup. Yet that season had even more surprises in store for me, as I was selected to ref the 1983 UEFA Cup final between Benfica and Anderlecht.”

“Incidentally, FIFA assessor Latyshev, who himself had refereed the 1962 World Cup final in Chile, awarded me the highest mark of the entire World Cup tournament, a 9.5. Just goes to show that rather than for his career performance a referee can achieve fame for failing to see a collision. These days, you have your assistants and the fourth official aiding you through your headset, or there’s the video referee standing by to show you a replay. I had none of those things to help me back then, unfortunately.”

What, in your opinion, are the qualities and competencies a referee requires in order to grow as a referee and rise to the top?

Charles Corver: “I’ve always found the following five qualities to be essential:

  • Profound knowledge of the laws of the game
  • Excellent fitness in order to be able to follow play closely
  • Authority and personality
  • The courage to take unpopular decisions
  • The fortune to see those things that matter

“A key thing to remember is not to be arrogant but still enter the field of play in the belief that you’re going to nail this match. You should have confidence in yourself, in your ability. I was never nervous before or during a match. Of course, it is important to radiate confidence in your normal working life as well.”

Charles Corver in 2016

Charles Corver combining work and World Cups

You used to work at Heineken. How did you combine your job and refereeing?

“I was national sales manager at Heineken for nearly 41 years. By the way, I would never have given up my job in favour of being a full-time referee, as some refs do nowadays. I should not like to be on call at least twenty hours a week. Training, yes, I did some intense training in my time, but I found it easy to combine with my job. Actually, I couldn’t have asked for a better job. Freddy (Heineken; the CEO of the Heineken conglomerate) gave me every possible support, enabling me to perform to the best of my ability. That way, it was possible for me to go the World Cup in Argentina for seven weeks and also to Spain four years later.

Not to mention all those European cup ties and FIFA internationals, not seldom outside Europe.  He did have one condition, though: I had to take and hand out business cards in as many as eight languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English, French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, you name it.”

When he finally hung up his whistle, Charles Corver was observer for UEFA, FIFA and KNVB for 22 years and a member of the KNVB’s disciplinary committee for 16 years.

The mood in Argentina, then under the control of the military junta led by general Videla, was dark and grim. “I was on the phone with my family a lot, telling them how I was doing. But there wasn’t really much to do for us in Buenos Aires. It was practically impossible to go out by yourself. If you wanted to leave the hotel, you’d get a detail of guards accompanying you. It’s not like we had any bad experiences, but in retrospect I can only say that being cooped up like that was bordering on the ridiculous. I did visit a lot of stadiums, though, as in those days it was normal for referees to also act as linesman or fourth official.”

Did you ever feel apprehensive or threatened during your career?

“I heard from other referees, like Jan Keizer, that some vengeful characters had thrown bricks through their windows. Of course, you’d only hear that later. I can’t say it ever happened to me. The only match that stirred up a great deal of trouble was at Feyenoord, where I awarded a penalty against the home team. After the match, Feyenoord directors offered to sneak me out the back door and escort me to my car as they feared the reactions of their fans. I did not want that. I just wanted to leave the stadium the normal way. Outside, I simply went up to the waiting fans, calmly explained my position and was allowed to get in my car and drive off without any trouble.”

What would you say are the key differences between football then and now?

“Referees who take up the whistle nowadays have a more difficult job, I’d say. Discipline, respect: they mean different things now. Back in my day, players still showed respect to referees with personality or authority. I was much impressed by Bas Nijhuis recently, when he took a hard line of action towards players constantly shooting their mouths off or making signs of disrespect. My thoughts: stop that stupid protesting.”

“I had a reputation of being anything but a home referee and allowing manly football”, Corver reminisces. It’s the way he played football himself during his 10-year career. He played in the first squad of TONEGIDO, an amateur club in his home town of Voorburg, near The Hague. “But I had a sixth sense for dirty play and gamesmanship.” It allowed Corver to get away with dishing out few yellows and even fewer reds during his long career.  “An early unmistakable, stern reprimand would usually suffice.”

Corver’s maxim was (and is): You cannot win the respect of anyone but through correct, courageous and consistent conduct.

Corver books Johan Cruijff

Recalling his first match reffing Johan Cruyff at Ajax’ De Meer stadium, Charles Corver says: “He protested my decision to award a penalty against Ajax by waving his hand in a gesture of disapproval. He’d grown a habit of doing that, and most of my colleagues tolerated it.  Not me. I immediately showed him a yellow card. After that, he must have thought: ‘Better be careful around Corver and stop doing that.'”

“The disciplinary committee came down on him hard as well. Still, in spite of this incident, I always had great report with Cruyff. He’d accept my authority. Twice when I reffed Barcelona he came into my dressing room after the match and gave me his shirt. My son is still proud to own those. Once players know the ref won’t let them fool around, they’ll stop doing it. As a referee, you do have the power to project a certain image and build a reputation for yourself.”

Bibiana Steinhaus – first female referee in Bundesliga – retires from her career

Big refereeing news: Bibiana Steinhaus will retire as national and international referee. The German Super Cup on September 30th 2020 is the latest game of her career. “Like many people in the time of the corona situation, I reflected on some things and reassessed them”, she explains her decision on the DFB website. “After a very trusting and constructive conversation with Lutz Michael Fröhlich, the sports director of the DFB elite referees, I decided, after carefully weighing many factors, to end my national and international career as a referee.” She does not give more info, as she wants to focus on her last game first.

Bibiana Steinhaus was the the first female referee in the Bundesliga. “It has always been my dream to be active in the Bundesliga”, she said to German media when she started. “I am very pleased that this dream will come true”. She is the first center referee in one of the five biggest competitions in Europe.

Women’s World Cup 2019

Steinhaus is followed by Stéphanie Frappart from France in 2019. Both referees are active at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The first game for the German referee is France – Norway, a clash between two teams won won their first match.

Pioneer in a men’s world

Back to her Bundesliga debut. Her actual debut was in September in the game between Hertha BSC and Werder Bremen. In the meantime lots of media write and talk about her or about the fact she is the first female referee in the Bundesliga. New York Times describes it as “reckoning with the multidimensional state of being a pioneering female in a male-dominated field”. She is happy where she is now, but feels uncomfortable with all the attention on her as person.  Bibiana Steinhaus hopes the attention from the fans goes back to watching football. “I don’t think I embrace it”, she says. “I deal with it.”

Bibiana Steinhaus

Bibiana Steinhaus. Photo courtesy DFB.

The 38-year-old policewoman from Hannover is one of four newcomers on the DFB referee list for next season. Because she got great feedback and information from the referee department during the season, she wasn’t surprised referee boss Lutz Fröhlich called this week. “But when he informed me in our telephone call about the decision of the referee’s commission, I was left quite speechless”, she says in an interview on the DFB website.

And what then happened.

“Disbelief, joy, happiness, relief, curiosity, I do not know. It was simply a roller coaster ride of emotions.”

Great incentive to keep working hard

“It is on the one hand a confirmation for the hard work  on the way to this promotion”, she says. “And on the other hand it’s also a great incentive to continue my hard work.”

Steinhaus wants to thank the support she got from everyone. “The referee’s work is – unrestricted – teamwork. Both in the field and in the background we work closely together”, she says. As referee you need good decisions from your assistants, but also a good framework from your football association that helps you with all aspects of the job. Referees have a personal coach, a fitnness team that supports them. “Without this mostly invisible support refereeing at top level would not be possible!”

Bibiana Steinhaus

Female refs normal at highest level

The referee from Hannover is looking forward to the new season. “Certainly as femal referee I’ll be under special observation, especially from the media, at the beginning of the season. It is my goal that female referees in professional football become normal and that they simply will belong to the game.”

Intensive communication with players

Elite referee committe chairman, Lutz Fröhlich, says Steinhaus has a ‘special style of game management’. Steinhaus explains to DFB how she tries to manage a game: “My style is characterized by intensive communication. To exchange mutual expectations at an early stage gives all parties a good guideline. I try an empathic approach to my conversational partners and thus create an encounter on equal terms.

But she stresses that female referees do ‘hardly anything’ differently than male referees. She says that all referees need to judge match incidents based on the same Laws of the Game, with the same outcome as much as possible. And all refs have the same prerequisites. “But of course, every referee has a different style of managing a game.”

Dedication as ref pays off

Steinhaus hopes this will have a positive impact on new referees or girls who think about refereeing. She mentions some of her female colleagues who also are climbing up the ladder. Her colleague Reim Hussein is currently a 3rd Bundesliga referee and Katrin Rafalski is assistant referee in the 2nd Bundesliga. “Commitment and dedication will abosolutely pay off.”

There’s one think that is most important to Steinhaus. “Above all, I want to be judged based on my performances, not because I’m a woman. I wish all referees a successful season ,where referees are not often the center of attention.”

Documentary Kill the referee (with English subtitles)

The documentary Kill the referee is published online and English subtitles are added as well. Now we’re all at home in lockdown, this documentary is a great thing to watch.  

When it released I’ve written a newspaper story for it. I’ve updated that, because that makes it more relevant. You can also find the full clip below.

Massimo Busacca: we are not gods

Referee Massimo Busacca squatted on the ground. He takes a quiet moment for himself in preparation of the match Sweden versus Greece at the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland, his home country.

There’s a rosary on the table in the dressing room. Busacca makes the cross sign, he’s ready for it. Together with is assistants he leaves the quietness of the changing room to deliver a good performance with roaring crowds in the stadium.

This intimate moment from the movie Kill the referee (originally produced as Les Arbitres) shows the human aspects of the referees. And that’s exactly what Uefa aims with this documentary. The European soccer association and their referee committee want to show that the top referees are normal people who prepare professionally and they want to set a quality performance.

In regular sport broadcasts the players get full attention. But when a referee’s name is in the pages of the newspapers or on the tv programmes, there’s a big chance he made a mistake. Two recent examples are the mistakes by Roberto Rosetti (offside Tevez) and Jorge Larrionda (goal Lampard) in the matches for a spot in the quarter finals at this World Cup in South Africa.

Full video of Kill the referee

The video is on YouTube. Make sure you put English subtitles on via menu in YouTube player.

The film is a unique documentary, because the football fans never got such a personal insight in the life of professional referees. Producer Jean Libon got access to the dressing room, the hotels and family meetings. His camera team was even able to film the family of the referees at home, who were shown as the greatest supporters of their husband, father or son.

Professional approach towards referees

“This openness from Uefa shows their professional approach towards referees”, says Jaap Uilenberg, former international referee and at this moment member of Uefa’s referee committee. “An interview wit a referee was not done a few years ago.” He stressed that the Dutch FA is more open since a few years ago when they get such requests.

In many European countries there is criticism about the invisible wall between referees and others. Because coaches, players and supporters get no insight into the refereeing business. For example England, where Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger openly criticised the FA. In that period of the release (2010) he wants more openness about the referee appointments.

What you see these days, in 2020 and further, is that referee departments are more open. PRO referees recently did live Q&A sessions on YouTube, which resulted in these tips by Alan Kelly. And there are many more examples, luckily.

Referees are normal human beings

Kill the referee is a start to present the referees with an open approach. “Inside the referee committee we’ve extensively discussed how to handle this”, mentioned Uilenberg. “This movie shows that the referee is also a top sportsman. And a normal human being.” The documentary shows that all referees, like each soccer team and all fans, look forward to reaching the final. “For young referees the movie can be a motivation to strive to such a goal.”

Howard Webb during Euro 2008. Shot from the movie Kill the referee

Uilenberg is also acting in Kill the referee. He’s guiding, mentoring and judging Howard Webb in the match between Austria and Poland. Because of awarding a penalty kick in the last minute against Poland he gets death threats. The then Polish president Lech Kascynski, makes it more worse after that. Because that man was very negative about the referee in the worldwide media.

NB: Uefa did not blame Webb for awarding a (wrong) penalty kick. But there was a different reason to sent him home. That was because of an offside goal which was not seen by Webb’s assistant.

The effect of a referee decision

Uilenberg was very clear back in 2010. “The only thing you can do against the behavior of such people is to take care of the safety of the referee and his family back home.” He shows his aversion of people who call themselves fans, but really aren’t by threatening referees. “The boundaries are shifted according to many years ago. But when the producer can show such reactions, the movie gives a good representation of the life of modern refereeing.”

This documentary illustrates perfectly how important such a big tournament is for some fans and players. A wrong call of the referee can have enormous effects. The movie gives the man in black a human character, who actually can make mistakes. Busacca shows that in a touching way in his reaction to protesting players. “We are no gods, we make mistakes.” When his match is finished he makes the cross sign, and looks up to heaven.

Clay Ruperti: being a young talent

Referee Clay Ruperti talks about his career during a meeting I’ve visited earlier this season. Because he is recognized as a young talent from the start, he dreams about reaching professional football as referee. But can you stay true to yourself or will you change your style because of what others want you to do? His most important lesson: “It’s better to be hated for what you are than to be love for what you are not.” 

Tips and lessons from this referee in Dutch professional football. 

Referee Clay Ruperti

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Kate Jacewicz: Australian top referee who shares tips to make you become a better referee

Kate Jacewicz is an ambitious Australian referee. In 2019 she officiates at the 2019 Women’s World Cup and becomes part of the Hyundai A-League’s (men’s highest level) referee panel. I’m very happy she took the time to share her story and some very relevant tips for us as referees. Have a good read. Her debut in the A-League is on January 18 2020 with the game between Melbourne City and Newcastle Jets.

Kate Jacewicz during the Women's World Cup
Kate Jacewicz during the Women’s World Cup

The blog theme this month is becoming a better referee. I’ve already shared a story about visioning yourself 20 years ahead and tips for effective goal-setting. I hope this article inspires you to think about how you want to develop as a referee – and she’ll tell how she tries to improve each and every time. It’s not something you do by the start of the new year or season. After e-ve-ry game. “Making an error is not a reflection of your refereeing ability – what is more meaningful is how you respond and learn from them. ” 

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Former NI referee Alan Snoddy on refereeing

Former referee Alan Snoddy has been at two World Cups, has helped and mentored a lot of referees at Uefa and CORE. He’s currently a referee consultant at the Latvia FF and grew up as referee in Belfast in the 70ies and 80ies. In this story he shares his experiences and tips with you. 

Alan Snoddy on Irish FA tv

Alan Snoddy on Irish FA tv

Who is referee Alan Snoddy

Please introduce yourself, what is your current role in refereeing? 

At present my main role is working with the Latvia FF as their Referee Consultant. This job involves working closely with the Referee Committee & Referee Department to assist the development and quality of all aspects of refereeing in Latvia. 

I was approached in October last year to utilise my experience and to have overall responsibility.

In 2018 & 2019 I was a Senior Course Leader appointed by UEFA for CORE 39 & CORE 41. This is an extremely rewarding role working with the team of coaches and seeing so many young talented match officials make significant progress in the six months they are in the project.

I am also a member of the UEFA Convention Panel, as an adviser, and also responsible for Bosnia, North Macedonia, Gibraltar & Kosovo, supporting and monitoring their work.

I also conduct seminars on behalf of FIFA as one of their Technical Instructors, and also for UEFA in a similar role. 

In Northern Ireland I am a Referee Instructor & Referee Observer, and just about to complete 48 years involvement locally.

Snoddy’s years as FIFA referee

You’ve been a FIFA referee for 20 years from 1980 – 2000. What were the most beautiful moments of your career?

If we look at my international career of course being appointed to the World Cup Finals in Mexico 86 & Italy 90 rank at the highest points of my career. 

At Mexico 86 I had the honour of being the youngest ever World Cup referee. This record was broken four years later by the late Peter Mikkelsen from Denmark. A really good guy and we kept in touch with each other regularly until sadly events made this impossible.

Proudly representing Northern Ireland

I would say every international game is a beautiful moment. Proud to represent Northern Ireland at the highest level and be an ambassador for the Irish Football Association & refereeing in Northern Ireland.

Of course some games have special memories. One of these was the night Israel beat France in Paris which ultimately cost France at place at USA 94. Whenever I meet referee colleagues from Israel they remind me. 

Alan Snoddy in 1994 at France vs Israel

The FIFA U 20 World Cup Final Tournament in Saudi Arabia 1989 was also a highlight, operating in a different culture & the only time I refereed in a sand storm !

Keeping involved in the game

Time goes fast. In 2020 it is also 20 years ago you officiated your last game at the international stage. What has that period brought you? Why do you want to remain involved in refereeing in different roles?

Refereeing has played a huge part in my life since I was 16 years old (maybe at times too big a part!) 

During the past 48 years of involvement in refereeing I have accumulated vast experience and my main motivation for staying so deeply involved is to pass on my knowledge to others, should they be match officials, observers, instructors, mentors, coaches etc. 

Start of the Uefa Referee Convention

I got invaluable experience with the eight years I worked professionally with the Irish FA as Referee Development Office. The highlight during this time was achieving membership of the UEFA Referee Convention and being able to avail of the €100k per year funding to use for referee development projects. 

At that time all the minimum requirements were met & the basic structures put in place, but development never stands still, it is ongoing and requires constant work & finance with the UEFA funding a lifeline for the majority of the 55 National Associations.

Opportunities to develop referees

I know from my time at the Irish FA without this funding the progress, development projects, training camps, talent programmes, recruitment, etc etc would not have been possible, and I know from my work with many other countries it is exactly the same.

Now I am privileged to continue to work full time in refereeing and I hope to remain involved until its the right time to stop. However I can never see myself not playing some small part somewhere until retiring fully and being able to go to watch a game without any extra duties.

Refereeing in Belfast in 70s and 80s

Back to the start of your career. How was refereeing in NI and Belfast in the 70s and 80s? 

During all the political unrest in Northern Ireland during this period grassroots football survived and whilst it may rarely have impacted during games, football continued despite the difficult times. 

For me it was a great apprenticeship, and I always said my first five years as a referee in the early 70’s gave me a foundation in refereeing that was invaluable. These were physical tough and competitive games and not comparable with matches at the same level today.

I was also enjoying refereeing and after these five years progress was rapid, becoming a Premier League referee at 23 & a FIFA referee at 25 in 1980.

Improving refereeing at NI

You’ve had an important role in refereeing in Northern Ireland. How has refereeing of a small country developed over the years? 

I was lucky that I was able to take early retirement from my bank job at 50 years old and become the first full time Referee Development Officer at the Irish FA. 

The timing was perfect & I had a blank piece of paper and an empty desk to start with!

As I explained earlier the catalyst for meaningful referee development was the UEFA Referee Convention funding which is crucial for smaller countries and made budgeting much easier with €100k dedicated and ring fenced for refereeing.

Importance of talent and mentor programmes

In N Ireland it meant the Premier League referees & observers could go on a 5 day mid season training camp to Portugal or Malta, and indeed we went one year to Zeist.

Talent & Mentor programmes became a normal part of development at all levels with regular residential seminars and equipment provided.

Recruitment was crucial, and an increase of almost 70% in numbers of registered referees in eight years was a big success story.

A structured educational programme supported by a group of dedicated instructors was delivered to the four regional referee societies.

NB: Uefa also has a talent programme at the Centre of Refereeing Excellence. Read more about CORE.

Working in Cyprus

You also moved to different countries, like Cyprus. How is it to work there? 

Yes, I spent about 2.5 years working for the Cyprus FA. They needed an “independent” person to take decisions, and responsibility for the referee appointments. The role also included being their Referee Committee President.

Again the timing was very suitable. I had retired from my post at the Irish FA after almost eight years, taking advantage of a voluntary redundancy offer. 

I was approached by Jaap Uilenberg & Hans Reijgwart, two good friends who were working with the Cyprus F A, to see if I would be interested in taking over from Hans, and after meeting them I decided to go.

A lot of the work was similar to what I had been doing in N Ireland, but in a completely different culture. I described it as somewhere you went with experience, not to gain experience.

Cyprus is passionate about football and every word and action is scrutinised. Referees in Cyprus are courageous people, it’s a small island and everybody knows everybody. NB: on this topic I wrote: “The fans know where we live”.

Refereeing in Cyprus: Angela Kyriakou

Refereeing in Cyprus: Angela Kyriakou (photo provided by referee before interview)

cyp

Being neutral and independent

My role had to be neutral and independent, indeed to protect the local referee people. I took responsibility away from them, so they were protected and could not be accused locally of making appointments or favouring their friends.

One of my proudest moments in refereeing was watching my last game in Cyprus, their Cup Final in 2016, refereed by a team of match officials from Cyprus. The first time in many years that “outside” referees had not been brought in following pressure from clubs. 

This was the perfect time to draw a line under my Cyprus work, great experience, and some wonderful people who have remained friends.

Mentoring Milorad Mazic

You’ve been a mentor of UCL final referees, sometimes already at their early stage in European football, like Milorad Mazic. How did you experience this and what is important to be a good mentor?

I first started to mentor Milorad in 2010 as part of the UEFA Talent & Mentor programme and it was clear then he had something special. 

We remain great friends to this day and of course he is now in China and working for the Super League.

Mazic tunnel talk with captains.

Mazic tunnel talk with captains.

Another proud moment was being his guest at the Champions League Final in Kiev in 2018. Nobody deserved this appointment more than Milorad. He works harder than anybody, superbly fit, prepares to the finest detail, and has a great team around him.

If I played any part in helping him succeed after we started together in 2010 then I must say he did the work, I only guided him. 

Being a good mentor

To be a good mentor you need to be honest, if something goes wrong then don’t hide from it. Find the solution and encourage and support. Be the “big brother” and earn the trust of your talent. 

What kind of mentor do you have? Find out more about 4 different types of mentors you need or 10 ways to become a better mentor.

Mentor vs observer

You are a Referee Observer as well. I’d love to take my readers along the way how observing goes. How does your schedule look like as observer? 

The observer role is different from that of a mentor or coach. The focus is on one match and the performance is analysed to identify the positive elements and the points for improvement, with solutions and advice. 

Appointments would be received well in advance of the game and there would be pre match contact which focuses really on creating a positive and supportive environment for the match officials. The observer is there to help, the “fault finding” days are long gone.

Topics discussed at seminars

You help a lot of young referees as CORE coach and FIFA Instructor. What are the most relevant topics at recent courses? And what tips would you give the readers of my blog on these topics?

The normal technical topics apply at CORE. Teamwork, handball, recognition of fouls, offside, advantage, free kick management, penalty area decisions, etc.

Also the FIFA seminars have similar topics depending on the local requirements. 

What is interesting about the FIFA seminars is the very wide range of audiences. For example a seminar with the Chinese Super League officials is very different to a seminar in Grenada, or in Bangladesh with a lack of resources & facilities. But all are equally rewarding and the discussions are the same.

Uefa publishes videos with their verdict and on my blog you can download these Refereeing Assistance Programmes.

New LOTG changes

How do the new rules (LOTG changes) and VAR influence the way you instruct new referees?

I don’t think VAR influences the way new referees are instructed. I guess 99.9% of games worldwide have no VAR if we include grassroots/youth upwards. 

Obviously when there are changes to the LOTG all referees need instruction. But in my opinion this is not simply talking through the changes, and learning theory, it also needs to be discussed and the implications of the changes analysed so when theory becomes practice is everyone ready.

Therefore discussion groups and workshops are essential and this is emphasised at FIFA/UEFA Instructors seminars. 

For example, the substitute is replaced at the nearest point, but who is responsible for ensuring he arrives safely to the technical area? Are the referee team clear about their tactics. 

NB: Check out the case study on tips with this substitution procedure.

Also the change in the handball interpretation. It’s very easy now just to penalise the attacker when the ball touches accidently his arm, but has he scored a goal or created a goal scoring opportunity?

The new “drop ball” restart situation occurs only when the team in possession of the ball changes, but I have seen games stopped when the ball has hit the referee and possession has not changed.

One difficulty when there are changes to the LOTG is that in many cases educational clips are not readily available. This is why it’s essential that FIFA trial the changes in tournaments or competitions before the changes are ratified.

One final tip for you as referee

You started at Churches League in Northern Ireland. If you must give starting refs, readers of my blog, one important tip if they want to move up the refereeing ladder, what would it be?

Yes sadly this League no longer exists, but as I said earlier it played such a big part in my early learning.

If I had one important tip it would be that football needs strong courageous referees who will protect the players. 

In addition, hard work, high level of physical fitness, learning from each game, self analysis, don’t be afraid of making mistakes but use them as development points, and finally enjoy yourself. 

Full-time job: making video analysis for referees

“When I watched and analysed a game of Bjorn Kuipers, I am exhausted”, says John Balvers, he is making video analysis for referees in The Netherlands. Recently I met again with him and he shows me the latest features of his video analysis. In this interview with him he tells more how video analysis for professional referees works. 

Balvers goes back to 2016, as that was a very interesting year for him with a Dutch referee in a big European final. As soon Björn Kuipers got the appointment for the Europa League final he started with the preparation for that game. In the meantime Dennis Higler is officiating at the under 17 Euro’s. Busy days for the video analyst. In this interview he tells more about how he works.

Being a video analyst is John Balvers’ full time job, almost 24-7. Competition weekends last from Friday to Monday. And if there’s no international football there are some cup games. “There is always football, so always a referee to analyse.” During the European Championships in France he has a special role: helping Bjorn Kuipers analyse his game and the matches of the teams he’s going to officiate. “My goal is to prepare Team Kuipers to the best of my ability helping him reach the final.”

John Balvers making video analysis for referees

Preparation before the games

Balvers is a full-time video analyst for referees working for the KNVB, the Dutch football association. He helps all referees at the professional levels and this period he’s totally focused on the Euro 2016. He took his holidays right before the tournament started and tries to watch as many games as possible. “What I do is unique and doesn’t happen in many other countries, definitely not with a full-time video analyst specifically for referees.” Check video in Dutch made by KNVB about John Balvers.

Every day during Euro 2016 Balvers waits for the moment new match appointments are published by Uefa. Sunday morning Uefa announced that Kuipers will officiate the clash between Spain and Croatia for next Tuesday. “Bjorn will notify me as soon as possible”, says Balvers. “The sooner I know which game he’ll officiate, the more time I have to make a video analysis for referees. I’ll arrange with Bjorn what he needs for his preparation.” When officiating the Europa League semi-final between Sevilla and Sjachtar Donetsk, Balvers analysed their latest encounters in both European and national competitions.

In the preparation of Kuipers’ games Balvers is collaborating with Jaap Uilenberg, the coach of the Dutch referee and also an Uefa referee observer. “We’ve also selected the video clips for the refereeing training camp before the Euro’s together”, he says.

John Balvers' video lab.

The video analysis for referees

The analysis of Balvers is very comprehensive. He’s in his video lab at home and will watch all games and digitally types almost every detail of the game. If there’s a challenge, which player made a foul, who suffered the foul, where free kicks are, who take them, if corner kicks are swung in our out,  which players get the ball often. “With all those stats you recognize how a team plays tactically and builds-up their attack or defence”, says Balvers. “Players often react the same way. In the game against Sevilla the Shakhtar Donetsk players took their corner kicks with short pass to a team mate. As referee you need to be aware that players that things will happen  around the corner flag.” It gives the referee an idea where his focus (also) should be.

All the data Balvers creates will be added to a video database which can be searched through by the match officials. Because there’s lots of data, Kuipers and other Dutch referees, can check attacks from a specific team, challenges from or on a certain player. All easy accessible for them. “I also have data  about who’s on the receiving end of the fouls, so referees are able to check the reactions of players. It shows who has temper, so refs can anticipate on that by calming him down immediately.”

Live analysis during the game

During games of Dutch referees Balvers will be analysing the performance and decisions in real-time. “It’s easy to do it live with all the video streams I can watch”, says Balvers. “I can even watch all replays immediately. Every situation that is possibly interesting for Team Kuipers will be send to them during the first half. Short clips about ten to twelve seconds or freezing frames for the assistant referees with offside calls. So the refereeing team can see if they made the right decisions.”

Two years ago PSV attacker Luuk de Jong scored against Feyenoord, but replays showed he hold the shirt of defender Kongolo. “Kuipers went to Feyenoord captain Clasie during half-time and admitted his mistake and said sorry to him”, Balvers explains. “I send them all clips that seem interesting to me. Right or wrong decision. Kuipers really wants to know if he made a mistake. I don’t give my interepratation, I only send them the video clips. My opinion is not important.”

In the image below you can see all tags Balvers made during a game of the Spanish team against the Czech Republic. All yellow cards (gele kaarten), challenges (duels), offsides (buitenspel) are tagged and Kuipers can check certain types of situations (only left wing attacks or so).

Coding all match situation for Team Kuipers.

Clips on the iPhone

Sometimes Kuipers will even get more than ten clips. “It’s up to him if he wants to see them. He can easily access them on his iPhone or on an iPad in the dressing room.” See image below for clips on the mobile device.

After the second half the refereeing team get some clips as well. At big tournaments the complete analysis with detailed descriptions will be made. “Most of the time the analysis will be ready by the end of the day”, says Balvers. After Kuipers’ games during the World Cup in Brazil he had to fly over 3 hours to the home base for referees. “Then I tried to get everything ready before they stepped into the plane, so they can check everything in the airplane and are briefed when they land.”

Balvers tries to work as fast as possible. He also helps referees during regular games in the national competitions, sends clips to Dutch referee boss Dick van Egmond or Uefa referee observer Jaap Uilenberg. Or to Danny Makkelie in the middle of the night during the u17 World Cup in Chile. “As soon as I hear their appointments I’ll start collecting data and clips.”

After the game it’s now even possible to add the communication of the referees via their headset to the video analysis. “With the headset info referees can improve the way they communicatie with each other.” That’s something that has improved the most in Team Kuipers during the last years together with Sander van Roekel and Erwin Zeinstra, his assistants.

Read interview with Bjorn Kuipers about progression his team made.

Video analysis on a mobile device.

Big library

All those analysed clips together form an interesting library for referees. “It’s accessible for everybody who’s involved in refereeing of professional football in The Netherlands.”

Via a new system called My Team Performance Exchange (MY TPE) it’s even possible that referees select the clips they want their team to study. “He can send them to his team members as match preparation and ask them for a comment on it.”

Watching games normally

“I can’t watch football normally anymore”, says Balvers. He is analysing everything. It was hard for Balvers watching the game between The Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In case the Dutch lost, Kuipers might officiate the Costa Ricans in a future round and Balvers was already doing his analysis on the games so it would be ready when the appointments were made. “It felt like the world collapsed”, he admits. “I am a huge fan of the Dutch national team, but I work during a big tournament for Team Kuipers. All I hoped for was them reaching the final. I’ll do everything during the European Championships to help them prepare the best way possible and I hope it helps them reaching the final.”

Read more from Euro 2016 referees