For Australian referees regarded as world-class officials, there must be a culture of continuous improvement amongst our referees.
While Round 1 of the Hyundai A-League saw a number of single-round records set for crowd attendances, TV ratings and digital audiences, referees also created their own record with an all-time low for referee error rates.
Each week, the performance of every referee is assessed based on their ability to make correct decisions. In Round 1 the error rate was less than one per cent.
This is significantly below the Round 1 rate of 11.5 per cent last season. Furthermore, there were no incorrect decisions for critical incidents on any of the five matches.
So what has driven this dramatic improvement?
It is our aim to have Australian referees regarded as world-class officials and to achieve this, there must be a culture of continuous improvement amongst our referees.
At the conclusion of last season, the National Referees Technical Committee reviewed the performance of all match officials on the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League.
The review found that the error rate for HAL referees early in the season was relatively high, before improving as the season progressed. The Committee concluded that referees need to be better prepared to perform at their optimal level from the opening whistle.
As part of our drive for continuous improvement, the NRTC oversaw three key changes.
Firstly, for the 2012/13 season, the FFA Referees Department undertook an extensive selection process. A “Possibles and Probables” program was introduced. This program classed the best performing officials from last season as “probables”.
The remaining officials from 2011/12 competed against referees selected from the National Talent Pool as well as referees nominated from the Member Federations.
FFA Referee Technical Instructors were appointed to view all of these candidates on State League games around Australia and to report back to FFA. There was strong competition for places and this process ensured the HAL and WWL panels for this season are made up of the best available officials in the country.
In preparation for the start of the season, all match officials attended seminars where the key focus areas for the season were communicated.
The areas where referees will be paying particular attention for 2012/13 are protecting players- safety, dealing strongly with obvious and ongoing dissent and ensuring appropriate behaviour of players and officials in the Technical Area.
This message has also been communicated to the clubs and we will continue to maintain clear lines of communication with the clubs on refereeing matters.
The final stage of the referee-s preparation was an intensive nine-week training program, conducted under the supervision of FFA Referee Fitness Instructors. Fitness test results from the pre-season were extremely pleasing and this is due to the professionalism and commitment of the referees.
With increasing crowds, television audiences and public exposure, the HAL and WWL referees this season will be under more scrutiny than ever.
The steps taken during the pre-season has ensured that the referees are best prepared to keep up with the game-s professional development in Australia and New Zealand. I am looking forward to a successful season for the referees.