The need for intensive follow-up of the IHF’s young new referee couples

In an article some time ago, I described the IHF’s Global Referee Training Program (GRTP) as a success story, but I also emphasized that the ‘hard work needs to continue’. The Program will have its purpose and its initial success undermined, if the former participants do not get the follow-up that most of them clearly need. I noted that the IHF ‘must shift gear and focus more on continued nurturing’.

In this regard it must be kept in mind that many of the GRTP ‘graduates’ come from countries where they cannot count on strong support in the form of technical experts and financial resources. And the match experience will also come extremely slowly and randomly, unless the referees are European and can benefit from the intensive competition program of the EHF. Clearly it is not enough that these referee couples get an IHF event with good supervision and refresher training with one or two years’ interval. It is the continued nurturing that is crucial for referees who are still young and at a critical stage in their career: will they ‘take off’ and become elite level referees, or will they stagnate and find their GRTP training mostly wasted?

If one looks at the issue from a European perspective it is easy to say: ‘we, the IHF, have helped identify these young talents, and we have given them a jump start with intensive education and testing within the GRTP; now it must be up to the national and continental federations to handle the follow-up.’ But this is not realistic in most cases. Apart from the lack of technical experts and other resources, there is also the crucial aspect of a lack of suitable match training on a regular basis. It is not good enough to say: ‘sorry, we cannot change the realities in the continent; the countries in the continent must try to help each other on a bilateral basis etc.’ What must be kept in mind is that, while the initial training of referees within the GRTP obviously is beneficial for individual countries and continents, [u]the main beneficiary is the IHF itself![/u] It is the IHF who needs to bring these referees gradually up to the elite level, so that the IHF can meet [u]its responsibility[/u] of providing adequate refereeing in the senior World Championships.

Clearly, this is not a task that can be handled by a small group of volunteers, such as the IHF Rules & Refereeing Commission. They have the technical expertise, but there are too few of them for the many tasks they need to manage. Every year they have to focus on a number of Youth/Junior Championships and continental events. But they do have additional technical experts who could be utilized on a more continuous basis. So the manpower is not the main obstacle. It depends more on a determination to invest enough in the nurturing phase for the IHF referees, by ensuring that the overall manpower can be assigned to follow the referees more frequently and individually, especially in connection with matches. It also means that the manpower must be spread out, so that there are resources available to set up training camps and test events. And there must be strong, competent resources available from the IHF Office. But mostly it is a matter of budgeting and giving it sufficient priority and prominence.

If, as suggested in some of my recent articles, there is a feeling that the refereeing job at the elite level has become so demanding that one must begin to consider using [u]more than 2[/u] referees in a match, or to use new or expanded methods under the 2-referee system, then it would seem obvious that first of all we need to make sure that the existing IHF referees are more closely and thoroughly supported in their climbing towards the top. If a football referee from Uzbekistan could become the big surprise at the recent World Championship, then this is not explained just by extraordinary personal talent; it is also a testimony to the huge efforts undertaken by FIFA in making such referees ready for the very top. IHF must do the same!