EHF uses technology (and ethics code) to support their referees

EHF Referee Chief Andorka using the new system during the game

During many years at the IHF and PATHF, I was frustrated with the primitive methods used during games for the recording of relevant situations for post-game feedback to the referees. Essentially the ‘equipment’ consisted of a notepad and homemade full-court and half-court diagrams to facilitate quick recording of game situations that I needed to remember. Knowing the extent of the technology available to coaches and players, I found this really annoying, as a correct and clear feedback to the referees is so critical for their continuous learning.

But not so many years ago, we introduced a software system in the IHF, so that notes during the game could be limited to the exact time of the relevant situations, as that would enable us to go to the game DVD afterwards and retrieve and save the necessary game segments or situations. This, however, typically requires a long night’s work in the hotel room after a long day of intensive work with the referee and then during 2-4 games. Moreover, it would depend on immediate access to the game DVDs, something that often failed, and it did not allow for an electronic transfer of the material after it had been used in the feedback session.

However, in collaboration with the European office of FIBA (the International Basketball Federation), the EHF last year tested a much more modern and efficient approach in connection with the European Youth and Junior Championships. It involves an Online Platform and an Observer Program. This does not just expand the scope and speed of the capturing of situations but also the quality, because it is based on real-time footage. It means that the video clips can be prepared and ready immediately at the end of a game. And for the referees it is possible to receive the clips electronically for self-evaluation from their own games, and for learning from the games of their colleagues.

The approach is based on the concept of a ‘Digital Scoresheet’. Sorting and filing of clips can be done under different categories along several different dimensions. So it is possible to be very systematic and focus on specific problems and issues in a very efficient manner. This saves a lot of preparation time, but it also can make you tie in the observations to the specific guidelines and emphasis that have been provided prior to an event.

Clearly, while the distribution of the resulting material may need to be controlled by the responsible federation, in this case the EHF, there is afterwards no reason for any limitation in the dissemination of this valuable material. So referees at the national and local levels can easily be given access. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all national federations have first-class referee observers and instructors, and not all of them have the technical resources needed to set up systems of their own. Therefore it could be of tremendous help well beyond the small group of elite referees.

The only thing that is now missing is a political/financial arrangement between the EHF and the IHF, so that the IHF could also share in this system. For obvious reasons, the IHF Referee Commission is enthusiastic about it, not the least for its own immediate tasks during major events. But it could also become a fantastic asset for federations and referees worldwide. So I do hope that the IHF leaders will see fit to move ahead promptly with the necessary agreements.

Finally, on a slightly different issue, and apropos the parenthesis in the heading for this write-up, the EHF introduced another new twist in the pre-Championship preparations of the referees. During their meetings before the EURO2012 got underway in Serbia, the referees were required to take an oath, in a similar way to what one representative of all the judges is doing at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, regarding their determination to carry out their job in a fair and sportsmanlike way and in accordance with all applicable rules. This is a very nice idea. But it makes me suggest that, as part of the opening ceremony, the same thing should be done by, or on behalf of, all the players and team officials as well!