Referees ● Jun 02, 2020

From Turf to Teleconferencing – How the FAS Referees Adapted to COVID-19  


SINGAPORE, 2 JUNE 2020 – Referees are tasked with delivering their best performance on the field as they bear the key responsibility for enforcing the Laws of the Game.


While in-game match experiences are vital in providing them with the necessary exposure and opportunity to improve their decision-making skills, another key element is to have regular training sessions that ensure referees maintain high levels of fitness and accurate application of these Laws.


While that may not be possible during this period when football action has been put on hold in Singapore, the FAS Referees Department was spurred to innovate by being the first to adapt to the situation and moving the training sessions online using videoconferencing platform Zoom.


Since the start of the circuit breaker on 7 April 2020, close to 50 fitness and analysis training sessions have been conducted for more than 100 referees who are divided into smaller groups. The sessions are tailored by referee instructors based on the technical and fitness requisite for each group of referees.


The weekly fitness training sessions typically consist of varying circuit training routines and exercises, taking into account fitness requirements for referees officiating at different levels of the game.


For referees officiating in the Singapore Premier League (SPL), they are required to train at least four times a week to meet strict fitness requirements demanded by the physical conditions of the games. Other than the weekly fitness training sessions, they are given further tasks by fitness instructors to be completed during the week. FIFA fitness instructor M. Ganesan, who oversaw referee candidates for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, has also customised a supplementary weekly session of higher intensity for all SPL referees.


In the analysis sessions, referees and technical instructors will gather to review and analyse match clips from the Singapore Premier League, FIFA, the International Football Association Board and other leagues around the world. Quizzes are subsequently taken to test their knowledge of the Laws of the Game.


Referee assessors, who play an equally important role in the game, are also not forgotten during this period as they undergo sessions conducted by FIFA Technical Instructor John Chia to upgrade their technical knowledge and understanding.


Despite the increased training frequency and higher level of commitment required, the sessions have been well-received by referees at all levels.


Class 3 referee N Shanmugah is thankful for this initiative to evaluate his knowledge of the Laws of the Game while staying connected with other referees.


“The sessions were definitely more interactive and regular compared to pre-circuit breaker (which usually took place once a month),” he said. “They were also conducted at a slower pace and that allowed us to interact and answer questions posed by the instructors as well as gain a better understanding of the Laws of the Game during the sessions.


“It was good that the videos used in the analysis sessions were sent ahead of time to give us more time to prepare and scrutinise the fouls. This prior preparation was useful in helping us to revise the relevant topics which would be discussed for the lesson.”


Class 1 referee Muhammad Zulfiqar feels that these sessions should continue after the circuit breaker to complement in-class training when possible.


“It is something new that has been received positively and these platforms can also be used beyond this COVID-19 situation. It will be good to have a mix of online and physical sessions to promote effectiveness and efficiency, as well as to have a diversity of training sessions,” he said.


“It may feel different but the objectives of the analysis sessions are similar, which is to elevate understanding and promote consistency among referees. The difference is that the online platform provides an efficient way to do so without having to be present physically.”


Echoing Zulfiqar’s sentiments, FIFA referee Nathan Chan added: “I think it is good idea to continue the online analysis sessions after the circuit breaker as they are useful in brushing up on our knowledge and application of the updated Laws of the Game. The sessions will surely be beneficial when football matches resume in the future.”


Recognising the positive feedback received, the FAS Referees Department has decided to continue the online training sessions beyond the circuit breaker period.


Nazeer Hussain, Head of FAS Referees, commented: “Our referees have been very supportive of the e-learning approach and I am happy to hear that many found it effective and useful. A significant amount of effort has been put in by the department to prepare the relevant training materials and coming up with suitable content on various refereeing concepts and topics for the sessions.


“The online sessions were introduced with the objective of educating and improving capabilities of the fraternity and it is encouraging to note the high rate of participation and the increased interaction amongst referees,” he added. “As such, we have decided to continue with this approach even after the circuit breaker measures have been lifted.


“We believe that the introduction of this initiative will further supplement our existing training methods to raise local refereeing standards.”