Referee development is a long-term investment in India: AIFF Referees Director

All India Football Federation’s Referees Director Ravishankar Jayaraman feels the standard of officials in the country has improved over the years and will get better in the long run with more exposure and experience.

Jayaraman’s comments came amid criticism by a few coaches of poor refereeing in some matches of the ongoing Indian Super League in Goa.

“There has definitely been an improvement but it cannot be overnight. It is a gradual process. We have to think long-term,” said Jayaraman, who chaired an ‘Open Communication Forum’ organised by Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) recently.

“It is a long-term investment we are doing into a human being. With new development methods now coming to us, I hope we get more top-quality referees sooner, who can not only go and officiate in ISL early in their career but aim to be AFC and FIFA panelists as well,” he added.

The forum was attended by ISL club coaches and officials from the referees department of the AIFF.

Jayaraman said direct feedback from ISL coaches has helped team officials and match officials communicate better.

“We are having better matches since December last week onwards. In football, you are bound to react but the coaches understood that referees are not against anyone.””Sometimes there are incidents which might not be highlighted on TV but one with a technical eye can catch them. Usually, key decisions in a match like a goal or an offside don’t go wrong.

“But when it happens, we also do not appreciate key incidents getting wrong. Our responsibility is to try and help them realise mistakes with the tools we have,” he said.

He said plans were afoot for an exchange programme, wherein Indian referees would officiate a few games in England’s League One and League Two in addition to Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) representatives assessing games and conducting regular workshops in India during the ISL season but they had to be deferred due to the pandemic.

“We are taking advantage of PGMOL’s guidance. In every game we have a Referee Assessor but PGMOL has this mechanism of following a referee’s performance throughout the year. We are trying to integrate that into our system as well,” said Jayaraman.

PGMOL is the body which provides officials for all games played in the Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and Football Association (FA) competitions.

Jayaraman pointed out that a major hindrance in referee development in India from the grassroots level is financial insecurity.

“To become a referee in India, you start at the age of 25-26 and work your way up to becoming a set panelist by the age of 40-41, that is when you get an opportunity to officiate in the top tier in ISL and maybe AFC competitions as well.”

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