From left to right; Martin Robert, Richard Harrington and Michael Gray
Welsh Premier League referee Richard Harrington from Hengoed, aged 28, together with assistant referees Michael Gray from Rhyl, 25 and Martin Roberts from Llangefni, 27 have just graduated from the UEFA CORE (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) programme with Diplomas.
The Welsh trio attained the highest category of award made at the end of fifteen days of intensive in service training and education at UEFA’s Headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.
The initial introduction course was held last year, when they were put through practical situations and lengthy classroom scenarios, which included DVD analysis, advice on health, mobility and flexibility, but they then had to show their abilities on the field.
The trio refereed a game in the French Regional League under the watchful eye of the referee and assistant referee coaches, where their every move was filmed and analysed. Following the game, the Welsh trio were then given self analysis documents followed by a planned programme of objectives before returning home to continue their fledgling careers in the Welsh Premier League.
They returned to Nyon at the end of March for the crucial consolidation course. The objectives they were set had to be met before proceeding further. The physical training was more intense with minimum standards having to be achieved, whilst the theoretical work also posed some critical decision analysis which were very challenging both in Law and how to manage things more effectively. Their match this time was in the Swiss second regional tier and again their every move was filmed, analysed and discussed.
The CORE Programme is headed up by former FIFA Referee David Elleray from England who is the UEFA Referees’ Committee member responsible for this project, which UEFA fund heavily to the tune of in excess of 1.5 million Euros each year.
On the last day, the awards of the categories achieved by the young referees from all around Europe were announced. With the awards being announced alphabetically by National Association, Richard, Michael and Martin had a long wait before the announcement for Wales was made.
"We had to wait for what seemed an eternity" said Harrington, "Then finally, we heard; Wales, Harrington, Gray and Roberts come forward to receive your diplomas."
"We were three very relieved, but proud Welsh Referees when we stepped forward on the auditorium stage at UEFA HQ, to be presented by David Elleray, which concluded our period of extremely hard, but rewarding work."
Referees’ Manager Rodger Gifford was delighted with the news and commented;
"Again, young Welsh Referees have shown that they can compete with their counterparts from across Europe, not only physically in the endurance, speed and agility tests which are strictly monitored, but also in the way they carry out their on field duties performing in a manner which satisfied the UEFA hierarchy.
"Obviously the Welsh Premier League will benefit from their experience as the training and education programmes we run here, are based on the UEFA Principles as dictated by the UEFA Convention for Refereeing.
"Our membership within the Convention has enabled us to introduce several new initiatives to ensure that talented young referees are identified and coached in the 'UEFA Way'.
My congratulations to Richard, Michael and Martin on their achievement which has set a standard for the referees coming up behind then to achieve.”