The development of new referees is one of the Oxfordshire FA’s top priorities and there are many ways in which the Referees Committee works to achieve this and the Referees Academy is just one.
The Academy operates in conjunction with the Oxford United FC (OUFC) Centre of Excellence (CoE) which plays games in the Under 9 to Under 15 age groups every Sunday throughout the season at the Oxford Community School in Cowley. The games are against professional club CoE’s who operate at that level such as Plymouth, Swansea, Bristol City and Swindon Town.
The games follow FA Development criteria, so no points to be won or lost and all the players and their parents adhere to a very strict code of conduct. There are few problems in these matches and hence our young referees are able to referee these highly competitive games in a relatively safe and friendly environment.
To become a member of the Academy, referees are selected from the 14-20 age group, both male and female, who display a level of commitment that indicates they have the potential to take their refereeing to the next level. At any one time we have around 30 referees who are participating in the initiative. Once selected, referees are issued with their Academy polo shirt and appointed to games on a monthly basis, in addition to their normal games. These are County appointments so it teaches the referees the importance of good administration.
Oxfordshire FA is one of the few counties that appoint assistant referees at this level and each Academy member will in turn fulfil the role of referee or assistant during the season. A Referee Mentor is also allocated to each game to provide support and guidance to the officials.
Games are generally played in blocks of 15-20 minutes, during the break the officials are coached by their Mentor which enables the officials to work on a particular aspect of their game which in turn allows them to develop their overall game.
After the game development sheets are sent to the officials, giving advice and praise; these are not assessments as such but allow the referees and mentors to track their progress.
Apart from the match day, the officials attend 2 specific in-service training seminars each year, this is often in the form of a presentation by a high profile referee or attending a game to view more senior officials performing.
The Academy continues to move from strength to strength, a fact proven by the regular appointment of Academy officials to County Cup Finals. For the first time in OFA history a County Cup final in 2008 was refereed by a female official who was at that time an Academy member.
The Oxfordshire FA Referees Academy has developed a tremendous reputation for the way it is run and the standard of the officials it has produced. The majority of officials find the Academy system is a great help in making the transition to officiating in open age football and the success and retention rates of referees from the Academy only goes to reiterate this.
If you would like to become involved, whether you're a young referee or an established referee with a couple of spare hours on a Sunday and would like to help with mentoring, then please get in touch.