Background

Web-based perception and decision-making training for Referees, Assistant Referees and Video Assistant Referees

Web-based perception and decision-making training for Referees, Assistant Referees and Video Assistant Referees

Since 2000, the study of the performance improvement of both the physical and perceptual-cognitive skills of referees and assistant referees was a primary research topic in the "Perception and Performance" lab of the Faculty of Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences at KU Leuven (Belgium). In recent years, intensive research was conducted to get a better understanding of the acquisition and fine-tuning of perceptual-cognitive skills in refereeing. Specifically, a number of new and unique training methods were produced. The objectives were to provide ((video)assistant) referees more exposure and experience in assessing match incidents that would, in turn, improve their decision-making accuracy during the game.
Therefore, an online training tool was developed for the various roles of match officials, such as referees, assistant referees (ARs), additional assistant referees (AARs), and video assistant referees (VARs).

Because all of these match officials have to make their own specific decisions, there are different types of incidents to assess in the online training tool. For the main referee, the emphasis is on foul versus no-foul incidents and the corresponding technical and disciplinary decisions. For the ARs, the focus is on offside versus no-offside situations. The Assistant Referees are exposed to situations where the ball crossed the goal line or not as well as to foul versus no-foul in the area they should cover. These incidents are also being used by the ARs. The Video Assistant Referees are challenged by typical split-screen situations in which they have to decide to intervene, or not (Check, VAR-only, On-field review).

 Simulated offside incidents


Perception4Perfection offers ((video) assistant) referees the opportunity to practice ‘à la carte’ their perception and decision-making skills in a unique and individualized learning environment.

VAR decision making

The main purpose of this online training tool is to further improve the perception and decision-making skills of (assistant) referees. Using different formats (video simulations, computer animation, stereoscopic 3-D offside situations and real match situations/footage), additional training opportunities are offered. This format of 'distance learning' provides interesting advantages, as it is space- and time-independent: individuals can practice at any time of the day and whenever it is convenient. As has recently been shown, there is a positive transfer of this practice to the actual (game) performance.

To ensure that the top European officials are constantly exposed and challenged by up-to-date match incidents, the video database consists of approximately 1500 incidents Every season, new incidents are added that have been recorded using high-definition footage.
To challenge the match officials even more, there are different types of situations: simulations from an in-game perspective, computer animations and real match footage. For each of these, the difficulty is progressively increased.

Our research unit developed a database of 450 offside incidents that consist of video simulations and computer animations with a clear difference in difficulty level. The incidents that have already been used intensively by UEFA and FIFA (in preparation of the European Championships 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup 2006 and 2010). We also have 220 foul/no-foul incidents for the training of AAR. In turn, this offers (assistant) referees the opportunity to practice ‘à la carte’ their perceptual and decision-making skills in a unique and individualized learning environment. The comments of the users are unanimously very positive.

Th online training tool also offers the opportunity to control and manipulate the amount and type of feedback. Once the participants provided their technical or disciplinary decision for a given incident (e.g. yellow or red card, offside or not, check or review), the correct answer is provided from the UEFA Refereeing Officers.
In addition, they also receive the slow-motion of the incident (and the still frame in the case of offside incidents) as well as the arguments why the decision was correct or not. Consequently, they are refining their decision-making process, allowing a huge increase in both the uniformity and consistency of their decisions

This online training tool also offers the possibility to show the ((video) assistant) referees a limited number of interesting game situations of a previous match day. Using the feedback of the technical experts of the referee committee, the decision-making process becomes further refined to the next match.

 Feedback following a decision


Of course, this online training protocol also offers possibilities for other actors in the football community, including players, coaches, media and the public. As there is a huge database behind it, the training tool can be accessed simultaneously by a huge number of participants while the results can still be provided individually in a very efficient way.

As such, all actors are offered the possibility to gain a better understanding of the rules of the game and their proper application. This will certainly improve the understanding of the difficult and stressful task of the (video)(assistant) referees.


This format of 'distance learning' provides interesting advantages, as it is space- and time-independent: individuals can practice at any time of the day and whenever it is convenient. As has recently been shown, there is a positive transfer of this practice to the actual match performance. Online training is a common practice to be better prepared to act in the real life. In the Belgian army, for example, they use SWORD (Simulation and War-gaming for operational Readiness and Doctrine) to prepare the soldiers for real life missions.





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