Aspiring referees participate in largest FIT training course in history

March 29, 2021 @ 0:30 UTC

In March, FIT trained up a massive 230 new whistleblowers from 12 Asian National Touch Organisations (NTO), underpinning the region's growth as one of the game's developing powerhouse.

On Sunday March 21 Federation of International Touch (FIT) Referees Commission Chair Ian Matthew, along with Referees Commission member Chris Dolahenty, facilitated the largest FIT training course in history.

The FIT Referee’s Beginner Course attracted 230 budding whistleblowers from 12 Asian National Touch Organisations (NTO).

FIT Member Relations Commission Asia drives regional growth

This event was the brainchild of Bianca Arco from FIT Member Relations Commission Asia, who said the Member Relations Commission, “Aims to connect FIT with NTOs in their region; to strategise, develop and leverage FIT resources and initiatives to further develop the sport.”

The workshop was an outstanding success with every FIT member nation in Asia represented at the course with Malaysia having the largest cohort of 100 new referees. 

The course is facilitated using the Zoom online platform and as Bianca explained, “It is a 3-hour theoretical course supplemented with many videos, along with a Q & A portion where participants can clarify rule applications and interpretations for in-game situations. There is a guided participant workbook as well that participants can use to make notes.”

Hj. Ahmad Sufiani Johari, President of the Malaysia Touch Association was effusive in his praise for the course. “The presenter and host were extremely good, experienced and very interactive. They gave realistic examples, were flexible and allowed discussion to reflect the needs of the participants. The training is relevant and practical. Thank you FIT for providing such an excellent Level 1 Referee Course.”

Training moves online during the pandemic

The FIT Referees Commission pivoted to an online learning model in 2020 due to the Covid-19 world wide shut-down, in order to stay connected to referees globally, as well as to enable the training of new referees to continue. This has been one of the positives to emerge from the pandemic and will form a major part of referee training going forward, beyond Covid-19. Holding face to face training courses is expensive, involving travel and accommodation costs for facilitators. Effective online training is an efficient use of resources for an amateur sport such as Touch which spans the globe. 

Popularity of the course an indication of growth in Asia

The enormous demand for virtual referee training in Asia demonstrates the great strides being made in the development of Touch in this region. Bianca Arco said, “I’d say now more than ever, people in Asia are hungry for development and healthy competition in and around the region. I think the acceptance of this otherwise foreign sport is becoming more mainstream and easier to scale up if the structures are in place (e.g., more access to resources = more referees = more structured games = more tournaments = formation of national representative teams) “

For Malaysia Touch Association (MTA) President Mr Sufiani, having more accredited referees is critical, “The MTA 10-year plan is highly dependent on referees supporting the State Touch Association (STA) events/programs. As the number of clubs and participants is increasing day by day in Malaysia, the STAs need to have a standardised process of developing, delivering and promoting Touch with dedicated referees in the Malaysia Touch Development Region.”

The MTA has an incredibly ambitious and forward-thinking plan aiming for Malaysia to be a fully developed Touch nation capable of winning World Cup medals by 2031. For Malaysian teams to fulfil this ambition the standard of refereeing there will also have to improve concurrently. The FIT Referees Commission can help with this. The online referee courses are not exclusively for new referees. The Referees Commission has already facilitated online courses for higher level referees. Last year, for example, an online coaching workshop for more experienced referees was held in a joint venture between the USA Touch, Chile Touch and FIT. These courses are available to all member nations.

More whistleblowers in Asia

FIT virtual training has led to an increase in referee numbers in Asia. “Before I could easily count the number of referees I’d see regularly on the international circuit around Asia. But now there are so many new faces that have been added to the pool. They will need some on-field experience before they can start officiating internationally, but it is a very positive sign for the development of the sport to have more referees,” said Bianca Arco. 

When the world opens up again and Touch fields around Asia are once more filled with the sound of whistles blowing, there are going to be a lot of new people blowing them, thanks to Bianca and the FIT Referees Commission.