The SAFA Referees Programme is an internally controlled and supervised programme whose main objective is to develop South African referees to the highest possible level, locally and internationally.
All association referees fall under the direct supervision of the South African Football Association and its affiliates.
As part of its Vision 2022 plan, the Association has streamlined its governance structures, combining several Standing Committees into clusters to ensure better coordination and oversight of its programmes. The National Referees Committee (NRC) is part of the football and technical cluster of committees that includes the SAFA Technical Committee and the SAFA Medical Committee.
All referees matters are overseen by the NRC.
Structure of the SAFA Referees Programme:
The SAFA Referees Department
The SAFA Referees Department is the operational arm of the SAFA Referees Programme, responsible for the day-to-day implementation and operational oversight of the referees programme.
Positioning Statement of the Referees Department
The Referees Department endeavours to become the foremost refereeing department in the CAF football family by ensuring that the largest number of referees on the CAF and/or FIFA panel are produced in South Africa.
The SAFA Referees Development Programme (RDP) has long prided itself in training some of the best referees in the world as evidenced by the continued selection of many South African referees to officiate at continental and other competitions.
Referees Department Key Strategic Objectives:
- Development of referees to function at the highest levels of the game;
- Appointment of Referees for operational duty in the Premier Soccer League,
- Appointment of Referees for operational duty in the National First Division,
- Appointment of Referees for FIFA sanctioned matches,
- Appointments of Referees for CAF sanctioned matches,
- Appointment of Referees for International/local Friendly Matches,
- Appointment of Referees for SAFA Promotional League matches, and
- Attainment of Operational Control of all the Provincial Referees Appointment Secretaries,
- Training and development of referees at all levels of the SAFA structure.
As a result of continuous interaction between the NRC and the Provincial Referees Committees, training continues in all nine provinces have been rolled out, followed by the selection of a National Youth Development Group.
Due to the vastness of the Northern Cape, a decision was made to split the province into two training sectors, namely the Upington Sector and the Kimberley sector, meaning that the Northern Cape is the only province that will have two seminars.
All courses are conducted by the SAFA Referees Technical Sub-Committee, under the stewardship of the Chair and a team of instructors, including fitness programmes and scientific evaluation. A detailed training plan was formulated by the Technical Committee.
As part of its broad referees development programme, SAFA has established a special focus on increasing the number of women referees at all levels of the sport through a special project, named Project Equity, whilst ensuring that its other programmes also include sufficient numbers of females.
Project Inclusivity: The training of referees at a national and provincial level
It was found that prior to 2009, the training of referees was primarily geared to the National Panel of Referees and that referees at a local and regional level was being left out. This project ensured the ongoing training and development of members of the national panel whilst, ensuring that the same training at the same level of intensity was afforded to the nine provinces aimed at the SAFA Promotional Leagues (ABC Motsepe League, SAB Regional League and the SASOL Women's League).
Project Equity: The Development of Women Referees
Project Equity seeks to accelerate the development of women's referees using the highly successful SAFA referees development model that has created a great demand for South African referees all over the African continent, in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and in FIFA competitions. This is the training and development of female referees and match commissioners/assessors. As an organisational objective, this was a first in SAFA's quest to level the playing field in terms of the equitable devolution of training resources in order to have a greater footprint in women's football worldwide.
Project Phoenix: Retraining of Referee Instructors
This programme was developed to re-train all of SAFA's Referees Instructors whose skills had not been upgraded for many years. The Association therefore conducts courses on a regular basis to ensure that instructors are attuned to the latest developments in the evolution of the Laws of the Game and other relevant areas of referee development techniques.
In the past, many questions were raised about the level of fitness of all referees in SAFA structures. The Association embarked on a fitness upgrade programme with the objective of increasing the fitness level of South African referees by adopting the FIFA International Fitness Standard for Referees as the South African national standard. This means that all fitness testing is done using the FIFA Fitness Standard for International Referees and not the FIFA Standard for National Referees.
Whilst this process may see some failures in the short term, the objective is to raise the standard to enable more referees to reach the international standard and guarantee greater participation of South African referees in international competitions. The same standard applies to women referees and the Association will provide the necessary support levels to ensure that they succeed at this new standard.
Project Hector: Creating a Talent Pipeline of Young Referees
This is the institution of a Youth Development Framework in the form of a Provincial Youth Development Training Group (YDG). All nine provinces have been tasked to formulate a panel of young referees, aged between 18 and 30 of which at least 30% must be female (Project Equity).
This group will then be fast tracked and trained at the highest level of training and development available at the SAFA Standard and where necessary at the FIFA Standard.
Once all the nine provinces have been subjected to their Provincial YDG, then the Association will formulate the National Youth Development Training Group. This group of young referees will then become the feeder into the National Panel of Referees, meaning that the mean age of all members of the National Panel of Referees will be significantly reduced over time. It is estimated that the average age of a referee on the national panel of referees will be about 27 years in 2018.
The total number of women earmarked for training under this project is 30 women per province on the Provincial YDG and at least 5 positions per province on the National YDG will be reserved for women.
Referees Quality Assurance Programme
The Quality Assurance Process ensures that the refereeing system we use in the country maintains the highest standard of integrity and performance. The system makes room not only for performance reviews but also for trend-spotting by compiling aggregate performance statistics to compare against past performance.
The elements of the Referees Quality Assurance Programme are:
- A dynamic appointments system
- AA professional Match Inspection System through the use of Match Commissioners
- AA Match Review System that responds in a timely manner to performance lapses
- AA Referees Disciplinary System that uses correctional discipline to maintain quality
- AA Referees Reward System that rewards exceptional performance
The SAFA Referees Department is therefore guided by the following six-point programme to assure the best quality refereeing programme:
- A modern, constantly upgraded Referees Development Programme. The Referees Development Programme will be housed in the SAFA Academy at the National Technical Centre to ensure its long-term viability and the contributing oversight received from the NRC;
- A sensible referees appointments system;
- A Match Inspection Programme comprised of well-trained Match Inspectors;
- A Match Review System – subordinated under the Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee – with NRC members comprising the review panels;
- A Referees Disciplinary Process – subordinated under the SAFA Disciplinary Committee – with NRC members comprising the disciplinary panels;
- A Referees Reward System to recognise outstanding performances of referees throughout the year.