NEW DELHI: In a first for Indian Football, the first batch of elite match officials (referees and assistant referees) have been inducted into the system with full-time contracts.
A joint investment of the AIFF and the FSDL, the Elite Refereeing Development Plan (ERDP), in keeping with the outlines of ‘Vision 2047’, aims to make refereeing a viable career pathway in the Indian Football ecosystem. The first batch appointed consists of eight referees and eight assistant referees. The next batch of professional match officials will be announced in 2024.
AIFF President Mr Kalyan Chaubey said, “A game of football cannot be conducted without a referee, and therefore it is a core area of focus for us. By employing referees full time, we will make sure they get the right kind of training, attention, support and also have financial security.
“A measure like this will incentivise the profession, hopefully make refereeing an attractive proposition and draw more of them into the system, especially at the grassroots. This would help our competition structure hugely. At the end of the day, in line with the strategic roadmap, we want to see our referees officiate at the World Cup in the future,” he added.
Secretary General Dr Shaji Prabhakaran said, “Our target is to employ 50 match officials full time. Refereeing is a very important facet of the footballing pyramid and our goals towards doing more in this regard are detailed in the recently unveiled roadmap. The immediate target for 2026 is to engage more referees and create an exciting and viable pathway for referee development in India.”
The professional match official organisation will also be bolstered by a coaching system that supports match officials operating in the ISL and I-League and those selected for the Elite Talent Pool from 2023-24 season. High level technical training will be shared with the Heads of Referees within Member Associations. This will ensure that the gap in law interpretation is minimised and best practices shared with every referee who desires to develop their skills.
“This is a very exciting period for Indian referees,” Trevor Kettle, Chief Refereeing Officer (CRO) said. “These selected match officials will act as role models to inspire the talent for tomorrow and can expect to take charge of more games in the future. We must aspire to reach a minimum of 20 games within their core role per season to enable real progress. Professional match officials will be mandated to undertake self-evaluation and technical training every week.
“Transparency is key, and we will ensure that to gain credibility with our stakeholders. While professionalising referees will not totally eradicate human error, it will help achieve high standards and ensure consistency in major decision making. In the future we will explore how we can explain how and why decisions were made, albeit in a safe and controlled environment. I encourage match officials at all levels to professionalise their own approach, and learn and grow constantly.”
First batch of elite match officials on full-time contracts-
R Venkatesh, M Pratik, P Aditya, Crystal John, Rahul Gupta, M Jamal, N Senthil and Harish Kundu.
J Tony, Sumanta Dutta, Samar Pal, Ujjal Halder, Kennedy Sapam, B Nagoorkani, P Vairamuthu and Abhishek Dey.