Scots firm blows whistle on World Cup refs
DON'T blame the referee. Blame a small Scottish software company.
As the world's eyes are on Africa with millions tuning in to the World Cup, the men often in the centre of that global attention have turned their eyes to Glasgow.
CoachFX is an interactive program that allows referees and coaches to analyse matches and improve their skills. Officials can observe previous games, manipulate players into certain positions and work out how to make better decisions in future. It has just been adopted as a training aid by football's global governing body.
One bad decision can cost a professional referee, who earns thousands of pounds for officiating at top-level matches, his career.
Clients include Ravshan Irmatov, who refereed the World Cup's opening match on Friday between South Africa and Mexico. On the coaching side, Jose Mourinho, Real Madrid's new manager, has bought a copy.
Developed by Glasgow-based Express Coaching, the software has also been adopted by many premiership football clubs as a coaching tool and is currently being used by some of Europe's top sides, including AC Milan, Manchester United, Benfica, Rangers and Olympiacos.
CoachFX lets coaches and referees play out game scenarios and create new team drills using an animated pitch and players. It is particularly useful for referees, who can examine 'what if' game scenarios, allowing them to look at the game from all angles and examine player manoeuvres.
It could even help prevent mistakes such as that of referee Martin Hansson, who missed French striker Thierry Henry's crucial handball against Ireland – the subsequent goal won the match – during a controversial World Cup qualifying match earlier this year.
By using the software, referees will be able to work out the optimum positions on the pitch they should be in to give them full visibility of the action in front of them.
The vision of the referee in the France-Ireland game was obscured and his line officials failed to pick up Henry knocking the ball back across the goal for his team to score.
Fernando Treasaco Gracia, Fifa's head of refereeing, said: "We have deployed the software with all of our Referee Assistance Programme technical instructors. Painting a picture is so important in the learning process with developing referees, and CoachFX allows our staff to quickly create realistic game situations."
The software is regularly used by some of the leading referees in football, including Horatio Elizondo, the referee who gave French player Zinedine Zidane a red card for headbutting Italian Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final, and George Cumming, the Scot who is a former Fifa head of refereeing and now a consultant for the Asian Football Federation. In all, it is now being used by referees and coaches in 53 countries.
"The software for refereeing is unique in world football and I believe will greatly enhance referee development and training programmes," said Cumming. "It can be integrated with film footage for match analysis and for fitness training programmes, or it can be used on its own."
CoachFX was originally created by 39-year-old Raymond Farrelly, who now works for Rangers Football Club as community manager. Now owned by Glasgow-based Express Coaching, it has since been developed into a fully interactive program, and can even be adapted for different sports, including rugby, hockey and basketball.
Sir Clive Woodward, the former England rugby coach and currently the British Olympic Association's Director of Elite Performance, also uses the program, and it has recently been adopted by the Scottish Football Association and the US Soccer Association.
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