The standard of referees' officiating in this year's EuroBasket 2007 and EuroBasket Women 2007 was one of the highest so far in a major tournament, according to FIBA's Technical Director Lubomir Kotleba who believes that European basketball referees are becoming professional in their attitude.
The feedback from the EuroBasket referees who were asked to evaluate the technology and the level of competition suggests likewise.
“Officiating was solid in both EuroBasket championships. The great news is that we have not seen any games decided by the referees but we must admit that this is not anymore a hot issue in European basketball,” comments Kotleba.
“Since the early 1990s there is a kind of positive pressure on the referees to be more 'professional' not in what regards their game’s fees but their attitude on and off the courts.
“If one decides to become a referee he should do it because he enjoys the game. But this is not a hobby anymore but a very serious part-time job where one has to be physically and mentally prepared and devoted to the game and work hard before and during it.”
Most people in the sport argue that fitness and English language skills are paramount for today’s aspiring referees and Kotleba agrees.
“One should have the feeling that a referee can at any time take their shirt off and play the game. Of course we cannot ask them to be as fit as a professional player but their standard of fitness must be really excellent. And all international referees must speak English. You cannot go places these days without understanding English.”
Like in every other aspect of the game in every sport there is always room for improvement also when it comes to refereeing.
Enter Kotleba: “FIBA and FIBA Europe and the other continents have done a great job with regard to the referees’ physical preparation and understanding the rules and the mechanics, in other words their movement on the court.
“Where we can go one better is the mental preparation of the referees. This is an area where we all have to improve, to find the right way to teach them how to improve their mental strength and deliver excellent officiating while working under pressure by the spectators, the players, the coaches.”
The referees who officiated in EuroBasket 2007 did not talk much about mind games but were full of praise about the level of the competition, the technical guidance by FIBA Europe during the tournament and the use of technology – all factors that help them raise their game to the next level.
The Digital Score Sheet and the Instant Replay were to praise in particular.
“This is an an excellent idea. Some may not agree but I think the instant replay would prevent problems at the end of the games,” commented Slovenian referee Sasa Pukl.
For others, like France’s Anibal Castano, the Digital Score Sheet has become part of his refereeing experience while in competition:
“For me it is now impossible to follow or even enjoy an event without [having] this software.”
Germany’s Oliver Krause had very little doubt about the level of competition in EuroBasket.
“There were the best players in Europe and in the world – judging by the results of the Europeans in the World Championship last year – fighting for the title,” he said.