Good communication system vital for solid referee performance

  • Communication among the members of a referee pair is vital to taking the necessary and the right decisions. People expect the decision to be fast, clear, and correct. With the use of a wireless communication system, the referees are constantly in contact with each other and able to communicate about all crucial decisions during a match. The headset has become the number one communication tool in handball refereeing.

    Referee communication systems reduce confusion and frustration between referees and other match officials, ensuring effective communication and efficient decision-making during matches,” says George Bebetsos, the EHF coordinator of the referee programme.

    EHF have chosen the devices of French company Vogo Group to equip its referees while the EJEAS ELITE referee headset communication system is chosen for its top events: the EHF EURO final tournaments and the EHF FINAL4 events. For EHF, the key components of a solid referee communication system are high audio quality in a noisy environment, strong robustness to interferences, user friendliness, and security by digital encryption.

    “Management, control, and ultimately building a better game require good decision-making by the referees. A good tool of communication allows the referees to engage the offenders’ attention, project confidence in the decision, and promote a perception of fairness,” says Bebetsos, adding: “By using a state-of-the-art communication system such as the EJEAS Elite referees make fewer mistakes, because they can inquire quickly and directly important match information with their colleague and discuss decisions directly. The system ensures they are fully involved and informed because they are hearing everything. The work of a referee is effective because he or she can focus fully on what is happening during the game.”

    But have you ever thought about what the referees at the EHF EURO 2022 are talking about during the games? Which decisions do they discuss, in which situations and moments is communication needed? We have asked some of the European top referees.

    Vanja Antic and Jelena Jakovlevic from Serbia have been a pair of referees for 25 years, but only since some years, they have the opportunity to use a headset as a means of communication. “Previously, we gave some signals by hands, finger or faces to communicate, but of course, this is completely different to nowadays technology,” says Jelena Jakovlevic.

    “To use EJEAS is so useful, it helps a lot to take the right and good decisions and to have a constant flow of communication,” says Vanja Antic, adding a perfect example from a EHF EURO 2022 match they were in charge of.

    “I was the goal referee focusing on the goal which just was scored, and Jelena informed me about a foul, which was not in my angle of viewing and told me about a two-minute suspension I should give. Without Jelena’s help – and the straight communication via those headsets – I could not have taken this correct decision.”

    As the speed in handball has increased rapidly in recent years, also the number of decisions of referees has increased a lot.

    “Having this speed in mind, you need constant communication. When we started to use the headsets some years ago, we talked too much, now we find the right way of communicating and concentrating,” says Vanja Antic.

    “Sometimes, when nothing special on court happens, we do not even talk for one of two minutes. But of course, all crucial situations are discussed by us via the headsets,” adds Jelena Jakovlevic.

    “It is our job to safeguard the rules and keep the quality of the matches high, therefore any support by technology is important, like the headsets for the communication, the video replay or the goal-line-technology. Those technical devices really increase the quality of our decisions,” says Antic.

    “And especially with the newest edition of the EJEAS system we are highly satisfied. It only starts when you talk, the noise from the stands or our whistles is dubbed, so our concentration can remain on the highest level. And when I hear that Jelena speaks, I know there is a reason for this.”

    Most of the time, the referees use their native language, when they communicate via EJEAS, the only exception is the  number of passes, when passive play was announced by the referees: “We always count down in English, as, when a player asks, we do not have to change the language,” says Jelena Jakovlevic: “The second exception is during the last attack, when we count down the seconds until the final buzzer.”

    And sometimes, even the two referees motivate each other: “We know each other for more than 25 years, so for both it is OK, when the other says in certain occasions: ‘Concentrate’ or ‘Keep your focus’,” says Antic.

    Her Austrian referee colleague Ana Vranes adds: “It is simply amazing to work with this device, as it helps you so much in the communication.”