Simon Taufel launches an online course to boost refereeing
Taufel, who was the game’s premier umpire for many years, wrote all the course material himself and created the program in conjunction with the Dubai-based ICC Cricket Academy, who hired him. Taufel said the online course was based on a more practical approach to officiating rather than the traditional “dry approach” which relied on studying the laws of cricket.
“What we are launching at the ICC Academy is an umpire accreditation program where we can compare some core skills that we look for in cricket umpires at different levels,” Taufel told ESPNcricinfo. “So we have three courses that we have developed / are developing. The first is an introduction to refereeing, which is aimed at mums and dads and teachers and people who are new to refereeing. Try to teach them the role of the umpire, what to do on match day, what to do to prepare for a cricket match and how to get them through their first experience as a cricket umpire.
“The traditional approach to introducing umpires to cricket has simply been to teach them the laws of cricket. This is of limited value, and it is a very dry approach to introducing new people to umpiring. What I would like highlight is that we really focused on more video content and trying to make it easier for people to watch and listen, rather than just reading a lot of text.
Lessons take a few hours to complete and Taufel said the Laws of Cricket is not part of any of the three curricula. Taufel also said that existing referees at all levels could participate in the course by attending the Level 1 and Level 2 programs. So someone who wants to start umpiring or just umpiring school/junior cricket would take the introductory course Someone who wanted to progress and be ready to officiate club first cricket [on turf] would do level 1 first. There is Recognized Prior Learning (RPL) for levels 1 and 2 – an existing referee may not need to take the introductory course level, for example depending on their level of experience and ability.
Taufel pointed out that while the online course did not feature the laws, it did provide the link to MCC’s Laws e-learning platform.
“Accreditation is not a pass or fail,” he said. “You understand the basic skills of what it takes to be a cricket umpire. So how do we communicate? How do we handle conflict? Or how do we handle pressure? How do we respond to calls? what to expect in our first experience with cricket officiating? And how can we prepare for it? We can either show these skills or continue to develop them. If someone doesn’t give us all the answers we are looking for, it can continue through the material until they understand it.”
The Level 1 course is for the referee at a higher level, who might consider it as a career path. The Level 2 course is still under development, but, Taufel said, “would be our national panel or the lane representative cricket umpires and so, we want to get into more technique, put a little more meat on bones.”
This is a world-wide credentialed officiating course, the first of its kind, and open to the public. Taufel said it was an opportunity for the ICC as well as member councils to “encourage” officiating by supporting the online course. Taufel, however, said the removal of the online course did not mean the referee would be immediately qualified to officiate competitive matches. But it would endow the person with vast knowledge and resources that currently, Taufel pointed out, are learned only by referees “on the job.”
“We’ve kind of gone into areas that traditional referee training doesn’t necessarily go into. We’re doing a lot more match management and resourcing. We’re doing a lot more technical resourcing around positioning and the people skills involved. And again, it’s done. It’s something that’s not too expensive. And you kind of don’t have to sign up for multiple nights or weekends to do it. C is reasonably flexible.
“There are many full member countries where their filter is a review of entitlement. And arbitrating is much more than just passing a law exam’
“What I would like to emphasize is that accreditation is not training, they are completely different. So it sets the benchmark and helps to prepare and confirm that the referee is ready for the level that he is ready to take it on. I think there is a real gap between the needs of referees, newcomers to the sport or people who want to develop their skills. There is a real gap between that and what a lot of people “governing bodies are offering. And that’s a shame. So what we’ve tried to do here, with the ICC Academy, is fill some of that gap.”
Taufel pointed out that getting certified is different from training to be a referee. Accreditation, Taufel said, was about “understanding what the skills are and meeting those criteria [standards].” In case one was not proficient in one area, the person would need more training and education.
Taufel, who retired from international cricket in 2012 after winning the ICC Umpire of the Year award on several occasions, remains an influential voice on the umpiring side of the game. He said that unlike in training, the refereeing did not have a uniform evaluation system.
This online program could, he said, be customized by the ICC as well as the member councils according to their needs. It could also help governing bodies devote more staff and resources to making officiating a vital cog in the development of cricket that is currently negligible in several countries.
“A lot of countries don’t have resources dedicated to refereeing. There are a lot of countries and members that don’t have a person in charge of refereeing. And therefore what we lack are Clear guidelines: What is effective training and coaching for cricket umpires? What is clear assessment for umpires? What is a clear course? And what, I suppose, a clear selection policy?
“We’re hoping that by providing this resource we can have much firmer conversations with those governing bodies to see how this might fit with where they would like to go because maybe they don’t have anything or they just might have in many countries right now, the only accreditation they have, the only pass or fail mechanism they have, is purely a law exam.
“There are many full member countries where their filter is a law exam. And arbitration is much more than just passing a law exam. Arbitration is something that many countries don’t help really only with on-the-job training. And what we’re trying to do here is really create an awareness, a skill around all these other things that go into empowerment other than laws.”
Nagraj Gollapudi is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo