A total of 72 referees, six of them making their Euroleague Basketball debuts, gathered last weekend in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to take part in the 30th Clinic for Euroleague Basketball Officials. The three-day clinic was filled with educational workshops and meetings with referee coaches to prepare for the 2021-22 season.
"This is the first time in 24 months that we have been able to get together face to face with all of our officiating group and, although we worked differently last year through the season, it is important to have this group meeting in one venue to make sure we are on the same page, with the same approach for the upcoming season," said Senior Director of Officiating Richard Stokes. "Our discussions with the head coaches in the summer were productive and this also feeds into how we want our competitions to be officiated, as their feedback is one of the elements that drives our progress."
A host of special guests delivered lectures to aid the referees in their pre-season training. They received insights on mental preparation from sport psychologist Mar Rovira and feedback on their physical preparation with Dr. Nenad Dikic. All the officials went through a battery of medical tests to check that they are ready for the season with Dr. Dikic and his team.
"The clinic's structure was strategically designed to boost the desire of learning, improving and stretching the referees' abilities in an environment of freedom and collaboration within the crew. We put the focus on teamwork on the court, splitting the referees into small groups and they developed a great understanding of what on-court teamwork means," Rovira explained. "Sharing this time in Ljubljana with them reassured me that they are aware of the importance of the mental side of officiating and that they are going to use the resources we are implementing for them."
Coach Ettore Messina of AX Armani Exchange Milan also spent time at the clinic and conducted a session on the court covering play actions and movements that present challenges for the referees as well as how the modern game is evolving and being played.
“Referees are a big part of our league, they dedicate time, effort and professionalism to the game," Coach Messina said. "As a coach, providing them with a different perspective and getting their feedback in return, in this setting, gives both sides the chance to better understand each other. Hopefully, this kind of cooperation will put everybody in the best possible position to make the games better and enjoyable, especially for the fans."
The group included six new referees for the 2021-22 season; Steve Bittner, Maxime Boubert, Guido Giovanetti, Leandro Lezcano, Adar Pe’er and Vassilis Pitsilkas have been added to the list of referees.
"We had three referees retire in the summer, but we have been following five of these referees for some time and so we felt it was an opportunity to bring them in because we believe they can help us in the long term. The sixth moved from South America to Europe and is a very experienced referee and so this was also a great opportunity for him and us to work together," added Stokes.
The three days included presentations on many aspects of the criteria applied in contact situations as well as discussions on the application of the rules and protocols covering instant replay and the new coach's challenge that will be used this season. In addition, Euroleague Basketball’s IRS has been upgraded, thus representatives from Hawk-Eye Innovations were also present to assist the referees in gaining experience in using the platform.
The ABA League's president of referees commission Sasa Maricic and the commissioner for delegating referees Srdan Dozai were also in attendance as was Algimantas Pavilonis of the Lithuanian League.
"Our officials are an important part of the game, but the main protagonists are the clubs and their players. That’s who the fans come to see and we have ensured that on any given night, the best performing team wins," summed up Stokes. "The competitions are becoming more competitive each year and both the EuroLeague and EuroCup will take another step forward this season, so it is important to prepare as fully as we can over these three days. We have high expectations from our officials for this season as we should every season."