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Successful training camp signals the start of preseason

The 2017 PRO preseason is officially off and running after all staff reported to camp on January 27-29 in Pasadena, CA.

The Organization’s referees, assistant referees and fourth officials were in attendance, as was PRO’s network of support staff.

Representatives from FIFA, CONCACAF, The IFAB, U.S. Soccer, Canada Soccer Association, MLS and the Professional Soccer Referees Association were also welcomed to camp.

“The weekend was based around reinforcing messages that have been delivered before,” Peter Walton, PRO’s General Manager, said.

“Everybody should have left the training camp with two or three key points in their mind of how they can progress towards the season in a positive manner.”

The GM started proceedings on Friday, January 27 by greeting all attendees. The retiring officials, both from FIFA and the PRO roster, were recognized, as were those who have earned promotions.

Nick Uranga is the only new officiating addition to the roster for 2017 and he was given a warm round of applause, while PRO’s new representatives on the FIFA panel were congratulated.

Attention then turned to fitness tests, where the officials excelled to achieve a 95 per cent pass rate.

Under the guidance of PRO’s Sports Scientists and Performance Analysts, led by Matt Hawkey, referees were put through their paces at Citrus College.

Manager of Assistant Referees, Greg Barkey, and his team of coaches, oversaw the AR fitness tests at Glendale Community College, where Assistant Sports Scientist Kevin Huet was on hand to record all data.

In the classroom, sessions included a review of 2016 as well as a look ahead to the coming season and its initiatives, while referees, assistant referees and fourth officials split into separate groups to discuss role-specific topics. Assessors also received tuition, from Strategic Initiatives Manager Sandra Serafini and Chief Quality Officer Nick Primavera.

PRO were delighted to welcome two very special guest speakers to Pasadena, in The IFAB’s Technical Director, David Elleray, and former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL, Mike Pereira, who is now a rules analyst for FOX Sports.

Elleray took the officials through the recent changes to the Laws of the Game and gave them an introduction to the Video Assistant Referee Project. He also delivered an inspirational presentation about memories, and the role of a referee in a game.

Pereira offered an insight into his life in the NFL, speaking about past experiences and the perception of officials in his sport. He also gave his thoughts on instant replays, suggesting that they will drive improvement in performances.

“The depth and breadth of the speakers made the weekend,” Walton added.

“Having David Elleray give us the VAR introduction and explanation of Law changes, complimented by Mike Pereira and his thoughts from another sport, really dovetailed together fantastically.

“The attention of the audience spoke volumes. Everyone wanted to learn and take in what was being said.

“It’s remarkable that we achieved a 95 per cent pass rate in the fitness tests. We’re very pleased and it allows us to have almost a full roster to select from when the opening games of the season come around.

“The season will be here before we know, with two more teams on the MLS roster and a number of newcomers in the USL. It promises to be another really competitive season and I think that our officials will be up to match the competitiveness of the competitions.”

Image (L-R): Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho, Jason White, Anthony Vasoli, Gianni Facchini

Reflecting on the weekend, assistant referee Anthony Vasoli said: “While I am embarking on my 13th season, every preseason camp marks a new beginning, and a chance to set new goals.

“With a new fitness test this year, and with my recovery from a dislocated left shoulder, I came to camp more nervous than ever before about getting through the test successfully. With the help of my fellow officials, who provided moral support and encouragement, I was pleased that I had no issues passing.

“Having the entire roster of PRO officials, administrators, and staff on hand to analyze video clips and discuss decisions was invaluable to helping get everyone on the same page.

“The speakers at this camp were particularly interesting and informative, as the subject matter they covered was extremely timely. With the complete re-writing of the Laws of the Game, it was fantastic to have David Elleray taking us through the Law changes that will be implemented in the 2017 season.

“As PRO has been testing the Video Assistant Referee in live games, the chance to hear Mike Pereira talk about the NFL’s experience with replay was exciting.

“In all, this year’s camp was a resounding success, and I am now looking forward to the new season!”

Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer and Referee Manager Michael Kennedy delivered a final message for the 2017 to the group, before Walton closed proceedings by wishing staff and all match officials the best for the upcoming campaign.

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