Referee Abroad Academy

Referee Abroad Academy Participants in 2019 - top left: Euan Ross Birch (SCO), Viktor Paulinen (FIN), Steve Janssen (NED), Maximilian Bauer (GER), Jasper Vitse (BEL), Tedi Ibershimi (ALB), Tomaž Pirman (SVN); bottom left: Santiago Bedoya (SWE), Liam Vitoria (ENG), Yodi Monteny (NED), Milan Vyhnanovský (CZE), Rasmus Maalinn (EST), Kristián Micheľ (SVK) © Referee Abroad

Preparing the next generation of refereeing excellence

The Referee Abroad Academy (RAA) is heading for its fifth edition in 2023 and is remaining committed to its aim of preparing the next generation of refereeing excellence by identifying and developing young high-potential referees and assistant referees from across Europe.

The RAA programme marks the focus point of Referee Abroad’s development efforts and started in 2017. After two seasons subsequently held at the Paris World Games 2017 and 2018, the RAA has been successfully moved to the Donosti Cup held in San Sebastián, Spain, in the second week of July.

Each year, 16 match officials – twelve referees and four specialised assistant referees – are selected to join the RAA. Usually aged between 18 and 25 years, they are mostly officiating in advanced (youth) leagues in their respective national association and join the RAA to receive valuable impulses by international referee coaches.

“Our mission is to support and qualify aspiring referees and assistant referees in managing the crucial steps to their national associations’ top leagues by providing them with valuable advice in a unique learning environment. Moreover, we are committed to preparing these high potentials for the chances, challenges and spirit of international refereeing by carefully trickling down modern refereeing standards and requirements while respecting the referees’ individual learning background.”, RAA Director Niclas Erdmann says.

“Our vision is to add an essential part to the next generation of European top refereeing. If our referees and assistant referees advance to higher national leagues or even programmes like UEFA CORE in future – and maybe even thanks to the advice and learnings they have taken from the RAA – then our vision is met.”, he adds.

For this, the RAA combines a unique physical learning environment at the tournament including post-match-analyses and technical sessions with remote development opportunities such as video-based learning, personality profiling and 360°-feedback.

Interested? Please find more information below!


What the RAA offers

Coaching Team

Who is behind the RAA


What the conditions are


How referees can benefit


Apply now!

Features: What the Referee Abroad Academy offers

Refereeing at an International Tournament: Donosti Cup 2023

Game is underway for an Academy Referee Team © Referee Abroad

Participating in an international youth tournament marks the core of the RAA concept: The 12 referees and 4 assistant referees selected for the 2023 edition of the RAA will attend the Donosti Cup in San Sebastián, Spain (4 to 9 July 2023).

Separated into teams of four, all referees and assistant referees will officiate Under-16 and Under-18 games on a daily basis and encounter football teams from various countries. More information on the tournament can be found here

Learning by Observing:
Video Recordings

Each game is recorded and edited by a dedicated Video Analyst © Referee Abroad
A main pillar of the RAA experience is the availability of video footage provided in the Post-Match-Analyses and Clip Reviews. This facilitates video-based self-analysis and learning from the other referees and assistant referees.
All matches overseen by our RAA officials are recorded and edited by our Video Analyst and provided for the analyses on the following day. After the tournament, the videos are shared with all referees and assistant referees.

Feedback by international referee coaches: Post-Match-Analysis

RAA Referees and Coaches during a Post-Match-Analysis © Referee Abroad

Feedback is the breakfast of champions! Therefore, the RAA aims at providing our referees and assistant referees with honest feedback on their performances and potential.

Each game is observed by a referee coach. Based on his observations and the video footage recorded, he will analyse and discuss each game together with the referee team in a post-match-analysis (classical debriefing-format).

The referee coach will offer all-encompassing advice on what has been done well and what can be improved how in future.

Discussing match incidents in the whole group: Clip Review

RAA Lead Coach David Coote moderating a clip review © Referee Abroad

During the week at the tournament, the whole group of referees and assistant referees will gather several times – among others to discuss match incidents in a dedicated Clip Review.

This gives all referees and assistant referees the opportunity to learn from each other’s daily experiences, share impressions and opinions and expand their perspective on diverse refereeing topics or even approaches.

In these reviews, the focus is clearly put on “what can we learn from the situation?” rather than finding errors or faults.

Learning more about refereeing:
Educational Sessions

RAA Coach Sten Klaasen holding a session © Referee Abroad

Besides fully focussing on the performances shown during the tournament, the RAA also offers our participants general input on relevant officiating topics.

Our educational sessions offer new perspectives on different aspects of refereeing, such as: “Game Management”, “Personality”, “Psychological Effects in Refereeing”, “Assistant Refereeing Skills”, and “Teamwork”. Moreover, we make use of interactive methods such as live votings on match incidents.

Learning and practicing outside:
Practical Sessions

UEFA Observer and RAA Coach Dejan Filipović (r.) in a session © Referee Abroad

In order to promote transfer from theory to practice, some elements of our educational programme take place in practical sessions on football fields.

This offers the referees and assistant referees the possibility of learning and testing what has been learnt in the most credible and relevant environment possible. Topics such as fitness, positioning and movement or cooperation in the team usually are focused in these sessions.

Online-Based Learning
RefPal Video Education

Watching, assessing and discussing match incidents on video is possible in RefPal

Before the tournament, all RAA participants are prepared for their tasks at the tournament in a consistent manner across the group and offered another educational benefit by an innovative video-learning tool called RefPal.

In RefPal, all RAA participants will have the opportunity to judge match incidents based on their opinion, compare their judgments within the RAA learning group and track their individual learning progress.

Triggering Self-Reflection
360°-Feedback & Personality Test

A 360°-feedback tool and personality profile offer a basis for self-reflection
In the RAA, we encourage our referees and assistant referees to reflect on themselves. By this, their knowledge of own strengths and development areas on and off the field of play should be enhanced and lead to a higher self-awareness.
We pursue this goal by offering our referees and assistant referees two tools: First, a 360°-feedback tool enables them to collect feedback from multiple angles. Second, the results of a personality questionnaire can be used for self-reflection.

Coaching Team

Niclas Erdmann
David Coote
Sten Klaasen
Kristian Bakkelo
to be announced in early 2020
to be announced in early 2020
to be announced in early 2020
to be announced in early 2020

Moreover, these Referee Coaches joined the RAA in the past: Detelin Baialtzaliev (Bulgaria), Ian Blanchard (England), Adrian D. Casha (Malta), Dejan Filipović (Serbia), Andy Himsworth (England), Zdravko Jokić (Serbia), Leif Lindberg (Sweden), Jozef Marko (Slovakia), Patrick Neuwirth (Austria), Damian Picz (Poland), Gregor Rojko (Slovenia), Uno Tutk (Estonia), and many more committed people!



Accommodation in a student residence (double rooms with private bathrooms) is fully included in the price.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are provided by the tournament and free for all referees and assistant referees.

All match officials are provided with sports nutrition during the days.


Bus transfer from and to the airport closest to the tournament (Bilbao Airport) is organised and fully included.

Transfer to and from the stadiums is organised by a free access to rental cars for each respective referee team.

Referees and assistant referees cover their flight (or train) costs themselves.


The RAA is a non-profit-project organised by a group of committed volunteers.

In order to cover arising costs, a participation fee is charged from all referees and assistant referees.

Benefits for referees and assistant referees

Reasons to apply for the RAA – your benefits as a participant

  • Refereeing games at an international youth tournament in the beautiful city of San Sebastián and surrounding Basque region
  • Advice by international referee coaches after each game (incl. the provision of written assessment reports)
  • Access to full-game video recordings of each game officiated
  • Interaction with learning and development tools (incl. video-based learning, personality profiling and 360°-feedback)
  • Delivery of a written certificate of attendance
  • Chance to qualify for Elite Tournaments in 2021
  • Savouring an intercultural environment offering the chance to develop both language competences and soft skills, and to make new friendships across Europe
Reaching success and enjoyment in a team of new friends is only one benefit!

The Referee Abroad Academy has proven to be a premium experience. It encompasses an elite 360° approach to Refereeing: focusing on the psychological and performance-related facets of the game, in-depth post match analysis tools, allowing you to review your Key Match Decisions individually and collectively plus exposure to FIFA and UEFA coaches who offer their development insights throughout, just to name a few key features.

This well managed and well co-ordinated experience is shared with Referees from all over the world, who operate to a high standard, therefore making the RAA a football-cultural, competitive and a truly unique experience that I would recommend highly to ambitious and dedicated Referees and Assistant Referees.

Liam Vitoria (England)

Referee (Academy 2019)

The Referee Abroad Academy provided an amazing opportunity to experience something completely new to me: A very professional approach, great personalities of world refereeing in combination with challenging games helped me to improve my skills and to make myself “a more complete referee”. If you would like to get international experience, learn new things and make new friends all over the world, joining the Referee Abroad Academy is a must.

Milan Vyhnanovský (Czechia)

Referee (Academy 2018 & 2019)

I joined the Referee Abroad Academy not knowing what to expect. I liked the idea of refereeing abroad and thus improving my skills as an assistant referee. What I got was beyond my expectations! I got the opportunity to assist referees from different countries, encountering so many different styles of refereeing, pre-match preparations and match debriefings with international assistant refereeing specialists. But most importantly I made a lot of new friends. As a natural consequence, I applied for the next edition of the RAA again.

Tomaž Pirman (Slovenia)

Assistant Referee (Academy 2018 & 2019)
The Referee Abroad Academy is an excellent opportunity for all referees at the beginning of their careers or even after some years of officiating to get international experience, to handle matches played by players of different skills and mentalities, to introduce some other refereeing approaches by their colleagues, to improve English and to get instructions by referee coaches who use different approaches and styles of giving advice.
The RAA is not a tourist trip with a whistle, but there are many enjoyable moments with new friends from the entire Europe. It was an honor being part of the RAA in San Sebastián and cooperating with the RAA management and coaches.

Dejan Filipović (Serbia)

Referee Coach (Academy 2019); UEFA Referee Observer

An exciting opportunity to assist in the nurturing of young match officials by helping them identify their strengths and development areas, and giving them advice to fulfill their potential. I definitely recommend this to every committed observer.

Adrian Casha (Malta)

Referee Coach (Academy 2017 & 2018); Vice President of the Maltese FA

Your Potential Destination

The beautiful city of San Sebastián is the destination of the RAA in 2020. Learn more about it and the Basque region here! © WikiCommons

Contact Us

Applications for the 2023 edition of our Referee Academy are not open yet. 

If you have any questions or would like to receive more information on the project, please do not hesitate to contact us either by writing an e-mail to or by submitting your message in our contact form.