The role of the sport official is extremely important in sport. Without sport officials across Europe giving up their time, sport in the EU would grind to a halt and be unable to function. Sport officials (umpires, referees, judges, etc.) provide necessary guidance and support, so that participants and spectators can have a safe, positive and enjoyable sporting experience.

The aim of sport officiating is to enable participants to compete within the spirit of the sport/activity through the effective, impartial, consistent and fair application of its rules and laws which is vital to every game, competition or contest.

Sport officiating is central to developing, sustaining and increasing participation in sport by offering a fair, safe and enjoyable environment for participants. Officials also undertake an important role in the staging of sport competitions, providing leadership and guidance to participants, ensuring that the competition is conducted in a safe and fair manner. Sports officials are the guardians of standards for sport.

No sport policy or objective can be achieved without sport officials. The recruitment, training and retention of sport officials are of vital importance to all sports, at all levels, in all nations.

The ONSIDE project aims to ensure the area of sport officiating is able to develop and flourish through an innovative and cross-sport transnational project. The project has been built to provide the opportunity to define the generic skills and competences common across different sports and needed by sport officials, and then to develop innovative fit-for-purpose e-learning courses for sport officials with modules to engage, inform and up skill them.

Needs ^ Back to top

Sport organisations across the EU, including the 11 partners in the project, recognise the need to enhance the image and recognition of sport officials and to provide them the opportunity to upgrade their skills to respond to the challenging environment in which they operate.

The project meets specific needs of the sector including to fill the identified gap in research into sport officiating, to define the generic skills and competences of sport officials and to promote education in sport through targeted pilot education. By generic skills we mean those such as decision making, fair play, integrity and communication.

Specifically the project will address the following needs:

  • To conduct a reliable and valid research to collate data and underpin European sector-wide activity in the area of sport officiating
  • To define the generic skills and competences of sport officials, which are common across different sports and considered as a gap in Europe
  • To promote education in and through sport in the area of sport officiating, creating
  • new training pathways and development opportunities for sport officials to enhance their skills
  • To promote sport officiating as a voluntary activity in sport that enhances social inclusion and equal opportunities
  • To bring together the most relevant stakeholders for the first time to strategically develop the area of sport officiating at the European level
  • To increase the visibility and recognition of the area of sport officiating

Methodology ^ Back to top

The Lifelong Learning Strategy for Sport and Active Leisure (7 Step Model), provides the overall methodology which is going to be implemented though the ONSIDE project to deliver the expected intellectual outputs.

The Model has been developed and tested by EOSE through previous EU funded projects to respond to the main challenges facing the sport sector in terms of education and employment, and more precisely to support the sector with vocational education and training related issues and be in line with EU policy developments and initiatives such as the European Qualification Framework (EQF).

The aim of this 7 Step Model is to provide a mechanism which can link the worlds of education and employment and equip the workforce with the expected skills through fit for purpose education and training.

No such analysis has been attempted before at the European level for sport officials. The outcome will be an agreed definition of the role and generic competences of sport officials which will act as a specification for the training to be developed and piloted as an exemplar during the project.

Impact ^ Back to top

The ONSIDE project is based on the development of European industry-led Occupational Standards and relevant training material for sport officials with the end targeted goal improve the recognition of sport officiating and develop new routes for recruitment, training and retention.

These occupational standards will specify the standards of performance, and the knowledge and skills sport officials need to perform effectively; focussing on generic, non-sport-specific competencies.

Overall, the desired impacts of the project are to provide opportunities for:

  • A precise understanding of the characteristics and realities of the role of the sport official in Europe
  • A full definition of the knowledge, skills and competencies needed to perform as a sport official
  • An opportunity for sharing across sports and nations
  • New education pathways through innovative, pilot-tested training courses

The project results will be relevant to every sport federation and association across Europe, who are responsible for recruitment, development, retention and deployment of sport officials, it will support them to put new systems and structures in place to develop the sport officiating processes in their organisation/ sport.

Outputs ^ Back to top

1 – European Desk Research and Occupational Map on Sport Officials

The first step of the project will be a European Desk Research conducted to collect available qualitative and quantitative data to analyse and provide a concise overview of the realities, characteristics, tendencies and challenges of Sport Officials in Europe.

This will present an overall frame of reference for sport officiating in EU and will provide the background for the development of relevant Occupational Standards and fit-for-purpose e-learning courses

2 – Occupational Descriptors for Sport Official positions

Next, the partnership will develop “Occupational Descriptors” for all main positions identified within the area of sport officiating in Europe. The aim will be to identify existing sport official positions and for each of them to define existing commonalities, specificities and differences (e.g. referee, umpire, judge).

An occupational descriptor identifies key tasks/duties, responsibilities, skills and attributes which relate to a specific position as well as personal requirement, knowledge, qualifications and career routes.

3 – Functional Map for Sport Officials in Europe

The functional map can be considered as a graphic representation that precisely describes the work activities taking place across an occupational sector. The objective of the Functional Map to be developed will be to provide a complete breakdown of all generic functions and work activities that need to be carried out by Sport Officials in Europe.

4 – Occupational Standards for Sport Officials in Europe

The Occupational Standards will be made up of units of competence describing the skills and knowledge necessary to perform as a Sport Official in Europe.

The focus will be on the generic skills and competences of sport officials, which are common across different sports, such as for example decision making, honestly, fair play, ethics, integrity, conflict management and communication.

5 – Handbook of Training Modules for Sport Officials in Europe

This step of the process is the point where there is cross over from the area of employment (workforce) to the area of education. The goal will be to use the content of the Occupational Standards to develop a relevant Handbook of Training Modules for Sport Officials to help them reach the level of competence required to perform and match the identified requirements / expectations.

The Handbook of Training Modules will be made up of a number of training modules including units of learning outcomes as well as teaching and assessment strategies in line with the Occupational Standards.

6 – Innovative e-learning Courses for Sport Officials in Europe

From the Handbook of Training Module, the partnership will select the most relevant modules and will design and develop detailed content and structured material for each of them.

Due to the fact that a large majority of sport officials are acting as volunteers it was decided to launch some innovative e-learning courses for Sport Officials instead of face to face courses.

As soon as the draft version of the courses will be made available online and following an internal consultation and testing with partners, two specific pilot sessions will be organised and delivered in Malta and the UK to test the quality of the design and content with a selection of sport officials.

7 – Guide for Sustainability and Quality Assurance Strategies

The Guide for sustainability and quality assurance strategies can be considered as the final step and its main goals will be to explore the processes that could be used to enhance the chance of continuity and implementation of the Occupational Standards and innovative e-learning courses for sport officials in Europe beyond the life of the project.

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