Eight semi-professional referees for 2017/18

The Royal Belgian Football Association is set to launch a new initiative which sees eight referees becoming semi-professional next season.

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The Royal Belgian Football Association is set to launch a new initiative aimed at professionalising refereeing, with eight referees becoming semi-professional next season.

The aim is to gradually increase that figure over time, in order to have ten semi-professional referees by 2018/19 and 12 by 2019/20. "We intend to work intensively on their pre-match preparation, match analysis and coaching. They will spend one and a half days a week practising at our national football centre," explains Johan Verbist, head of refereeing at the Royal Belgian Football Association.

"We hope to improve the skills of every single one of those match officials. But we won't just be helping our semi-professional referees. All of our referees are equally important to us, and we will obviously continue to support the others as well."

The association hopes that, in addition to improving the quality of refereeing in domestic football, this initiative will also result in Belgian referees featuring more prominently at international level.

All 19 of Belgium's elite referees were able to apply for semi-professional status, and a total of 15 did so. "We are really pleased with that figure and the amount of enthusiasm on display," says Koen De Brabander, the association's general secretary.

The eight referees who have been selected are: Sébastien Delferière, Bart Vertenten, Alexandre Boucaut, Jonathan Lardot, Erik Lambrechts, Lawrence Visser, Bram Van Driessche and Nathan Verboomen.

Belgium's match officials now have their own Twitter account (@BelgianReferees), so you can follow the referees' progress as they embark on this new initiative.

This article originally appeared in UEFA Direct No168