A quartet of experts has been assigned to accelerate the identification and grooming of referees who show promise of reaching national standard, as well as the advanced training of officials who have already reached elite levels.
Acting in a hybrid role of scout and coach, the so-called zone managers are to bridge the week-in, week-out routine of local referee organizations and national-office efforts to boost the caliber of America's leading officials. Tapped last month, the four are Mike Geach, Al Klemp, Jem McDowall, and Don Pattalock.
Even as youth and college teams have largely exited the territorial system, senior clubs are some ways from settling into new competitive and administrative structures. Most referee organizations remain organized as territorial adjuncts, but the national staff is on the front line of the changing environment, while also charged to produce younger candidates for international duty.
Like players, refs aspire to higher-level matches. The new concept therefore may create some friction by appearing to reduce local autonomy.
Weekly assignments and promotion remain responsibility of local societies, Ed Todd, USARFU's director of referees, took pains to point out. Zone managers are to 'support and facilitate existing structures', he said.
They can make a more distinct contribution, Todd said, by supervising fitness and knowledge testing, training that is executed unevenly around the country.
Of course, USARFU assigns officials to elite and championship matches. Over the 2011 season, some 40 referees handled Super League, collegiate division 1, and national championship series fixtures, according to union data.
Of these, the top level, colloquially known as the national panel, comprises 13 officials. Another 4 belong to the national focus group. A third tier of 'development group' officials, which may total 15 to 20, will constitute the balance of the individuals working with zone managers.
The referee department previously scored success in launching specialist training for 7s officials prior to the abbreviated game's being admitted to the Olympics, thereby anticipating surging demand for refs.
2012 USARFU referee staff
Ed Todd (director of referees)
High performance: Mike Cobb (match official technical director), Richard Every (high performance manager), Patrick McNally (7s), Fred Thomas (appointments); Mike Geach (West zone manager), Al Klemp (Midwest zone manager), Jem McDowall (Eastern zone manager), Don Pattalock (Pacific Coast zone manager)
Rules & Laws ('community referees'): Bruce Carter (chair), Charlie Haupt, Dave Metcalfe, Steve Parrill, Peter Watson