The Football Federation of Australia (FFA) have appointed their first full-time referees ahead of the new A-League season.
The FFA have announced they are to invest a further $300,000 (£140,000) in refereeing, with Ben Williams, Jarred Gillett and Chris Beath the officials securing the historic deals.
To assist the trio with their new roles, they will train regularly at the FFA’s Centre of Excellence, and will participate in a well-being programme established to enhance the development and welfare of all officials in both the A-League and W-League.
FFA chief David Gallop said: “We’ll start with a panel of three, instead of a full panel of seven which would be required to cover every A-League match. It’s a compromise, but it’s a move in the right direction.”
The healthy investment extends beyond the A-League, with the W-League and the National Youth League set to be boosted with a share of the funding.
“Australian football now has a career pathway from the grassroots to the very top of the game,” Gallop continued.
“This aligns with the Whole of Football Plan, which calls for a lift in the retention rate of grassroots referees from 64 per cent to 90 per cent.”
Ben Wilson, the Director of Referees, is looking forward to seeing the benefits of Williams, Gillett and Beath’s appointments and sees the move as the first major step forward in refereeing in Australian football.
“The breakthrough to professional referees means these match officials can prepare for their appointed matches in a similar fashion to the players, without the added burden of juggling other work commitments.
“Our long-term vision is to increase the number of full-time professional referees in the Hyundai A-League and eventually the Westfield W-League in due course.”