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How Football Flanders freed 85% of planning time with automatic and manual planning tools

“What used to take us days can now be done in a few hours.” — Jan Govaerts

The provincial arbitration offices are responsible for the training, recruitment, supervision, and appointment of referees for all football matches organized in Flanders. Day after day, its staff members struggled with the time-consuming process of referee planning. 

Jan Govaerts, senior manager at EY Tax Consultants and chairman of the Antwerp Arbitration Office (BAA), tells how RefAssist made his federation's complex planning a walk in the park and freed precious planning time.

“In Antwerp, we schedule an average of 650 matches per week with 550 referees available — a complex job because there are a lot of parameters to take into account. The clubs prefer referees from the neighborhood because they are partly responsible for the transport costs. We can’t assign some referees to certain clubs due to incidents in the past, and of course a referee shouldn’t whistle at the same club every week. In addition, football schedules are constantly changing: for example, by a team that for certain reasons cannot play at home or would rather play on another day or hour.

“Planning used to be entirely manual. My predecessor easily did this for two full days each week. Thanks to RefAssist, we can get the job done much faster today. The algorithm, taking all parameters into account, schedules all referees in half an hour. After that, we make a few more manual adjustments. 

“RefAssist saves us more than just man-hours. After one season, the referees’ transfer allowances also fell by 18.8%. In addition, the program allows us to better organize the processing of observer reports. No more messing around with PDFs and administration; today we can get the reports directly from the system.

Although in the meantime all provincial BAs are working with RefAssist, it is not a ready-made product. The RefAssist team listens to our concerns and then gets to work on it. RefAssist is constantly evolving, tailored to our needs. That makes the collaboration very pleasant. This flexibility and willingness to listen, combined with the customization, are important assets for an IT company — something that other sectors can also make good use of.”

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