Elite refereeing in Africa has received a notable boost with the signing of an accord between the continent's governing body and a leading professional club in France.
on Saturday 22 January, CAR (the African Rugby Confederation) signed up to an official partnership with Castres Olympique on the occasion of the French club's Heineken Cup match against Northampton Saints.
The aim of the partnership is to help the development of both an elite group of young African referees and the coaches of seven African nations.
Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Madagascar and Mali are all set to benefit from their respective national coaches receiving specialist advice and access to professional structures through the programme with Castres Olympique, which will run as follows:
22-28 January 2011 - Elite refereeing group
4-15 April 2011 - National team coaches
9-11 September - Elite refereeing group
"This partnership is a significant boost for the development of rugby in French-speaking Africa and again shows a fundamental willingness on the part of professional clubs to help," said IRB Regional Development Manager, Jean-Luc Barthes.
"Some of these African national teams can only dream of the kind of structures and facilities available to a club like Castres Olympique and working alongside the club can quickly raise standards and encourage best practice across a whole range of areas.
"In terms of the match officiating, these young referees will also gain invaluable experience and a fast track learning pathway."
The partnership was signed by CAR President Abdelaziz Bougja and M. P Alran, President of the Castres Olympique amateur section. Also present at the meetings were M Dhomps, President of the club's professional structures, Jean-Claude Baqué, President of Europe's Rugby Association FIRA, A Laur of the Tarn rugby committee, M Giacomini, sporting director of Castre Olympique and Jean Luc Barthès of the IRB.