While the FIFA World Cups for the Men and Women are still over two and three years away, for the referees, training started last week. In order to provide more consistent calls across both competitions, referees for both tournaments are training together for the first time. Last week in Doha, Qatar 48 eight men and women, selected from countries in the AFC, CAF and OFC, participated in the seminar reviewing controversial plays, physical tests, simulating plays on a field and reviewing them on video tape. Referees from CONMEBOL and CONCACAF will be participating in the same trainings later this month in Miami, Florida, and for UEFA in September in Zurich.
The goal of the extensive training is to bring consistent calls to the tournaments. Massimo Busacca, the Head of FIFA refereeing explains, “If we train, watch situations and analyse them together, men and women, we’ll give the same answers to each problem and reach the uniformity and consistency that we need in both competitions. This is very important: we don’t want to see one philosophy on the men’s side and a different one on the women’s.”
Not only will this help the consistency between the tournaments, it is also an important milestone for growing women’s soccer. Tatjana Haenni, the FIFA Head of Women’s Football reminds us of the importance in closing the gap in refereeing. “The FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada has shown how much women’s football has developed and how speed has become an important part of the game.” Tatjana continues, “So, obviously the referees have to follow. Men’s refereeing is so much more advanced and in such a high level, professionally speaking – also because of the history, naturally – that female officials and referees can only benefit from such a project.”
While the human error component will be ever present for in this line of work, the trainings are a step in the right direction for consistent calls and growth of referees across competitions for both men and women.
During last year’s Women’s World Cup, much hype was made of the appointment of an all-female referee team. The 73 match officials paved the way for a focus by FIFA on honing in on a equalizing effort for training and support of referees, coaches and players. This is just one necessary step in a long process that requires commitment and dedication to leveling the playing field across the board. Someday, we’d love to see men and women match officials for both World Cups, for all leagues and across all levels.