The record-breaking referee developing a new generation

As a referee, Kari Seitz officiated at four separate World Cups and broke records in the process. No-one, male or female, has achieved the same distinction either before or since.

But as well as making history, Seitz was determined to make a difference. Indeed, it is that decades-old ambition which compelled the American to rip up long-standing plans to take on the job of senior manager in FIFA's referees department.

As Seitz told "One of my key goals was always to be a role model and make a real impact on behalf of women. I didn't know if that would be in sport, never mind in football. I just wanted to make some kind of difference, and in refereeing I did feel that I made some progress. But this job, I feel, offers me an even bigger platform to help more women and be a positive influence and example.

"One of my responsibilities will be helping lead women's referees. In the short term, that will have the focus of building towards the 2019 Women's World Cup: preparing the prospective list of officials, ensuring top training for them, the best opportunities and the greatest amount of development. More generally, I'll also be part of the referees department, involving myself in all of the projects and support work that goes on. It's a job I'm really excited to take on and one I want to make the very most of."

This job, I feel, offers me an even bigger platform to help more women and be a positive influence and example.

A look at Seitz's background suggests she will not rest until her involvement can be declared an unqualified success. Refereeing, after all, is just one of the areas in which the 45-year-old has flourished. So successful was she in her day job, in fact, that only perfect timing enabled FIFA to pull off the coup of securing her appointment.

"Until recently," Seitz explained. "I ran one of the world's largest advertising agencies, and it just wouldn't have been possible to do both jobs. I can only say that it was serendipity that this opportunity came up at a time when I was able to grasp it. My husband and I had planned for ten years to take a sabbatical and travel the world. We had quit our jobs, rented out our house and the plan at that stage was to be on the road for two years. Seven months in, though, I got the call from FIFA, so here we are moving to Switzerland. "

Not that the switch has put an end to Seitz's travelling. She spoke to, after all, not from Zurich but Amman, the Jordanian city in which she has been heading up the delegation of match officials at the ongoing FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. And though such youth tournaments are best known for unearthing footballing gems, they are, she says, just as vital in developing the next generation of top-level referees.

"Like the various teams here, we're looking for the three or four who can really be our stars of the future," she said. "And I must say, we've been really pleased with the standard of officiating we have seen. It has exceeded my expectations.

"Here in Jordan, we have 45 referees from across the world and a total delegation of 65. Think of it as a big team. And my job, the way I see it, is to be the coach of that team and to get the best possible performances."

Those efforts kicked off with a week-long seminar and have continued with daily practical sessions and post-match debriefs. "All the things you would expect at a senior World Cup, in other words," Seitz explains.

But she was also at pains to stress that her role at FIFA will not be confined solely to women, with FIFA's referees department operating within a 'one game' philosophy that ensures a unified approach is taken towards the development of male and female match officials. This joint-preparation project was launched in April by FIFA’s Head of Refereeing Massimo Busacca at a historic seminar in Doha, Qatar, and is already yielding positive results.

"I'm very much looking forward to that aspect of the job, and I believe wholeheartedly that it's the way to go," said Seitz. "Women's referees aren't confined to or dedicated solely to women's football after all. Most of them in their home countries referee both men and women. And having an integrated department overseeing both men and women's referees - thinking of it all as one game - is definitely the best way to ensure we get the very highest quality of top-level officials."

That, of course, has long been FIFA's goal. With individuals of Seitz's calibre and experience on board, however, the target becomes that little bit more attainable.