Friday 12 May 2023, 03:00

Ecuador steps up refereeing development thanks to Mexico agreement

  • Ecuadorian Football Association presents progress made on VAR as partnership agreement with Mexican counterpart concludes

  • The two have held four productive meetings on refereeing since 2021

  • FIFA a point of contact and advice for its member associations

The Ecuadorian Football Association (FEF) presented the advances it has made with regard to refereeing at a meeting held to mark the conclusion of its partnership agreement with the Mexican Football Federation (FMF). The meeting was held at the FEF’s head office in the Ecuadorian capital, Guayaquil, on Wednesday 10 May.

“This agreement, which began in April 2021, has been a huge success because it has allowed us to adopt the best practice of the FMF’s Referees Committee and make it an integral part of the way we operate,” said Luis Vera, activities coordinator of the FEF’s National Refereeing Commission.

“One of the major strategies we focused on first of all was the VAR Instructor qualification at the FMF’s facilities, followed by the start of the qualification process for VAR and AVAR officials and quality managers in our country.”

Vera added: “Today we’re presenting a handbook setting out a range of processes that will improve our system of statistics and refereeing appointments and make it more effective, while also enhancing supervision, management and control of the referees’ ranking. The handbook also provides guidance for our Institute of Football on the creation of a curriculum that gives prospective match officials a grounding in refereeing, trains them and leads to them earning professional qualifications.”

FIFA Director Member Associations Americas Jair Bertoni explained the role of world football’s governing body in all of this. “Over the last two years, FIFA has provided ongoing, in-depth support and consultancy services through the refereeing department and its regional offices in Asuncion and Panama, all with the aim of ensuring that every action contained in the plan was implemented in a timely manner and that outcomes were excellent.”

Revealing how this was done, he added: “In terms of implementation, to begin with we defined general areas to focus on in a memorandum of understanding that comprised the following: a refereeing strategy first of all, followed by an organic structure and a handbook of refereeing processes and functions, and then finally the roll-out of VAR in Ecuador. After that a work plan was agreed with the associations and which set out the human and financial resources and contributions of both parties and FIFA, which helped put the agreement in place and provided technical support.”

With objectives having been met, there was a great deal of satisfaction and contentment at the closing meeting, which was also attended, among others, by FEF President Francisco Egas; FIFA Head of Refereeing Administration Patrick Graf; and Armando Archundia and Roger Zambrano, the respective heads of the FMF and FEF’s national referees committees.

“We at the FMF were the first to adopt the video assistant referee system in the Americas and we had to make adjustments in rolling out the tool,” said Archundia. “As a result, we were able to improve in many different ways. We have shared our learnings with the FEF, allowing them to skip some of the steps that we found the most arduous and to save time in creating a solid pool of referees specialising in VAR.”

Vera listed the following achievements made by possible by the partnership:

  • 37 male and two female VAR-qualified referees

  • 27 hours on average of training for each referee

  • 91 matches with VAR in 2022 (as opposed to only eight in 2021)

  • 37 matches officiated by female referees in 2022

  • 32 assistant referees promoted to top category

  • 5 referee training workshops held in Ecuador in 2023

  • 40 matches with VAR so far in 2023

  • 1 referee as VAR official at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023

  • 1 assistant referee as AVAR at the Copa CONMEBOL Sudamericana 2023

“FIFA is very satisfied with the results yielded by this partnership,” said Bertoni. “We are convinced this is the boost that refereeing in Ecuador needed, and it also contributes to President Egas’ clear global vision for the sport’s growth in Ecuador. The association has laid the foundation for a bright future for the country’s referees.”

Final meeting of the collaboration between FEF, FMF and FIFA

Archundia also expressed his satisfaction with the objectives reached by the FEF: “The initial results are outstanding, with a 1000 per cent increase in matches using VAR in a year. That shows that the training and qualification processes were properly implemented.

“Similarly, the handbooks and appointment processes bring complete transparency to the whole area, which is what we did in Mexico. These are the pathways that need to be followed if we are to continue making progress with regard to refereeing, both here and at home. We are also putting positive practices into action.”

Highlighting the value of such agreements between member associations, Bertoni said: “It’s thanks to successful examples of collaboration like this that FIFA aims to continue encouraging member associations to make agreements that bring about substantial changes in key areas of our game. The onus is on us, therefore, to keep coming up with these initiatives and creating an atmosphere in which our sport can fulfil all its potential.”