Tuesday 11 July 2023, 20:30

Final preparations and technological advances lay the foundations for refereeing at Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • Referees undergoing intensive preparations for FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • Technology a key ally

  • In-stadium communication between match officials to be introduced

The countdown to the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ is almost over.

The 32 participating nations are not the only ones putting the finishing touches to their preparations. FIFA Team One – the referees, assistant referees and video match officials – are also busy ironing out the last few details as they get ready for the tournament.

“Our aim at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is to offer the very highest standard of refereeing for the competition,” said FIFA Referees Committee Chairperson Pierluigi Collina. “I’m not wrong in saying that this is the most important FIFA competition in 2023, which is why this has to be our goal. We will do all we can to achieve it. The most important thing is that the referees are very well prepared. We have been working very hard to ensure they are ready for the start of the competition and we will continue to do so.”

So how have those preparations been going, what innovations can we look forward to at Australia & New Zealand 2023 and what role will technology play at the tournament. FIFA.com looks at four key aspects.

Referees Seminar III STARTS Montevideo

Detailed preparations

“We have put a lot into preparing the match officials for this important tournament,” said Kari Seitz, FIFA Head of Refereeing, Women. “We have done various things, not just preparing the match officials but making up for time lost because of the pandemic. We shouldn’t forget that it happened right in between France 2019 and Australia & New Zealand 2023, which meant that we had to cancel FIFA competitions that were vital to our preparations for the match officials.”

Even so, the last four years have seen a total of 16 competitions and specific activities for referees. Some of the candidates for Australia & New Zealand 2023 also took part in four FIFA men’s competitions, including the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™

Match Officials, in numbers

match officials in total

referees and support referees

assistant referees

video match officials, six of them women

Refereeing coaches have also been hired to supervise the match officials, assess the performances and provide regular feedback. During the course of the project, referees have also been training with FIFA fitness coaches, while medical staff have been working with them to ensure they are fully fit and in good shape for the tournament.

A final ten-day preparatory seminar is taking place at FIFA Team One’s base in Sydney on 9-18 July. Attendees will take part in daily theory and practical sessions with the players and also take part in the Referee Cup, a tournament that will match officials vital match preparation for the Women’s World Cup itself.

Video assistant referee (VAR)

The VAR system used at Qatar 2022 will be employed against Australia & New Zealand 2023. The technology was used at France 2019 and yielded positive results.

In which situations will VAR be used?

  1. Goals and infringements leading to a goal

  2. Penalty decisions and infringements leading to them

  3. Straight red cards (not second yellows or bookings)

  4. Cases of mistaken identity

The video match officials will be on duty at every match: a video assistant referee (VAR), who will be in communication with the referee on the pitch, and two assistants (AVARs), one of whom will be in charge of offside decisions.

There are two ways in the VAR can operate. The first is in reviewing objective situations in which there is no room for interpretation, such as determining offside and whether a foul has been committed inside the penalty box or not.

The second is when the VAR recommends to the referee that they review an incident on the pitchside monitor. This is usually the case with subjective decision and personal interpretations of the Laws of the Games, such as the seriousness of a foul or whether a handball should be punished or not.

Once the referee has reviewed the incident and made a final decision, they will announce it to the spectators and TV viewers on a microphone. They will also provide additional information, such as the infringement committed, the player responsible and a brief description of the incident.

FIFA successfully implemented this form of in-stadium communication at its last two competitions: the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022™ and the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023™.

Referee Glenn Nyberg review the VAR during the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023

Semi-automated offside technology

To help video match officials detect offsides, 12 dedicated tracking cameras will be installed at every stadium hosting matches at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023.

These cameras are synchronised and track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch. The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls.

FIFA Semi-Automated Offside Technology scree graphic

An inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor positioned inside the official adidas ball, OCEAUNZ, sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a very precise detection of the kick point, which is vital to determining offsides.

By combining the limb- and ball-tracking data and applying artificial intelligence, the technology can identify the exact position of players on the pitch when the ball is played and provides an automated offside alert to the video match officials

The AVAR validates the information provided by the system and the VAR communicates the decision to the referee on the pitch. Once the decision has been taken, a 3D animation is generated to provide a visual explanation of the offside decision.

Effective playing time

To reduce time wasting and ensure more playing time at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, referees will attach more importance to calculating added time. Time lost because of substitutions, injuries, red cards, penalties, goal celebrations and the use of VAR will be compensated for at the end of each half.

Referees are encouraged to restart play quickly after fouls, free-kicks, throw-ins and goal-kicks to prevent any unnecessary delays that interrupt the flow of the game.