Tuesday 31 January 2023, 17:00

Kathryn Nesbitt: I think all the doors are open now

  • Kathryn Nesbitt made history at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

  • American Assistant Referee was formerly a Professor of Chemistry

  • Says opportunities are now available to anyone who wishes to be a match official

At the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, American Assistant Referee Kathryn Nesbitt helped create history as part of a sextet of women – three referees, three assistant referees – who were selected to officiate on football’s biggest global stage. A first in the 92-year history of the tournament. If the view of any cynic were to suggest this was a public relations move, FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina debunked that swiftly. Speaking in May 2022 when the match officials were announced, he said: “It is quality that counts for us and not gender. I would hope that in the future, the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived as something normal and no longer as sensational. They deserve to be at the FIFA World Cup™ because they constantly perform at a really high level, and that’s the important factor for us.”

Kathryn Nesbitt congratulated by FIFA President Gianni Infantino after the Argentina v France FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Final

With the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022 set to kick off tomorrow – Wednesday 1 February 2023 – Nesbitt is once again part of the group of FIFA match officials preparing for a showcase tournament. Later this year, she will also travel to Australia and New Zealand, as a selected official for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™. Now at the top of her profession, where did it all start? “I started officiating when I was young, only 14 years old. For me it was just a hobby at the time” Kathryn told FIFA.com. “I also pursued a career in chemistry simultaneously with my refereeing and really enjoyed both, but now for sure my number one passion is refereeing.” Blending a career in chemistry with one in international football is certainly a rarity. Talking to FIFA.com back in 2021, she explained what this entailed.

“I was a professor of chemistry up until two weeks before the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 in France. I spent ten years doing my own research and starting my own lab at the university (Towson University in Baltimore). My background in research is on figuring out better ways to analyse brain chemicals, and our lab focused on developing, improving and optimising the techniques for sampling brain chemicals and then analysing them." With over 500,000 tickets already sold for the first-ever 32 team FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August, the tournament is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet. “I was able to participate in 2019, and for me this was some of the most fun I have ever had. The football was incredible, and I think we will see even better football this time around. New players, new teams, so I am very excited” she explained during a break in training in Rabat.”

With legacy an often over-referenced but sometimes intangible component of major sports event, we concluded our interview by asking Kathryn if she thought the FIFA Women’s World Cup later this year may act as a catalyst to inspire more girls and women to follow in her footsteps. “I think that all the doors are open now and…it doesn’t matter if you’re female or male. “Everybody now has the opportunity to participate at any level of football, so I encourage everybody to work their hardest and achieve their dreams.” Or, in the words of the tournament slogan, aspire ‘Beyond Greatness.’

Did you Know?

In December 2020, Kathryn Nesbitt became the first woman to officiate at a championship match in professional men's sports in North America, when she took the field for the MLS Cup between Columbus Crew and Seattle Sounders.

Argentina v France FIFA World Cup Final Qatar 2022 - Match Officials Group Photo