Tuesday 07 March 2023, 12:30

Match officials continue to prepare for Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • Montevideo hosted the third and final preparatory seminar for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ match officials

  • Representatives from the Concacaf and CONMEBOL confederations were put through their paces

  • “Each of these match officials has a huge commitment to be one of the best referees in the world”

The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ promises to be a tournament of highs. The recent Play-Off Tournament in New Zealand once again underscored the growing depth and quality of women’s football in all corners of the world. While the players are readying themselves to be at their best for July’s quadrennial showpiece, the match officials have been working equally judiciously to achieve a similar goal. To that end, Kari Seitz, FIFA’s Head of Women Refereeing, has worked tirelessly to ensure the match officials at Australia & New Zealand 2023 have the best possible preparation. This week in Montevideo, Uruguay, came another key milestone with the hosting of a preparatory seminar for the 2023 Women’s World Cup match officials from the Concacaf and CONMEBOL regions. It follows recent similar events for European and AFC, CAF and OFC match officials.

With a CV second-to-none - four FIFA Women's World Cup tournaments (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011), and four Women’s Olympic Football Tournaments (2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016) - Seitz knows better than anyone the importance of preparation. “Each of these match officials has a huge commitment to be one of the best referees in the world, and at FIFA, we’re always trying to find a way to support them,” Seitz says. “So, what we did was that we hired coaches, specific technical coaches, and each referee received a coach, and they watched their matches at home. “It’s really continuing that project to watch their domestic matches and give them the insight they need to be ready for the Women’s World Cup, not just at the seminar, for example, not just at an U-20 World Cup, but every week, to give them the information they need because, tomorrow, the World Cup will be here, and we can’t lose a moment to be ready.”

VAR session during the FIFA match officials seminar in Montevideo

The variety and depth of content featured during the four-day event in Montevideo is extraordinary in its nature. Fitness, theory, VAR and recovery are just some of the top-line on and off-field areas covered. Many of the match officials took part in the recent Play-Off Tournament in New Zealand, and are set to return Down Under in just four months. This year’s tournament will see greatly increased travel times, and therefore recovery times, add an added layer of complexity in comparison to France 2019. “What we have is a slightly more complicated event than we had in France,” Seitz said. “We have two countries, two continents, large time zone changes, but these are all things that we are prepared to deal with, [that] the referees are prepared to deal with. “The overall concept is the same, we still train the referees in the same way, but we have to make time and allowances for, really, the travel and time changes. Other than that, we believe, 100 per cent, that this will be the best World Cup ever.”

The past couple of years have seen landmark moments for female referees, none more striking than the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ where six women match officials took part, including as part of the team for the Final. It is, Seitz believes, proof of FIFA’s hard work paying dividends and, at the same time, providing role models for the next generation. “This is FIFA being a role model for what’s possible, and the same will be true this year in Australia and New Zealand, because now they’re going to see even more women on the field, and they’re going to be able to demonstrate their qualities and, hopefully, motivate girls and boys to get involved in refereeing, but also to see their qualities, the quality of these match officials and the work they’ve put into it. “Whether it’s the women’s game or men’s game, referees are women in football, and they’re very valuable. The game is growing. We just need more people of quality. Just look at their qualities. That’s all we ask. We’re really confident that we will demonstrate that in Australia and New Zealand.”