Monday 01 May 2023, 21:15

Women’s referees breaking new ground as FIFA Women’s World Cup™ approaches

  • Kari Seitz proud of “number of firsts” achieved by female officials in recent years

  • Diverse nature of FIFA Women’s World Cup™ refereeing pool vital to helping growth

  • Female referees are regularly officiating top-level men’s matches

The professionalism of women’s refereeing is reaching unparalleled levels, according to Kari Seitz, FIFA Head of Refereeing, Women, a fact that bodes well for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023™, which starts in just a couple of months. Speaking at the Making Trade Score for Women! event held at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Seitz believes the global nature of the 33 referees, 55 assistant referees and 19 video match officials who have been selected to oversee the tournament, will continue to help to grow the popularity of women refereeing across the world. “We are seeing countries represented through their refereeing teams, who otherwise would not have been taken part in the Women’s World Cup.,” said the former American official who officiated at four FIFA Women’s World Cups between 1999 and 2011. “We will have referees at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand from Mali, from Togo, from Kyrgyzstan, from Palestine, who have been selected based on their qualities. While their teams have not qualified, their referees have, and so offering even more opportunities for women in football.”

The professionalisation of women’s refereeing has played a large factor in the increase ability of women’s referees to officiate at the highest level, according to Seitz. Some top officials no longer need to have a second job and the ability to concentrate on their profession is paying dividends, which was reflected at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar. By officiating the group-stage match between Costa Rica and Germany, Stéphanie Frappart, Karen Diaz and Neuza Back made history as they were the first female match officials to take charge of a game at the FIFA World Cup™ finals. “Let’s see, the women at the men’s [FIFA] World Cup, as referees. This is a competition that in [its] 92-year history, had no women referees, and now we had six across the globe at the [right] quality to officiate at the tournament,” Seitz mentioned. “This is a big statement and a big change in what’s possible for women in football. We talk about women’s football, and we talk about women in football, so that change is very positive. We’ve had so many firsts in just the last few years, you know.”

FIFA Head of Refereeing Women Kari Seitz (L) with Moderator Jessica Libbertz and Lead of European Training Centre at Australian Institute of Sport Fiona de Jong (R) during Making Trade Score for Women! at WTO headquarters

As the women’s game continues to develop, Seitz is adamant that women’s refereeing needs to continue to develop at a similar pace as the players deserve to have the best possible officiating standards. Seitz is particularly proud of the number of “firsts being achieved” within recent years, which has propelled female referees and their profession into the global spotlight. “As of 2017, we only had women at three international men’s competitions, and now women referees have officiated in over 25 Men’s International Competitions – for example, we are talking about the men’s champions league[s] in both Europe, Asia, and North and Central America. We’re talking about the [CONMEBOL] Libertadores, so South America,” said Seitz. “We’re talking about in Africa, and in the African Cup of Nations for men, that we’ve had women referees. [It’s] incredible [to see] this kind of momentum [in just a few years].”