Wednesday 19 July 2023, 04:00

Seitz: Project Australia-New Zealand started four years ago

  • FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ will feature in-stadiums explanations from the referee communicating the final decision about VAR decisions.

  • Technology to be implemented will be the same as at Qatar 2022

  • Australian referee Casey Reibelt: “This is something that I never dreamt I would be able to do.”

Ahead of Australia & New Zealand 2023, FIFA Referees Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina, FIFA Referees Director Massimo Busacca, Kari Seitz, FIFA Head of Refereeing, Women and Sebastian Runge, FIFA Head of Football Technology & Data addressed the media at a press conference - and those watching live on - and also fielded questions about the preparation of ‘Team One’, technology and more. “It’s been a long journey, which is something that we benefit from,” said Seitz, a four-time former FIFA Women’s World Cup referee. “The moment that we finished in France, we began the 'Project Australia-New Zealand.' Over the course of almost four years, we worked very hard to manage the referees and prepare them in the most professional way possible. “Not only do we have the FIFA competitions, we have additional competitions that we’ve developed relationships with, which we bring our match officials to. We have dedicated fitness coaches which follow them over the course of the four years. We have technical coaches that are dedicated - meaning hired - to work with them on a monthly basis, and then medical support. So, everything they could absolutely need to prepare moving forward.”

Following successful implementation at the recent FIFA U-20 World Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup, there will be in-stadium explanations from the referee communicating the final decision about a VAR decision. “We wanted to give more transparency and more understanding to the decision made by the referee,” said Collina. “So, once the decision has been taken, once the decision-making process is over, the referee before starting play will make an announcement through the PA [system] at the stadium. “Basically, there is no difference between what was done [match official preparation] for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and what has been done for the World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand,” he added. “Another example is [that] the technology which has been implemented is exactly the same technology which worked at the World Cup in Qatar.”

The press conference followed on from a media event earlier in the day featuring match officials who were also engaged in an on-pitch practical session. “It is amazing and such an exciting opportunity,” said Australian referee Casey Reibelt about officiating at a home World Cup. “This is something that I never dreamt that I would be able to do.” Nicaraguan Video Match Official Tatiana Guzmán said: “I think I still don’t have words to describe the amazing feeling because it’s difficult for my country to try to get a team – a football team – at a World Cup but, for me, it’s amazing and even to be representing all the referees in my country.” “From 2012 I started refereeing the men’s first division in my home country,” said Cameroonian Assistant Referee Carine Atezambong. It wasn’t easy at the beginning but with experience and work we managed to do it. The only difference is at the physical level because men’s football is a bit faster than women’s. “Female referees have to be physically prepared and they have to pass men’s tests. That led me to referee the top games in my country, in Africa and if I’m now at the World Cup it’s because of my work.”

Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita has been named to officiate the tournament’s Opening Match between New Zealand and Norway, with Brazilian Edina Alves appointed for Australia-Republic of Ireland later on Thursday. Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) is set to make its debut at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ following its successful introduction at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

SAOT offers a support tool for the video match officials and the on-field officials to help them make faster, more accurate and more reproducible offside decisions on the biggest stage of all.

In addition, the Official Match Ball, OCEAUNZ, will feature connected ball technology providing highly precise data in real time and will play a vital role in resolving close offside decisions.

“Every ball used in this tournament has an IMU sensor hanging in the centre of the ball, and that sensor can give us very accurate information on when the ball is touched” said Runge. “We are collecting it 500 times per second, compared to only 50 frames that we are getting from the video per second.”