Following the highly successful 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and spectacular FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™, a new cycle has begun for FIFA elite referees. This week, nine female and 17 male referees from 20 European countries joined Pierluigi Collina, chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee, Massimo Busacca, FIFA’s Director of Refereeing, and a team of FIFA instructors in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

The programme for the 26 participants included numerous theory lessons in the classroom as well as fitness sessions and practical exercises on the pitch, in which the officials were confronted with match situations recreated by local players. The referees received direct feedback from instructors in real time on their positioning and decision‑making.

The theory sessions covered areas such as reading the game, fitness and health. The joint preparation of male and female officials is a further step towards FIFA’s flagship objective to reach uniformity in officiating games at a high level.

“The referees’ performances, especially in the practical sessions on the pitch, give them an opportunity to train in different areas and gain experience that they will use on the field of play,” said Collina.

“If we train, observe situations and analyse them together, men and women, we will get the same answers to each problem and reach the uniformity and consistency that we need in FIFA competitions,” added Busacca.

In Lisbon, the referees also analysed video footage from past matches and discussed how to read the game from technical and tactical points of view.

The subject of video assistant referees (VARs) was a further topic covered during the seminar.

“The message to the match officials here was clear: we want them to be prepared and to make correct decisions. That’s why we pay so much attention to their preparation – if a clear error is made, VAR is there to help them. Since FIFA began to introduce VAR in its competitions, it has always recommended that referees conduct an on-field review before deciding whether or not to overturn the decision. The first and final decisions always lie with the referee. This was reinforced and practised again and again over the course of the week,” said Collina.

He also emphasised the importance of continued commitment.

“How do you stay at the top? Hard work – nothing more, nothing less. The new names on the open list of potential candidates for upcoming FIFA competitions were able to show how they had improved in all areas of refereeing, no doubt in the hope that they will be on the final list that will lead them to officiate matches at FIFA’s flagship tournaments, the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Women’s World Cup.”

The joint preparation of match officials will continue with the FIFA referees of the other confederations: those selected from the AFC, CAF and the OFC will have their seminar in Doha, Qatar, in early March, followed by referees from Concacaf and CONMEBOL in the Paraguayan capital of Asunción in the second half of April.

* South Africa’s Victor Gomes has been invited to the elite FIFA Referees seminar in Doha, Qatar, taking place from 9 – 13 March 2020.

He will be part of 35 match officials from Confederation of African Football (CAF), the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Oceania Football Confederation (OFC).

Gomes is among three COSAFA representatives that will be attending the seminar: the other two are female – Viana Letticia (Swaziland) and Rivet Maria (Mauritius).