Women’s World Cup Preparation
Part 1 – By Sonia Denoncourt
Referees are similar to players in that they need to ensure they are 100% prepared for a match. The main goal is to peak at the right moment and to reach the highest performance, and this year it is during the biggest women’s Football competition in the World. This time around many women referees made their mark in various ways and things are starting to change for the better. This will be the 8th Women’s World Cup.
The Road to France 2019
For the 75 referees and assistant referees appointed to the World Cup, 8 of them are returning from maternity leave and had their babies during their road to France, so during the last 4 years. This is an example of exceptional commitment and dedication to ensure a fast return to their required level of fitness. Women must battle their time between family duties, work, fitness and match preparation. With all the travel involved and the demands of the job, it is crucial to plan carefully. As usual, all 6 Confederations will be represented. Since 1999, all referees on the field are women, but for the first time with VARs/AVARs it will be all men.
The Associations and Confederations
The department of refereeing at FIFA has formally requested that all countries provide appropriate preparation for officials including quality matches, assessors and training for the World Cup candidates. The member associations, who had one or more of their referees selected, were required to send a quarterly report to FIFA showing the referees were getting the required support. As most countries complied, despite at different levels, there is still a lack of general support to women referees. The key to success is really having opportunities offered to the referees to gain valuable experience and exposure and stay sharp to follow the trends of our modern game. It is important to know that the member associations and the Confederations are receiving significant amounts of money from FIFA to invest in women’s Football and refereeing and it should be used accordingly.
Within the last 20 years, the number of women’s competitions has doubled with the addition of U17 and U20 World Cup, the creation of youth Olympics and more friendly matches and tournaments. It is now more accessible for women to get quality of games. In the past there was some activities with women referees getting men’s games opportunities … for example, I refereed in Salvador men’s first division in 1996 and in Brazil men’s first division in 1997, and Kari Seitz refereed games in the MLS. In 2006 at the men’s World Cup in Germany, the assistant referee Nelly Viennot was selected as part of the France trio, but she failed the men’s fitness test and her chances vanished. All in all… this was more exceptions than regular practices.
Women are now more capable than ever due to a strong foundation and we see more and more women making history. Here are some examples:
- In India 2017 at the U17 men’s competition, a few women referees were invited
- 5 Assistant Referees from CONCACAF Champions League & Nation’s League
- First female referee in the Bundesliga 2017
- First female referee in the men’s top/first division in Costa Rica, Honduras, New Zealand, Rwanda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Zimbabwe
- First female referee in the 2nd division in France, Australia, Ethiopia
- First Female Assistant referee assigned to the MLS Cup
Further upcoming developments:
- New French First League first Women Referee
- New CAF (African Confederation) appointed 3 women to CAF U17 Men’s event
- New AFC (Asian Confederation) 7 Referees/Assistant referees will be appointed in May 2019 to an AFC men’s games
Opportunities are rising and some women referees are welcoming the challenges and taking the battle in their hands. I have always said; “if you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail”. That is why I call it World Cup preparation!
We are looking forward to a higher quality of refereeing at this next Women’s World Cup in France starting June 7th. The pressure is on, along with multiple cameras to capture every second of the action. All the very best to all participating referees!