#FIFA Women's World Cup

Kari Seitz on the professionalisation of refereeing in the women’s game

Kari Seitz, 11 Jun 2024


Kari Seitz used to be FIFA’s Head of Referring in the women’s game. That means she is perfectly placed to assess the improving standard of refereeing in the women’s game, and to explain why being part of “Team One” is so special.

Investment paying off
Kari Seitz has been monitoring the progress of referees in the women’s game for a number a number years, and she has been extremely impressed with the improved she has seen in the overall standard. One of the biggest steps forward has been in fitness, and no less than 76% of female referees at the Women’s World Cup have achieved the fitness standard for officiating at the men’s tournament– a standard that was believed to be out of their reach. FIFA’s investment in training referees is also paying off, as female referees become more and more professional in their approach.

Why we need female referees in the men’s game
One result of this progress has been the introduction of female officials into elite men’s football, including women officiating at a men’s World Cup for the first time in 92 years. As Seitz explains, this is crucial for their development, especially when the women’s domestic leagues in their countries are still developing. Taking charge of men’s games gives female referees experience of a more intense environment and helps them acquire new skills. They’ve put those skills to good use, thus proving they are absolutely capable of referring on the very biggest stages – even without the safety net of VAR.

Professional referees, professional preparation
The professionalisation of referees is reflected in the process they go through ahead of a World Cup. Seitz has the privileged of observing the world’s best referring talent and assessing their performance, much like a national team coach would do. FIFA then invites the very best to various seminars, gives them a chance to prove themselves at junior tournaments and monitors their development. The referees’ unwavering commitment to this gruelling, three-and-a-half year process is testament to their burning passion for the game, and that commitment is matched by FIFA’s investment in their training.

Being at the heart of the action
Finally, Seitz reflects on what makes the experience of being a referee so special. Referees do get a lot of criticism, but this does not diminish the buzz that comes from being at the very heart of the biggest games. Seitz was active as a referee for 28 years, and she is keen to get more people involved in the role. It is an amazing job in its own right, and any refereeing experience you can get will always enhance your understanding and appreciation of the game.

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