At its meeting today in Zurich, the FIFA Referees' Committee declared itself to be happy with the outcome of the first referees' workshop in the run-up to the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.  In view of the performances of the 46 candidate referees, chairman Angel Maria Villar Llona (FIFA vice-president, Spain) commended the workshop's success.

"We have taken the first step along the road to a World Cup in which the match officials will be expected to deliver performances of a consistently high quality," said Villar. "The candidate referees will now be under constant supervision and will be observed during domestic and international matches until the next workshop in February 2006, when the final list of match officials for the tournament will be drawn up."

In order to gauge the performances of the 46 referees, the Referees' Committee will also assign the officials to take charge of matches in one of the four FIFA tournaments in 2005 - the FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands, the FIFA Confederations Cup in Germany, the FIFA U-17 World Championship in Peru and the FIFA Club World Championship in Japan. The referees will also form trios with assistants from either their home country or from the same continent in order to improve communication and understanding within the teams of match officials.

In his opening address to the committee, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter once again underlined the referees' important role in the game. "If we want to keep football at such a high level, we have to make sure that the referees deliver top-class performances. Therefore, the match officials must be ready for action and show authority, courage and assertiveness." With regard to the refereeing scandal in Germany and other affected countries, the FIFA President was quick to reaffirm his faith in match officials. "There are more than 700,000 referees worldwide and 99.99% officiate out of a love for the game. It would be wrong to tar them all with the same brush."

The Referees' Committee also launched a long-term development programme, similar to the one in place in the men's game, to ensure that only the very best female referees officiate at the next FIFA Women's World Cup in China PR in 2007. As there are no FIFA women's events in 2005, 24 referees and 14 assistant referees have been appointed to take charge of matches in the Algarve Cup in Portugal (8-15 March). In the next few years, the female match officials will be tested and trained in various aspects of the game, including fitness, tactics and regulations. 

Finally, with a view to improving refereeing across the board, a number of FIFA Futuro III development courses for refereeing instructors are also in the pipeline. Eighty associations benefited from such seminars in 2004.