Approval for Refereeing Assistance Programme and upper altitude limit for FIFA competitions
© AFP

Meeting under the chairmanship of FIFA President Joseph Blatter in Tokyo today (15 December 2007), the FIFA Executive Committee passed a series of decisions, including, most notably, the introduction of a Refereeing Assistance Programme (RAP) and the principle, whereby no matches in FIFA competitions may be played at an altitude in excess of 2,750 metres above sea level without acclimatisation.

During the meeting, Blatter reiterated the importance of the Laws of the Game and refereeing for football as a whole: "The future of our game is intrinsically linked with the quality of refereeing. Therefore, the new Refereeing Assistance Programme is crucial for football. Today's decision to launch this programme is a milestone in the history of the game."

The basic objective of the RAP is to professionalise the environment in which referees develop and work - at both national and international level. It comprises two distinct but related parts:

(a) the preparation of potential match officials for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and the professionalisation of refereeing at the top level

(b) the development of refereeing at member association level.

In order to achieve this, refereeing development officers will work hand in hand with instructors around the world to ensure a uniform approach. These efforts will be accompanied by close cooperation with the confederations, member associations and existing FIFA development offices. An extensive range of courses and workshops, supported by technological aids including internet resources, will also be organised. In total, FIFA plans to invest some USD 40 million into the programme.

With regard to the trial of goal-line technology at this year's FIFA Club World Cup in Japan, the FIFA Executive Committee noted that the findings would be presented and subsequently discussed at the next Annual General Meeting of the International Football Association Board in Gleneagles (Scotland) on 8 March 2008.

In line with the recommendation tabled by leading international medical specialists on high altitude at a seminar in Zurich at the end of October 2007, the FIFA Executive Committee agreed that, unless those involved were allowed to acclimatise, no matches in FIFA competitions would be permitted at an altitude in excess of 2,750 metres above sea level. Furthermore, this decision will be integrated into the regulations of all FIFA competitions with immediate effect and it was recommended that the same limit be enforced in all other international competitions.

Also in the domain of sports medicine, the go-ahead was given for FIFA to cooperate with UEFA in a study on blood doping and for preventative cardiac screening examinations like those conducted on players prior to the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ to be extended to all FIFA competitions - for both players and match officials. The 2008 edition of the FIFA Doping Control Regulations and the Olympic Movement's Medical Code were also accepted.

As the 2008 Olympic Football Tournaments in Beijing approach, the executive welcomed news from the IOC that the situation regarding pollution in the city is gradually improving. While no further action was deemed necessary in this respect, there was firm opposition to the proposed 12 noon kick-offs for the finals of the tournament in view of the high temperatures at that time of the day.

After hearing a report on the recent World Conference on Doping in Sport in Madrid, the Executive Committee welcomed the latest amendments to the World Anti-Doping Code, particularly the inclusion of the principle of individual case management in relation to sanctions.

The Executive Committee also supported the submission of a proposal to the 2008 FIFA Congress that an article be added to the Regulations Governing the Application of the FIFA Statutes, stipulating that promotion and relegation in leagues must be determined on sporting merit alone and forbidding the amendment of a club's legal form or structure to circumvent this requirement.

Dealing with matters pertaining to member associations, the committee refused to recognise recent elections held by the Central African Republic football association on account of governmental interference and ordered the association to organise new elections in the coming three months under the supervision of FIFA and CAF. A normalisation committee will be set up launch this process. In the case of Iran and Peru, FIFA will continue to monitor developments within the associations closely. Meanwhile, the open file regarding Kuwait has been now closed thanks to the association's compliance with FIFA directives.

FIFA vice-president Issa Hayatou provided a report on the recent preliminary draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa as well as other matters relating to the tournament itself, following on from which the Executive Committee ratified the decisions taken by the Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup™ at its meeting in Durban on 24 November 2007.

Positive reports on the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and the Club World Cup were also given by the chairmen of the respective FIFA organising committees, Ricardo Teixeira and Dr Viacheslav Koloskov. With respect to the Club World Cup, it was noted that Portugal, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Japan have expressed an interest in hosting this competition in 2009 and 2010. These four associations will receive the list of requirements in mid-January 2008 and will then have until 15 May 2008 to submit their full bidding documentation. The FIFA Executive Committee will reach a decision on the host association for the two tournaments at its meeting on 27 May 2008 in Sydney. With respect to the history of the FIFA Club World Cup and intercontinental club competitions in years gone by, such as the Copa Rio in the 1950s, the FIFA Executive Committee endorsed the view that the first edition of this competition was held in 2000 in Brazil where Corinthians became the very first FIFA club world champions. Other tournaments are not considered official FIFA events.

Further decisions:

  • - The Executive Committee decided to leave the current regulations regarding the eligibility of players to represent association teams unchanged.
  • - Of the USD 250,000 that FIFA allocates to each association annually under the Financial Assistance Programme, the percentage the associations must use to promote women's football was increased from 10% to 15%.
  • - The next Executive Committee meeting will take place in Zurich on Friday, 14 March 2008.