The phenomenon that is the World Wide Web has revolutionised the way we work and communicate, much the same way as the telephone did in the last century. It has come as no surprise then to see the refereeing profession embrace this new technology in their quest for better communication and improved match preparation and performance.
It was with this objective in mind that FIFA decided to introduce a technology-based system to improve the training and evaluation of its referees. This has enabled officials to raise standards and consequently improve the quality of the game. This innovative project, the first of its kind in the profession, is being driven by the Director of FIFA's Department of Refereeing, José María García Aranda.
"The seeds were sown in March 2003, when we began work in the Department of Refereeing. With referees, assistant referees and instructors from all six confederations attending FIFA tournaments, it is necessary to communicate our directives and objectives to them in the most expedient manner possible. Our refereeing web page allows all parties to stay permanently in touch and communicate effectively," says García Aranda.
For more than a year now, the refereeing web page has been used as an educational tool for the betterment of football refereeing. All the international match officials, instructors and members of the committee have been enormously impressed with the possibilities offered by this new information source. In addition to receiving nominations for tournaments, technical reports, interviews etc, referees can also share their professional knowledge and skills with colleagues from around the world in real time.
The multimedia, texting, flash animation and video features on the site have proved indispensable to its instructive function. Far from being complicated, everyone at the Department of Refereeing quickly learned how to use the system. According to Garcia Aranda: "The manner in which everyone has adapted to the new process has been excellent. That is because it provided a support network and learning tool for many people who previously had none. In the beginning, some users took a while to get used to the new technology, but day-by-day their participation improved. The referees regard the initiative as something very modern and efficient."
Last year also saw FIFA introduce a new system of Internet video, which broadcasts video-clips of games in digital format. Immediately after the final whistle, video-clips are selected and put on the website for the benefit of referees. During all FIFA competitions, match officials receive clips of the most interesting passages of play for their analysis. The idea is to enable referees to improve their officiating during the course of a competition and not only on its conclusion. To this end, the selected passages of play always feature at the technical meetings tournament referees attend the day after each game.
García Aranda is convinced that the benefits will soon become apparent: "This allows referees and instructors to discuss in greater detail the decisions taken during the course of a game. More importantly still, they can now do it almost instantaneously and from wherever they are in the world."