FIFA's ambitious Referees' Project for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ has been launched with world football's governing body selecting 46 international referees, who are all in contention for one of the prestigious appointments to officiate at the next World Cup ( List of Candidates 2006 ).

For the first time in the history of FIFA and the FIFA World Cup™, the 46 officials will attend the first workshop in Frankfurt between 12 and 16 February 2005 - some 16 months before the opening match in Munich on 9 June 2006 - to prepare for the challenge ahead. The candidates will be subjected to a thorough medical check-up and a number of theoretical and practical training sessions. They will also work on their physical fitness before being required to complete a demanding fitness test.   

At its meeting in Zurich on 26 October 2004 under the chairmanship of FIFA vice-president Ángel María Villar Llona (Spain), the FIFA Referees' Committee approved the details and structure of this bold new initiative, which is designed to produce consistent world-class performances in every single match during FIFA's flagship event.

These 46 candidates will also participate as match officials in various FIFA competitions throughout 2005 and will be observed and assessed on their performances at international and domestic level. The final list of FIFA World Cup™ referees will be announced in the first quarter of 2006.

"Top quality is the goal," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. "This unique programme will help us identify, train and prepare match officials for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ so that we have nothing but the best referees on the pitch."

Note to editors: At the end of the workshop on 16 February, there will be a media conference starting at 11.00h at the Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch Frankfurt in Frankfurt/Neu-Isenburg (Graf zu Ysenburg und Büdingen Platz 1). Following the media conference, the referees will be available for media interviews in a mixed zone. No other media activities are planned during the workshop.