23 referees from 23 countries
The FIFA Referees Committee, meeting in Zurich today (31 March 2006) under the chairmanship of Ángel María Villar Llona (Spain), has decided that 23 referees representing 23 different countries will officiate at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.
The Referees Committee had the particularly difficult task of whittling down the list of 44 prospective match officials to the final 23. When making their decision, the committee members evaluated the performances of the 44 candidates during FIFA competitions, continental championships and in national leagues over the past 18 months. The referees' performances at the two FIFA workshops in Frankfurt were likewise taken into account, as the match officials were subject to close scrutiny from 12 to 16 February 2005 and again from 21 to 25 March 2006.
At the second workshop, the match officials underwent comprehensive medical checks as well as a fitness test. In addition, they all completed a psychological test, and members of the FIFA Referees Committee held interviews with the candidate referees.
During the course of the second workshop in Frankfurt, the referees were also brought up to speed on the interpretations of the Laws of the Game that were passed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the custodians of the Laws, at its recent meeting. The IFAB stressed that at the referees and their assistants will have to follow these directives at the World Cup and clamp down on time-wasting, reckless play (including elbows and brutal fouls), shirt-pulling and simulation, all with the ultimate objective of protecting the players, and with it, the game in general.
"The 33rd team at the World Cup the 23 referees who will be in action in Germany are currently the best match officials in the world," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. "That is the way it has to be as they will have a crucial role to play in this tournament, and great demands will be placed upon them."
Germany 2006 will be the first FIFA World Cup to feature only refereeing trios from the same country, or at least from the same confederation. The Referees Committee noted the benefit of having well-rehearsed teams in terms of the speed and accuracy of their reactions, and stressed that this can only help to improve the quality of the match officials' performances.
The decision regarding which assistant referees will be assigned to the nominated match officials for the 2006 FIFA World Cup will be taken after the workshop for assistant referees in Frankfurt from 18 to 21 April. There will be three assistants for each referee at this workshop and at least two members of these trios will have to complete a series of tests successfully. If they fail to do so, the entire trio together with their nominated referee will be excluded from the list of World Cup officials and replaced by another quartet.
The upcoming World Cup will also be the first with a "support and development group" composed of seven referees and 14 assistant referees who will only see action in Germany in the event of another match official being unable to take part for whatever reason, such as injury or illness, for example. These 21 match officials will be fully integrated into the team of referees for the World Cup. They will take part in all training sessions and meetings, and as such, they will be ready to spring into action at any time. They will also have the opportunity to gain crucial experience of a FIFA World Cup.