As a referee, this World Cup is a positive step – and a deserved World Cup 2022

WOmen will feature in Qatar for the first time at a men’s World Cup – and it’s a positive step for women officials around the world. Three referees and three assistant referees will be part of the 129 match officials who will cover the 64 games and their selection has nothing to do with gender, only merit.

The 36 referees, 69 assistant referees and 24 video match officials have been selected for their performance in FIFA matches and other international and domestic competitions.

The six making history are: referees Stéphanie Frappart from France, Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan and Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda, as well as assistant referees Neuza Back from Brazil, Karen Díaz Medina from Mexico and Kathryn Nesbitt from the USA. The fantastic thing about the selection is that they will represent five confederations: AFC, Caf, Concacaf, Conmebol and Uefa.

The selection completes a long process that began a few years ago with the use of female referees in FIFA men’s junior and senior tournaments. I hope this is just the beginning and that seeing female officials at the biggest men’s tournament becomes the norm.

Most recently, Stephanie Frappart officiated the game between Real Madrid and Celtic in the Champions League.
Stéphanie Frappart recently refereed the match between Real Madrid and Celtic in the Champions League. Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

While the national teams arrived in Qatar last week, the officials met the previous week and this allows for an intense period of further integration for all those competing in their first World Cup. This has been followed by several seminars in recent years, culminating in a summer focus where officials come together to view and analyze video clips of match situations and participate in hands-on training sessions with players. These were filmed so the participants could get instant feedback from the trainers.

These seminars included England’s two teams of World Cup officials: Anthony Taylor, Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn; and Michael Oliver, Simon Bennett and Stuart Burt. All officials are equally judged on the quality of their performances and subjected to the same fitness tests to ensure they can act on the biggest stage of them all over the next month.

The elite officials there are used to exerting pressure through their involvement in the top divisions of their domestic leagues, and that will stand them in good stead at games potentially watched by billions of people around the world. From my own experience, Fifa really supports all officials.

The transition from more female officials to the top echelons of men’s football is also happening closer to home. Most notably, Natalie Aspinall has followed in Sian Massey Ellis’ footsteps into the Premier League, but a growing number of us are also officiating at EFL games regularly, many through new opportunities through the Elite Referee Development Scheme.

Kirsty Dowle during the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley in May.
Kirsty Dowle during the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley in May. Photo: Naomi Baker/The FA/Getty Images

During my nine years as a referee, including three as a Fifa official since joining the list in 2020, I have had the pleasure of working with people from different backgrounds and cultures and on mixed-gender teams in both men’s and women’s leagues. It only improves the environment and helps deliver the highest possible standard as a referee.

This World Championship is a fantastic and welcome opportunity for six deserving women officials to show their quality. They are some of the best which is why they are there. I send them my best wishes for a successful tournament.

Kirsty Dowle is a referee for the Women’s Super League and Fifa, and also works in men’s football

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