Referees at Qatar 2022 World Cup will take a hard line on dangerous tackles, obstructions and simulations, the 32 participating teams have been warned.
FIFA Referees Committee chairman Pierluigi Collina showed journalists clips of foul play punishable by red cards at the tournament and a medley of recent goals to be ticked off in the coming weeks at a media briefing ahead of the tournament in Doha on Friday.
The latter included Harry Maguire’s ninth-minute header in the game that effectively sealed England’s place in Qatar, an impressive 5-0 win over Albania a year ago.
It sparked significant comment at the time, but not for the issue raised by Collina, as Maguire celebrated his goal by covering his ears – a gesture many believed was the Manchester United defender’s reaction to the mounting criticism in his achievements for club and country.
But he only got clearance from Albania’s box because Kalvin Philips was flagged for offside and then blocked Maguire’s mark when Reece James delivered a free-kick into the box. If England try again – and it was a stunt they pulled off several times at the last World Cup – any resulting goal will be disallowed for interference.
To demonstrate where referees will draw the line for sending offs, Collina showed a clip of former West Bromwich Albion midfielder Matheus Pereira misjudging a tackle when playing for Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal at last year’s Club World Cup played, an accidental but reckless high boot Lebanon’s Rabih Ataya in an Arab Cup match against Sudan and Slovenia’s Denis Popovic throwing an elbow in a European Championship qualifier against Austria. All three received the red card at the time.
“The World Cup is the most important tournament in the world in our sport with the best players in the world,” said Collina.
“It would be a shame if some of these players were unable to play due to an injury from an opponent. Therefore, the first message to our referees is to protect the safety of the players. Whenever something could endanger the safety of players, coaches should reckon with the severest disciplinary sanction, namely the red card.”
This suggests that after three consecutive World Cups, the number of red cards issued during the tournament could be increasing as the number of red cards has fallen. After a peak of 28 early pools in Germany in 2006, there were 17 in South Africa, 10 in Brazil and just four in Russia.
The 62-year-old Italian also said fans should expect significant stoppage time when players indulge in time-wasting tactics. He said we shouldn’t be surprised to see “an extra seven or eight minutes” in each half when so much time has been wasted.
Speaking of time, FIFA is also optimistic that their new semi-automated offside technology – a more accurate and faster form of VAR where the only human intervention is to decide whether or not a player intervenes in the game – will save parts of it and will allow fans to enjoy “more of the show” at the stadium and at home.
The other major innovation at the 2022 World Cup will be the welcome and long-overdue addition of female match officials: three referees and three assistant referees.
When asked why FIFA chose six women for their match official ranks and not fewer or more, Collina said six is simply “the right number” and people would question how many would be chosen.
He also dismissed the suggestion that they would not be chosen to referee games involving more conservative countries such as the hosts, Iran or Saudi Arabia.
“For us, they are referees, they are match officials. That’s the message I gave them. “You are not here because you are women, you are here because you are FIFA match officials.
“All match officials can be appointed for all matches. For example, we have some limitations due to neutrality. But they are here as match officials of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and ready to officiate any type of game depending on their performances and our vision.”
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(Photo: Getty Images)