Blatter: Only professionals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
FIFA president Sepp Blatter believes referees should be full-time professionals if they want to work at the next World Cup. Blatter told The Associated Press that improving the quality of elite referees is his top priority for the game in the coming months and beyond. "We must do something for the top referees," he added, speaking at a tournament held in his honor by his family's home village in the Swiss Alps. "You can't have non-professional referees in professional football. Only professionals will be taken to Brazil in 2014". Blatter's call for change followed a series of high-profile errors by World Cup referees in South Africa, where just two of the 30 selected for FIFA duty listed refereeing as their full-time job.
"It's a new approach to refereeing at the highest level," Blatter said, adding that younger referees would be preferred. FIFA currently requires match officials to retire at 45. FIFA was already "doing well" in grassroots training, with $43 million budgeted for its global Refereeing Assistance Program before the next World Cup tournament kicks off. "This will go on, but we must do something for the top referees," Blatter said. He is a longtime supporter of referees being more dedicated and better paid, in order to raise standards and lower the risk of them being vulnerable to corruption. FIFA paid referees $50,000 to work in South Africa. FIFA rewarded the two professionals at the World Cup by assigning Englishman Howard Webb to referee the final, and giving Japan's Yuichi Nishimura duty as fourth official for Spain's 1-0 extra-time victory over the Netherlands. Webb took extended leave from his job as a policeman because England's wealthy Premier League helps fund a roster of professional match officials.