The Confederation of North, Central America and the Caribbean Football Association (CONCACAF) announced that it has finalized the review of its Referee Department, conducted as a result of concerns raised following the 2015 Gold Cup quarter-final and semi-final matches, held in the United States last July. The review assessed the state of CONCACAF’s Referee Department, with particular attention paid to the controversial decisions during Gold Cup 2015, the referee strikes at the Gold Cup 2015 and Pan American Games 2015, and the overall operations of CONCACAF’s Referee Department. Following the review, CONCACAF confirmed that it has parted ways with Sonia Denoncourt, who was heading the referee department for less than one year, and a search for her replacement is currently under way.Key conclusions and recommendations based on the review include:
• CONCACAF found no clear or convincing evidence of match fixing or an intentional effort to affect the results of the Gold Cup 2015 matches. Each of the decisions during the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Gold Cup 2015 could be attributed to simple mistakes, errors in positioning, and/or lack of concentration. Based on interviews and statements from referees, it is possible that a number of external circumstances, most notably recent labor disputes by the referee group and internal disputes, were an unnecessary distraction for the referees at a critical time. In interviews, the referees admitted personal errors and apologized for them.
• CONCACAF determined that the referee and match official appointment process requires reform. The Confederation’s current procedure differs from the guidelines provided by FIFA, and has led to mistakes, valid criticism from many stakeholders, and information leaks.
• CONCACAF identified areas for administrative improvement in the planning and structure of the Referee Department. These improvements will address referee payment and reimbursement issues, as well as various other procedural and management functions within the referee group
• CONCACAF had not increased remuneration for referees in recent years with the exception of Gold Cup 2013, which was done across the board for all match officials and referees, but only for that tournament. CONCACAF has reviewed the current compensation policy and is in the process of implementing new financial terms for referees and other match officials.
• CONCACAF is restructuring the Referee Department and is currently searching for a new Director of Refereeing. The Confederation will undertake a rigorous and public search to find someone with the experience and effective management skills to establish a successful regional structure. This person will play a key role in developing a professional refereeing workforce that enables CONCACAF to achieve and maintain a consistent high-quality performance on the field.
• CONCACAF will improve the Match Official appointment process and adopt best practices similar to those from FIFA and other world-class member associations. This new process and enhanced procedures are expected to serve as the foundation for a strong and effective Refereeing function within the CONCACAF region.
The Referee Department review was conducted by Acting General Secretary Ted Howard at the request of CONCACAF’s Executive Committee. The review process included interviews with referees, officials, technical staff, and members of the CONCACAF Referee Advisory group. It also included a review of match monitoring reports from Gold Cup 2015 and an assessment of the referee appointment process for all CONCACAF competitions. “CONCACAF’s referees are critical to our organization’s mission, and we are proud to have dedicated officials working to ensure that the Confederation’s tournaments are officiated with integrity”, said CONCACAF Acting General Secretary Ted Howard. “We are committed to making the necessary improvements to our Referee Department to ensure that it operates effectively. These changes will provide our referees, officials, and assessors with the proper structure, training, and support to carry out their responsibilities on the field, while acting in the best interests of the game”. In addition, Acting General Secretary Ted Howard personally monitored the process to appoint referees for the competitions that took place, or are scheduled to take place, after the conclusion of Gold Cup 2015.