Ensuring consistency and the uniform application of criteria, keeping mistakes to a minimum and, most importantly of all, upholding fair play: these were just some of the areas that FIFA Director of Refereeing Massimo Busacca discussed with the 32 delegations present at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Team Workshop. “We are looking for uniformity and consistency for the future and of course during the World Cup, this is key for us,” said Busacca.
The refereeing session in Sochi provided Busacca with an opportunity to brief all of the participating teams on the preparations match officials have been making over the last four years, while also offering clarification on a range of disciplinary decisions and on the incidents that can arise in matches. “With the coaches in Sochi we have discussed several key topics such as handball, challenges etc. Now, they have three months’ time to get back to their players and prepare for the World Cup. We started working on this tournament as soon as the 2014 final between Argentina and Germany finished,” said Busacca, who refereed at Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. “It’s our job to prepare ourselves properly for a competition of this scale. That is why the referee has to prepare himself in the best possible way in all areas. First, he has to understand different football mentalities; he has to know the way the teams he is officiating are playing. Knowing the different football cultures will help him in his performances.” Some of the key components of the preparation are match control, protecting players and the image of football. Busacca stresses that this area is a key point going into Russia 2018. “We need respect in accepting the referees’ decisions and avoiding any unsporting behaviour like mass confrontations. It’s one of the most important messages we have to give to the coaches,” he said. Busacca acknowledges that several areas of refereeing can be enhanced, and he says FIFA are working hard to that end. “Reading the game and the tactical approach can be enhanced,” he said. “Of course we cannot possibly eliminate all mistakes, but we can do everything possible to reduce them. We are human and as such, we will always make mistakes. What we are doing here is providing a tactical approach, concentrating on positioning, and giving a clear message to the players and coaches that, with the help of fair play, we can reduce the quantity of errors, which is our aim.” That is why the session ended with a detailed explanation of how the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) is used. “VAR is a big help for the referee to eliminate clear mistakes. We have seen important progress in using the technology. The aim is to have a maximum benefit with minimum interference: VAR is not affecting the game. However, it is also clear that the referee will continue always to take the first and the final decision." In the open discussion about VAR with the coaches and the team delegates present in Sochi, a general consensus could be noted for the implementation of the technology.