FIFA World Cup 2018: Referee Media Briefing

A media briefing all about refereeing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia took place on Tuesday, 12 June. Held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the briefing featured Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee Pierluigi Collina and FIFA's Director of Refereeing Massimo Busacca, as well as referees Sandro Ricci and Ravshan Irmatov of Brazil and Uzbekistan respectively. Each reflected on what it has taken to ensure the referees, assistant referees and video assistant referees (VARs) are ready for Russia 2018, while the referee for the opening match was revealed. VARs are featuring at the World Cup for the first time and will support referees for match-changing situations, providing the assistance they need to increase fairness in the game. Questions were taken on this subject, and many others, from the assembled journalists.
Collina: “The preparation started shortly after the end of previous (2014) World Cup. Massimo and his staff worked for sure very hard. The process has been pretty long, very accurate. Officials worked very hard. Now, it is time to act, it is not anymore the time to talk or speak. All of them are eager to do that. Once we arrived here, we continued our prepration. We also organized mini-tournaments with local teams playing matches, to offer our referees the chance to get into the matches, to taste the pitch. Outcome was very good. All the teams participating to this WC have been visited and instructed about refereeing at this tournament. Our target is to have all people on the pitch speaking the same language, players, coaches, referees. We are going to announce the referee for the opener, he already knows it. The opening game will be officiated by Néstor Pitana, fourth official Sandro Ricci and then we have VARs: Irrati (ITA), Vigliano (ARG), Astroza (CHI), Orsato (ITA). I want also to say something about two circumstances occurred in last weeks: two officials selected for WC has been removed due to some allegations. They were from Saudi Arabia and Kenya. Once more, I want to underline that we are very strict with this kind of actions and we will continue to be strict in future. We are anyway very surprised about these allegations. The referees that are here deserve to be here – they’re the best. But if they make a mistake in an important match, everybody will forget what they did in the past to earn their place here and they will only think about the mistake. We have referees who are not here at the World Cup because they made a major mistake. So for them, having had VAR probably would have been a parachute and they would have been here with us. Like every other human being, referees make mistakes, but we now have the possibility to offer this human being a sort of parachute that saves his life.”
Busacca: “I can confirm you that we are working very hard since last WC edition, we want to success. We want to say that all the possibilities to prepare referees, have been done. And for me, this is the most important information. Referees are ready, they know how much important is to take very important decisions. They know the responsibility, they know what you are doing, in the right place and in the right moment, and they want to show that to everybody. We simulated many situations, also the tactics used by teams, thank to specialists who analyzed that for our referees. I can say that we are very happy about the results; every football teams are ready for this competition. We are here to give our best, to give consistency; we are looking to have good relationships with players and coaches. We showed many clips to teams about what are our expectations, so all teams received these clips and now we want to show you something about that. All the cameras working for VAR will spot everything, so it will be impossible to miss something about unsporting behavior, all these actions will be punished. Our goal is to protect the players. A foul directly targeted on a player can result in a very serious injury. So, we expect from you also a good cooperation about what to do and what to avoid in every second of the game. About DOGSO, you know, almost two years rules have been changed. The change is about the fouls inside the area and not outside. We still have the possibility to show RC inside the area when the challenge is not targeted on the ball: pushing, holding, this remains RC. Referees and teams have that very clear." Simulations this time will be impossible to miss. We will take the needed time to take decisions, no doubts that all situations will be punished. There is a way to discuss with referee, if a player will face the referee in not appropriate manner, he will be surely booked. We will have a very good support by VAR also in case of offside: active positions, line of visions, everything will be analyzed by VAR officials, to ensure that a correct decision on the pitch has been taken. For most of these situations shown in our clips, we have a "black or white" decision, so everything is clear. However, there will be also situations open to interpretation. We call it "grey area"; there can't be always a perfect explanation.” 
Collina: “Nowadays for referees it is more and more important to study tactics of the teams. We implemented in our staff some coaches to give referees feedbacks, information, about the tactics played by teams. Every referee will be able to get information about the teams involved in his games, in order to anticipate and know that on the pitch.”
Busacca: “Next topic, VAR. We have here Roberto Rosetti, VAR specialist, he worked for us in the last two years, from 2016. We are ready, referees are ready to take very important decisions in cooperation with VAR. Big support from VAR. We played football before it, and we committed many mistakes. Some situations are really difficult and now we can say that technology can support / prevent such situations. Intervention by VAR is not a final decision, referee can have a look to video, before communicating what he has seen and assessed on the pitch. This can change the history, especially when situations are clearly black and white ones. It is important to understand the concept of "black and white" situations. Offside is a very diffcult topic, for this reason we committed many evident mistakes in recent times. Now, technology is the big help. Imagine in this World Cup a team wins 1-0 with an offside goal: you will not accept that now this has been solved. Incredible mistakes by assistant referees will not happen. You will discover the offside and punish it.”
Collina: “Assistant referees have been informed to keep their flags down when there will be tight offside positions to be assessed and promising attacks. This will make the VAR work. Once a goal will be in case scored, VAR will check it. If you will see an assistant referee not raising the flag, this won’t be a mistake, but just our instruction.”
Busacca: “We want to prevent such situations; in past it was very difficult. For that reason we did mistakes. Now violent conducts and such behaviors will be very clear. More the mistake will be clear, more we will be fast in correcting it. All the minutes used for VAR, will be added in injury time. So we will not lose any second.”

Referee Sandro Ricci (Brazil)
“I can assure you that we are ready. We are looking forward to starting because we love training but we love officiating more. Same as the players – they like to train, they need to train, but they like to play. We have 64 matches and we have been preparing a lot. Our goal is that VAR will not need to be used – we hope referees can solve all the problems on the field.”

Referee Ravshan Irmatov (Uzbekistan)
“We have very good support from our friends in the VAR team. As human beings, we cannot always see everything. VAR could be excellent support to the referee to eliminate bad behaviour. In football, it’s all about having respect for each other.”

Source: FIFA