FIFA has officially announced the 15 Video Assistant Referees who will take part in the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. The full list is below:
The first thing to point out is that, although obviously this is the Women’s World Cup—and all of the on-field referees and assistant referees are female—FIFA has decided to appoint an entirely male committee of VARs.
Now, this isn’t entirely surprising, given not only that no female professional league uses VAR, but that it wasn’t even certain until just a few short months ago that the WWC would even have VAR. Still, it’s not as if FIFA didn’t have any female options:
Emil makes a good point here, and this could have been a great opportunity for FIFA to get at least one female VAR in the booth. However, it is understandable that a referee with only four career MLS matches in the booth, according to PRO, is overlooked in favour of more experienced video referees.
Unsurprisingly, then, FIFA has appointed most of the usual suspects we’ve become accustomed to through both last summer’s World Cup and this year’s Champions League knockout stages. Italy’s Massimiliano Irrati (who was VAR for the World Cup Final last year) and Holland’s Danny Makkelie are probably two of the standout names, and are both early candidates to be in the video room for the women’s final on July 7.
Although all of the referees, ARs, and VARs have now been officially announced for France 2019, a few questions remain.
First, will we potentially see some of the designated ‘on-field’ referees in the booth as assistant VARs at certain points? We saw a lot of referees in Russia last year serve both on the pitch and in the video room, either as assistant VARs or even the main VAR. This was particularly noticeable in the American and Canadian contingent of officials, with Mark Geiger, for example, refereeing three matches while being appointed as a VAR or AVAR for a further eight.
If I had to give an educated guess, the lack of VAR experience many of the female referees have probably indicates that this won’t be the case. However, American referee Katja Koroleva, for example, has had VAR assignments in the MLS this season, so it’s possible that someone like her may yet be considered in the booth.
The second point that hasn’t yet been clarified is the number of VARs FIFA will have in the booth for any given match. The men’s World Cup last year had four people for every game: a VAR, and then AVARs 1, 2, and 3. Given that FIFA have only appointed 15 video referees for this summer’s tournament, I would probably wager that we’ll only be seeing two in the booth, similar to what we’ve been seeing in the Champions League and most men’s domestic leagues that use the system.