International Referee Trio Matching

Posted: July 5, 2014 by larbitre in World Cup 2014
Tags: , , , , ,

Referee crews. Ever thought you would be thinking about referees in that level of detail? Although they may not look like they need much engineering, team chemistry is as important on the field to players as it is to referees! FIFA, in the past, employed the use of mixed duos and every referee was independent of one another in terms of receiving appointments. This allowed the best performing referees and assistant referees to be paired together regardless of background and it was solely performance based.

World Cup 2002 Final Mixed Crew (from left to right): Pierluigi Collina (ITA), Leif Lindberg (SWE), Philip Sharpe (ENG), Hugh Dallas (SCO)

The introduction of national trios changed the landscape of refereeing at the international level. It meant that a referee’s compatriots had a direct influence on their career and future. At this World Cup, the vast majority of referee teams come from the same nation with only a handful of mixed crews. This presents several pros and cons. Being assigned together in games all the time allows one another to learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses and build trust. This is crucial in a tournament as important as the World Cup. FIFA’s initial decision to try this came in the following statement:

“The Referees’ Committee hopes that teams who are used to working with each other will react faster and better, which should also serve to raise the quality of refereeing at the tournament,” said FIFA.


The mixed crews at this World Cup include Uzbekistan (Ravshan Irmatov), United States (Mark Geiger) and the three CAF crews. Mixed in this case usually applies to one of the Assistant Referees being from a different soccer federation (country) but from the same confederation (continent). For the full World Cup 2014 referee crew listing, see here. A very recent change was the drop of the Colombian Assistant Referee, Humberto Clavijo, who made two incorrect offside decisions in the Mexico-Cameroon game that ruled out two legitimate goals. Ordinarily, FIFA would drop the entire team but instead decided to replace the Assistant Referee with the Ecuadorian Assistant Christian Lescano. I’m sure Wilmar Roldan will breathe a sigh of relief at keeping his spot but disappointment that his compatriot’s tournament is over.

It can end just like that. Looking back to the Euro 2008 tournament, Howard Webb was sent home early for controversy in his game that involved a late penalty call as well as a goal awarded despite the scorer being offside. It helps being part of a team — Fletcher and fellow assistant Sean Hurd have worked with referee Mark Geiger since 2011. The Canadian-American-American trio has already officiated at the 2013 FIFA Club World Cup, the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, among other tournaments. “We’ve become like a little family,” Fletcher said of the unit. “You’re expected to operate together, hang out together, live together so it comes in really handy when you actually like each other,” he added.


Nation-specific or mixed crews regardless, these officials will be doing their best to represent their countries and confederations in the world’s largest football tournament. Related articles:


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