It’s a very elite group of referees that Australian Kate Jacewicz joined in Tokyo – only 13 women have been selected as referees for the 2020 Olympic Games.
And no, it’s not just because Australia is competing in the Games – in the women’s tournament only three competing countries also had a referee in the tournament - Japan, Australia and Brazil.
So congratulations Kate. You are living the Women Onside vision of seeing women in football EVERYWHERE.
(Unfortunately there were no Australian women assistant referees at the event.)
Kate went to Japan with a successful Women’s World Cup France 2019 under her belt. In France she impressed enough to win a place as Fourth Official at the 3rd vs 4th play-off in her first senior Women’s World Cup.
In Tokyo Kate had the vital Netherlands vs Brazil match as her first appointment. Again she impressed and received a further appointment for the quarter-final match between the USA and Netherlands.
and the Aussie guys....
By the way, Aussie Chris Beath was on the men’s refereeing panel along with Assistant Referees Anton Shchetinin and George Lakrindis.
Their performance was also outstanding and they officiated the men's gold medal match. Congratulations guys.
But wait, there’s more ….
FIFA has had a policy of using women on the field as match officials for women's World Cups and Olympic Games for many years now. That policy has been successful in offering a strong pathway for women match officials at the top end.
Women Onside’s officiating network convenor Allyson Flynn - herself a former international assistant referee at the Rio Olympics and two World Cups - agrees that the arrangement has been beneficial for women officials. "Knowing that there was the opportunity to officiate at the World Cup and Olympics was a big motivating factor for me during my career," Allyson said this week.
However, while the opportunities for women referees and assistants has been cemented at the top level, the panel for Video Assistant Referees shows a gap in development for women in that new area.
Not surprisingly FIFA wants the VAR officials to be experienced in that crucial VAR role. But none of the women’s pro-leagues around the world use VAR for their matches, which seriously limits the opportunities for women VARs. To get a proper balance for the women in the short term, national federations and league administrators need to be pro-active in developing women VARs through their men’s leagues.
There is only one woman out of the 20 VARs at this Olympic Games. Once again it is German woman referee Bibiana Steinhaus who is leading the way. Bibiana used to referee in the men’s leagues in Germany and has officiated at UEFA men’s matches as well. After retiring from her stellar on-the field career, she now specialises as a VAR; again a great role model for women.
With Australia/New Zealand WWC 2023 coming quickly Football Australia is working hard and already has three women FIFA video match officials (Kate Jacewicz, Casey Reibelt and Sarah Ho) on the books along with two men (Chris Beath, Shaun Evans). Let’s hope FA gets more women VARs on board and give them all the opportunities they need to hone their craft.