A criticism often levelled at football as a sport is the lack of clarity around refereeing decisions. We are never able to hear what officials are saying and there is often little real-time explanation over the rationale of certain calls.
That is changing at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. History was made in the opening match between co-hosts New Zealand and Norway, as the referee went over to the monitor to check a decision and then announced to the stadium that a penalty had been awarded to New Zealand.
As it turned out, Ria Percival slammed the penalty against the bar. That didn’t matter though, as New Zealand still made history with their first-ever World Cup win against a side expected to go deep in the tournament.
This is a system that was trialled at the FIFA Club World Cup in February, so it’s not the first time it has been seen of late. It is the first time it has been used in a major tournament, though.
FIFA has previously said it does not believe broadcasting a referee’s dialogue with the video assistant referee when deliberating a decision is the right way to include fans in the process. Instead, when a decision has been reached, the referee will announce how play will be restarted and any relevant sanctions that will be handed out.
The change in regulation helps provide more context for fans at stadiums over what is going on. It can be argued that, given the announcement in the New Zealand-Norway game only explained it was a handball and a penalty, those in the stands would soon realise that anyway.
Alex Scott was in the BBC studio for the game and seemed to be a fan of what happened. “I couldn’t help but laugh,” the former Arsenal and England defender said. “I felt like I was in the Hunger Games.”
Ian Wright was at the match and posted a video to Twitter after the game, in which he said: “I like the way the referee done that.”
The exact words of the referee, Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita, were: “After on-field review, the decision is, penalty!”
Needless to say, that was met by rapturous applause in Auckland as New Zealand were handed the chance to go 2-0 up. That opportunity went begging but Hannah Wilkinson’s strike which came at the end of a swift move in the 48th minute proved enough for victory.