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UEFA EURO 2024 referee Michael Oliver: 'The eyes of the world are on us'

One of 19 referees selected for UEFA EURO 2024, Michael Oliver reflects on the increased pressure of a major tournament, teamwork alongside other officials, and dedication to peak performance.

Michael Oliver (centre) with assistants Dan Cook (left) and Stuart Burt (right)
Michael Oliver (centre) with assistants Dan Cook (left) and Stuart Burt (right) UEFA

UEFA EURO 2024 is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication for every person that will step foot on the pitch in Germany – including the referees.

Just as the players are preparing for the extra demands brought by the world’s third-biggest sporting event, so are the officials.

"The eyes of the world are on this tournament," says Michael Oliver, one of 19 referees selected to officiate at UEFA EURO 2024.

"You get a sense when you arrive at the stadium that the atmosphere is different. The pressure, the competition, and the quality of matches are all higher. You’re aware of that pressure, but you just try to prepare the best you can and make sure you’re ready for it."

Oliver trains with fellow officials ahead of refereeing the 2022 UEFA Super Cup in Helsinki, Finland
Oliver trains with fellow officials ahead of refereeing the 2022 UEFA Super Cup in Helsinki, FinlandUEFA via Getty Images

Camaraderie and competition

Oliver has been an international referee since 2012, and part of UEFA’s Elite Group since 2018. The Englishman will be appearing at his second European Championship after officiating in three games at UEFA EURO 2020.

The referees at UEFA EURO 2024 will be based together just outside Frankfurt, chosen as a convenient central location for them to return to after each match, and where they can recuperate and prepare for their next assignment.

"The camaraderie, it’s like a friendship group," Oliver explains. "It’s the same as a team or squad. We’re all in the same boat, we understand what each other goes through and it’s a good atmosphere.

"While it’s friendship first and foremost, you’re also in competition with each other," he adds. "It’s a polite competitiveness, with everyone striving to be the best. One thing I can really say for sure is that we all want each other to do well.

"We all work to cut out mistakes, but some can unfortunately happen, so it helps to have people around who understand what it feels like to be in our position."

Oliver shakes hands with France coach Didier Deschamps at UEFA EURO 2020
Oliver shakes hands with France coach Didier Deschamps at UEFA EURO 2020UEFA via Getty Images

Off-field support

Supporting the officials throughout the tournament will be UEFA managing director of refereeing, Roberto Rosetti, and members of the UEFA Referees Committee. This includes Vlado Sajn, experienced committee member of over 20 years, Björn Kuipers, who took charge of the UEFA EURO 2020 final, and Carlos Velasco Carballo, referee for the 2011 UEFA Europa League showpiece.

"That support is very important," says Oliver. "Roberto is a proper people person, a really nice guy, and he's got great staff round him. There’s a lot of experience in terms of the refereeing with the likes of Björn, Vlado and Carlos.

"The off-field staff are also fantastic and really help take the pressure off. You know that everything you need will be there for you, and if you have any problems then you can speak to somebody and it's all sorted. It allows us to concentrate on the football."

New guidance to promote respect

Ahead of the tournament, UEFA will speak with teams to encourage that during matches, only their captain speaks to the referee, and that players do not crowd the officials. Any player who ignores this will be shown a yellow card.

This will allow referees to communicate their decisions more clearly and to build trust between themselves and the captains, setting a better example for young players and fans.

Reflecting on this guidance, Oliver agrees that it’s a step in the right direction.

"It will definitely help," he says. "A lot of the situations you see now are players and fans wanting answers and clarification. Having that link and that dialogue with a designated person can only help provide that.

"To be able to establish that bond or relationship with the captain means you can get your point across, you can listen to theirs, you provide that explanation and clarity to them. It can only be a positive."

Striving to be the best

One thing Oliver hopes more people will understand is that referees love the game just as much as players and fans.

"There’s a perception that we turn up five minutes before kick-off, leave straight after, and don’t think about football for a week," he says.

"But we put so much training and work into it, to be the best, to limit mistakes. Nobody needs to tell me after a game how well I’ve done – or not. I know that more than anybody."

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