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'Role models, diplomats and ambassadors'

Role models, diplomats and ambassadors, who are people of honesty and integrity – all attributes UEFA expects from its referees as representatives of the governing body.

Referees are being given sound advice about their responsibilities at the UEFA winter courses in Athens
Referees are being given sound advice about their responsibilities at the UEFA winter courses in Athens ©Sportsfile

UEFA referees have been given wise words of advice about their role and responsibilities as representatives of European football's governing body at the UEFA winter courses in Athens.

The participants at the 23rd UEFA Advanced Course for Top Referees and 24th UEFA Introductory Course for International Referees were urged to be role models for those who aspire to emulate them, behave impeccably while on UEFA duty, and show honesty and integrity by categorically rejecting any involvement in match-fixing.

In welcoming the referees to Greece, the chairman of the UEFA Referees' Committee and UEFA second vice-president Angel María Villar Llona was firm and unequivocal in reminding the referees what is expected of them. "You are the crème de la crème of European referees, and a lot of dedication and hard work goes into looking after you," he said.

"We would ask you to act as role models, in particular towards the young referees in your countries," he added. "Your behaviour should be exemplary and your teaching should be exceptional. We want the young referees to look up to you. Remember that you represent all UEFA referees, and UEFA, so I ask you to act responsibly."

UEFA Referees Committee member David Elleray developed this theme in a presentation to the new international referees, in which he emphasised that the match officials are both diplomats and ambassadors. "You are ambassadors for football and for fair play," he said.

Ángel María Villar Llona at the course
Ángel María Villar Llona at the course©Sportsfile

"As well as representing yourselves, your colleagues and your country, you are now representing UEFA. That means not just high-quality performances and diplomatic skills in managing a match on the field, but also high-quality conduct and diplomacy off the field."

Elleray urged the referees to always bear in mind that their appearance and behaviour away from the field, and in particular when travelling to and from an assignment, has a crucial bearing on not only their own reputations but also that of UEFA.

UEFA considers the fight against match-fixing to be one of its major priorities, and UEFA intelligence coordinator Graham Peaker attended the course to give a presentation in which he warned the referees to stay especially vigilant in the face of any attempts to persuade them to manipulate the result of a match.

David Elleray addresses the referees course
David Elleray addresses the referees course©UEFA

"UEFA has a zero tolerance stance towards match-fixing," Peaker told the officials, echoing the viewpoint put forward on many occasions by President Michel Platini that football's essential soul would be put in mortal danger if the results of matches were known in advance. "Anyone – players, coaches, officials – who is found guilty of match-fixing will receive a red card banning them from football for life," Peaker emphasised.

In addition to operating a betting fraud detection system which monitors more than 30,000 matches a year, UEFA has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the European Union's law enforcement agency Europol, and created a working group on match-fixing which includes European prosecutors and law enforcement bodies.

The referees were encouraged to follow the 'three R's' principle towards any effort to involve them in match-fixing: recognise what is happening; reject the approach; report the matter.