UEFA referees have been called on to play their part in safeguarding the image of football by cracking down on trends on the field that the European body feels are harming the game.
Article top media content
At the UEFA winter course for top European referees, match officials were briefed to intervene and take firm action against over-reaction by players to innocuous fouls, attempts by players to pressure referees into giving opponents red or yellow cards, and efforts to deceive the referee through acts of simulation.
The match officials were also urged to react firmly in instances of mobbing, where groups of players surround and put pressure on referees.
UEFA Referees Committee chairman Robert Rosetti expressed concern at these trends, and called upon players to show greater respect for the game’s values. “We’re worried, we don’t like to see these incidents happening,” he said. “They damage the game and its image.”
“Such conduct is not respectful – nor does it show a spirit of fair play when players, for example, try to deceive a referee or put pressure on the referee to caution or dismiss a opponent.”
“We don’t want to see this taking place, we can’t accept it,” Rosetti added. “Showing respect on the field is important. Consequently, referees are being asked to be alert and take appropriate firm and consistent measures in such cases. It’s especially important that the referees always act on what they see – not what they hear.”
"Showing respect on the field is important"
The winter course, held online owing to the pandemic, gave UEFA the opportunity to pass on instructions to and hear feedback from 81 top male and female referees as they prepare for a challenging second half of the season, which will include assignments in UEFA’s major men’s and women’s club competitions, the forthcoming European qualification playoffs for the men’s FIFA World Cup, and the UEFA Women’s EURO in England in July.
Rosetti encouraged the male officials to maintain the same high level of performance that brought them widespread praise at last summer’s UEFA EURO 2020 tournament – but also reminded them not to rest on their laurels. “The EURO is very much in the past now,” he insisted. “We must look forward and reach, and even better, the standards that have been set.”
Women’s EURO target
With the selection of the Women’s EURO referees due to take place after the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals in March, Rosetti told the 23 female match officials present at the course to prove that they were worthy of a place in the EURO team.
“The selection process is going to be very difficult, because we have an excellent group of female referees,” he said. “This is our best-ever group of European officials, and we want them to show us that they are ready to take part in the tournament.”
Instructions and guidance
UEFA Referees Committee deputy chairman Hugh Dallas and refereeing officer Vlado Sajn were joined by a recent newcomer to the committee – former international official Björn Kuipers – in leading the referees through a series of practical and theoretical sessions focusing on classic refereeing issues such as handball, offside, holding and pushing in the penalty area, challenges and management. The female referees were guided through specific sessions led by refereeing officer Dagmar Damková.
Rosetti thanked referees for their diligence after being asked to take their UEFA fitness test in their home countries. “They’ve videoed their tests,” he said, “and have sent the results to [Belgian sports scientist and UEFA referee training expert] Werner Helsen – they’ve showed their professional attitude and attention to detail, and emphasised their commitment to being top athletes.”
The video assistant referee (VAR) system was a key element of the course, with 25 video assistant referees studying and giving feedback on video clips of incidents that took place in the first half of the season. Another former referee and new Referees Committee member, Carlos Velasco Carballo, led the sessions.
Meanwhile, preparations continue apace for the first-ever deployment of VAR in the UEFA Women’s Champions League from the quarter-finals onwards, as well as for the system’s use for the first time at a UEFA Women’s EURO this summer.
Rosetti emphasised that the purpose of VAR remained to help football by aiding the referees’ decision-making process, in particular in eliminating clear and obvious refereeing errors. “VAR is important for our game,” he reflected. “The aim is not to use the system to excess – the objective is minimum intervention for maximum benefit. And we know that there is always scope for improvement, so fine-tuning work is constantly ongoing.”
"Minimum intervention for maximum benefit"
Cooperation with CONMEBOL
UEFA is sharing its refereeing experience and expertise beyond Europe – in particular within its strong relationship with the South American confederation CONMEBOL. The two bodies have pledged to increase their cooperation in a variety of areas for the common benefit of football on the two continents.
As far as refereeing is concerned, the partnership has included the deployment of referees at each other’s major tournaments – Argentina’s Fernando Rapallini was an impressive member of the team at UEFA EURO 2020 last summer, and Spanish referee Jesús Gil Manzano officiated at the same time in CONMEBOL’s equivalent competition, the Copa América in Brazil.
As part of an ongoing programme, two CONMEBOL referees, John Ospina (Colombia) and Emikar Calderas (Venezuela), were present at UEFA’s latest winter gathering, with two UEFA referees, João Pinheiro (Portugal) and Maria Sole Ferrieri Caputi (Italy), attending CONMEBOL’s most recent course in the Paraguayan capital Ascunción.
Rosetti explained that the referee exchanges are in line with values and objectives laid down by UEFA and CONMEBOL as part of their commitment to the development of football beyond their geographical zones.
“We have important objectives as far as refereeing is concerned,” he said. “It’s very positive to be working together with CONMEBOL, because we are helping to promote a spirit of unity in refereeing. We will be further developing this mutual cooperation within our activities.”