June 13, 2012

Celebrating Refereeing Diversity at EURO 2012

At the current 2012 UEFA EURO in Poland and Ukraine, UEFA has put forward a campaign along with their partners FARE to prosper esteem and respect towards diversity, which is hence called "Celebrate Diversity". Alongside other campaigns aimed at encouraging respect, this slogan can be easily deployed to plead in favour of different approaches of the match officials acting at the tournament. 

UEFA EURO 2012 - Lineup music

While Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo has been immensely criticized for having sent off a Greek defender in the opener match, which was indeed a wrong decision, the - according to IFFHS - world's number 1, Viktor Kassai of Hungary, was praised to the greatest extent by most of the people, including me as assigned observer for his tie (Spain - Italy). Despite of the fact that Kassai was in full control of the match, that he applied his natural authority and also that he has a personality on the pitch highly respected by the players, one could certify him several situations where he obviously ignored the actually clear laws of the game, e.g. when he refused to book a Spanish defender for a clear tactical foul by pulling and holding, so that an Italian counterattack was avoided.
How to deal with that? How much can one bear such a violation of the laws of the game?
UEFA as well as FIFA have proven that they highly estimate his skills, when they had appointed him for the World Cup semifinal between Spain and Germany and the 2011 UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium. Kassai's style of refereeing is probably polarizing. A Spanish blogger has rightly demanded that missed cards and wrongly given cards had to be treated equally as mistakes. The significant question is: Is this really possible?
Yellow Cards - ultima ratio? (c) ZIMBIO

One can certainly say, yes. The laws of the game are very clear in most of the important areas. Holding and pulling to stop a promising counterattack has to be penalized with a yellow card. In addition, the interpretation of the laws is on the one hand subject of instructions and sessions, but depends on the referee's style of refereeing, too. This is the crucial point. A referee like Kassai is perhaps even more than a normal referee. He leads the match, anticipates situations, upcoming conflicts and develops a feeling for the match. I am convinced that such a high profile referee like Viktor Kassai surely knows himself best that some cards he did not issue would have actually been very necessary. The match between Spain and Italy is a paramount example for the success of his style. He allowed hard football as much as possible, let the game flow. The result was the match with the by far highest pace of the tournament. Ironically, it has however also become the match with the largest number of yellow cards, most of them were however given in the final minutes of the match, when a point was reached when cards had obviously become necessary, even from Kassai's point of view. So does Kassai violate or bend the laws of the game? To my mind, he bends them, knowing that the match will benefit from it. The question of whether bending laws in such a tremendously heavy fashion may be accepted or endured is very difficult to answer. 
We have seen the direct opposite in many other matches, examples for that can be the opener match of Velasco Carballo or - significantly remembered by German fans - Undiano Mallenco's performance in Germany - Serbia (2010). The second case is probably even more suitable, as most of the controversial decisions were no wrong ones, but very pedantic ones. Having taken the rule book very literally, a harsh sending-off was the consequence. This is bending the laws as well, but the direct opposite.
So who is right then? Both. Celebrating diversity should be the message for the evaluation of refereeing styles or approaches. FIFA's motto, "for the good of the game", should be taken into account as well, so that my clear preference is the lenient, but consistent referee. Allowing football and a high pace of the game as much as possible, but keeping in mind necessary and obviously borderlines.
Finally, one should be aware of the fact that personalities are behind these "officials" and "styles" and that tactical approaches depend on the respective match. Having a certain style is nice, in my opinion, the best referee is however the one who is able to lead the match actively and who is capable of grasping the match's atmosphere and character, being - on the basis of that - able to adapt his style to the course of events during the match properly. Cards should be to my mind the ultima ratio, while personality and authority are prevailing.


  1. To be clear, I appreciate personality, style, presence, natural authority...but sometimes referees have to act if they want to prevent what is going to happen. Maybe if Kassai would have shown early YC, he'd have avoided showing 6-7 cards at the end. You let the players do everything at the beginning and then 7 cards, is that consistent, logical and with a clear line? But as always, Kassai won't be critized for booking 7 players. We are analyzing performances according LOTG and other abilities/skills (reading the game, approaching, man-management, etc.) not according their name, reputation or nationality.

    I'm not defending Velasco or Undiano, they both made mistakes, I'm just trying to find a right balance when evaluating performances, sometimes we are not fair enough.

    Best regards

  2. I hope so that reputation and nationality do not play any role.
    Doubts may be raised whether this also counts for UEFA.

    In the end, there must be a reason for UEFA and FIFA to give Kassai the classification he savours. I have tried to understand the reasons and think that there were and are right when doing so.

    One question:
    "Sometimes we are not fair enough."
    Who is we?

  3. I'm not saying Kassai doesn't deserve his status, I'm talking about a specific situation, nothing more.

    The answer for your question is all the poeople who are talking/judging/evaluating refereeing performances, including me of course. If Lannoy, Undiano, etc. show 7 cards in 15 minutes, come on, everybody would say he is pedantic, excessive, they always have to be center stage...and all that stuff.

    There are situations when you can show or not a YC depending on how you're reading the game (so you find it necessary for the good of the game, behaviour of players, intensity etc.) I'm not talking about that kind of YC, I'm talking about missing clear and obvious YC offences. Referees have to act in the right time to prevent conflicts, not waiting until something happen. Remember Collina said "We don't want broken legs". I'm sure we both agree.

    1. Yes, that is right. Obvious and brutal fouls and stuff have to be evaluated independently from a lenient style. Leniency and punishing those fouls adequately do not mean a contradiction.

    2. And concerning the "being not fair enough", guaranteeing fairness and performance related evaluations based on our opinions is actually our aim. We are very well aware that these are only opinions based on the measly right and chance to evaluate the refs at this tournament.
      And I would like to add that one cannot compare Kassai showing 7 cards in a row and Undiano doing the same. One has to analyze the background and way of having shown the cards.
      I also stressed that I like active referees preventing situations that might endanger players or the match itself, the way of achieving that is kind of question of taste..

  4. raczę przypomnieć żeto ten zxdolny węgier w tym meczu dał się nabrać Cassano na faul którego nie było i nie poksazał włochowi nawet żółtej kartki nie mówiąc że powinna być czerwona za celowe kopnięcie bez piłki hiszpańskiego bramkarza Casillasa do tego dwa razy odgwizdał ofsajd który błędnie sygnalizował jego asystent liniowy gabor eroes pozatym według mnie to IFFHS przesadza z niektórymi rakingami tak jak uznano węgra najleprzym sędzią 2011 roku a tak po prawdzie to najleprzym sędzią 2011 roku był RAWSZAN IRMATOW z Uzbekistanu. Ps. czerwona kartkadla obrońcy greckiego w meczu z polską była słuszna za dwie żółte zresztą słusznie pokazane tym z IFFHS nie ma co zabardzo wierzyć

  5. Mohammed Abdul Fattah14/6/12 10:35

    Greece - Russia : Eriksson
    Czech - Ppland : Thomson
    Portugal- Nerthrland : Rizzoli
    Denmark - Germany : Carballo

  6. I agree with your post, Niclas.
    There is for sure a refereeing diversity, each referee has his different style, and I'm going to think that it will never change radically.
    UEFA can give instructions and guidelines, before an important tournament, but it's impossible to level each referee to a universal standard.
    We have seen many different approaches in this tournament (Velasco, Stark, Kassai, Rizzoli and so on...) but finally who can say what is the best?
    Trying to avoid cards, talking to players could be a good choice, but not always the best, if the players don't want to cooperate.
    Hence, here the big question: is correct to avoid cards and make use of a style that probably is going against the Laws of the Game?
    I think that a final answer is not possible. We have to consider each match. And we can't know, prior to a match, how it will end.
    So, we can do attempts, and maybe we can do also mistakes, not giving cards.
    Now, the last point. The difference between a given (wrong) card and a not given card.
    Well, probably the first case is a bigger mistake, because it can punish excessively a team which doesn't deserve that.
    If you don't give a card and you are going to keep this standard until a certain minute of a match, I think that you are not wrong at all.
    You recognize that you can do it without the help of cards.
    Of course, a different speech is when a referee misses, due to a lack concentration, a obvious foul and perhaps a red card.
    The speech is going to become difficult: how to evaluate that?
    For sure, if we talk about Kassai, we have to underline that this man got Champions League final and WC semifinal, and this last match was handled exceptionally without any card.
    In this sense, we can justify Niclas, when he talks about "phenomenon Kassai".
    UEFA and FIFA Committes probably have understood that being able to gain acceptance by players is one of the most important things for a referee.
    Then, at a later time, we can aso consider cards.

  7. Anonymous18/6/12 00:03

    On a different note, I would be curious to know what whistle (e.g. Fox40, etc.) is each of the Euro referees using? Any ideas?

  8. Different ones. Eriksson has clearly another one like the others, Stark as well, Velasco too I think. Thomson, Webb etc Fox40 I believe.

  9. According to a German newspaper, seven referees use the whistle "Lübold 600", which was created by a small German company especially for this tournament. The sounds are produced by a elaborated three cells system and the referees can have their initials or their association's logo engraved.
    Source: http://www.derwesten.de/staedte/nachrodt-wiblingwerde/schiris-setzen-auf-traditionsmarke-id6687609.html (German)

  10. Anonymous19/6/12 08:00

    Disaster from referees at this tournament. We might say it at this point. 4 out of 6 teams in next round were decided with missed penalty situations.

    One penalty decision so far and numerous rule's violation situations in penalty area.

    Great decisions of assistant referees, doubtful benefit of additional assistant referees at this tournament (regarding missed penalties or elbowing in penalty area).


Copyright © . The 3rd Team
Theme Template by BTDesigner · Powered by Blogger