June 28, 2013

Committee members in action?

Yesterday in the late evening, the eagerly awaited updates of UEFA's referee categories have been officially confirmed and have caught our immediate attention. At first glance, one may call the promotions  "expected". But not only at first glance, also at second glance, for a different reason though. 

One of the deserved "promotees": Russian Sergei Karasev (c) fifa.com

Naturally all following statements are just analytical ideas on the update; it might be that some of them are wrong as we cannot know that much about aspects like written tests, personal reasons etc that could have had an impact on these changes, too.

Surely, Milorad Mažić, Matej Jug and Sergei Karasev fully deserve their promotions and partly really had to wait a long time for this moment. The UEFA phrase "fast-track promotions should be made possible" did not really apply for the Serbian official, who had to be seen by more than six committee members, until his skills were finally considered as good enough for Elite.

But the low number of changes is really astonishing. It is surprising that e.g. Bas Nijhuis stays in Elite Development, having been completely ignored in the K.O. stage of UEFA Europa League - a Dutch referee who surely has some potential but (too) often failed to show that when it was important. A final chance for him until December? Or just a Dutch committee member having protected him from moving down? Same goes for English Martin Atkinson, who did not convince on international level during the past season and who faced some trouble after Lille - Bayern in UEFA Champions League. Rumours said that Lille had lodged an official complaint to French UEFA president Platini after the match. Atkinson, as Elite referee, was ignored in both UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League knockout phase. Nobody doubts that Atkinson is a good referee. The principle "same rules for everybody" just does not apply here. Other referees with a comparable CV, such as German Florian Meyer, had to leave the highest category when the time had come to make place for younger officials. As we are touching on demotions: what exactly has changed within the past six months that might justify a demotion of Northern Ireland's referee Mark Courtney?

Scottish refereeing is experiencing a radical change at the moment as well: Euan Norris was relegated to Second Group in winter 2012 before being demoted once again this June, now to the lowest category. He rejected to handle a UEFA Europa League match last season due to medical reasons. Obviously, UEFA does not see a big prospect in him or just believes he needs more time to start completely anew. John Beaton has been promoted to Second Group though, without handling a match in the past six months.

Having refereed 2013 Under-17 European Championship final, Greek Anastassios Sidiropoulos has been immediately promoted to First Group. He seems to be a Greek referee who savours UEFA's trust to follow into Kyros Vassaras' footsteps, something which Kakos and Koukoulakis did not achieve. The critical thing about that is: referees like Emir Aleckovic, Sébastien Delferiere, Kenn Hansen, Antti Munukka or Kristo Tohver had a similar development - and contrary to Sidiropoulos even already (more than) one EL match each - but were not able to reach the First Group so far. Why not?

Without valuing these changes: promotions and demotions seem to be more flexible concerning those national associations that are represented by a member in the UEFA referee committee. Some neutral statistics and numbers can, as often, express more.

Exactly 60% of the referees who have been promoted in the winter updates 2012 and in June 2013 are of nations with influence on and representation in the UEFA's referee committee. For the officials who have been demoted, the ratio is 55%. In a sum that means that 58% of the changes within UEFA's referee categories concerned referees from nations with influence on or representation in it. However, the members in the committee only "represent" 36% of the UEFA referees, meaning that every third referee in UEFA's categories has "someone behind him in the committee". Comparing both percentages, a certain imbalance is revealed (55% or even 60% (promotions) are statistically significantly higher than 36%).

If the system worked in a really neutral way, this gap of 24 percentage points should not exist or should be at least smaller.

The only explanation, which would support UEFA in this practice, is that the referees from nations with influence on and representation in the committee must be extra-ordinary better than their colleagues from other countries.


  1. Brilliant analysis!
    I agree, Atkinson and Nijhuis must be either very fortunate or they're on their last chance saloon.


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