May 3, 2014

Conflicts of Interest in UEFA Refereeing?

Most of you will probably agree that UEFA's referee committee did not risk anything in this year's semifinals. Eight experienced and established match officials, i.e. really safe pairs of hands, were assigned to take charge of the last stage prior to the finals in Champions League and Europa League. The real surprise was the appointment of the UEFA Referee Observer in the Europa League semifinal first leg between Sevilla CF and Valencia CF, which absolutely deserves our undivided attention. 


Damir Skomina was one of the rather young top-class referees Pierluigi Collina had in his roster when it came to selecting the officials for EURO 2012. After that, some quite huge mistakes - mostly caused by his young assistant referee Matej Žunič - happened and Skomina surely lost some credit, also in FIFA circles where political assessments count more than everywhere else. Both incidents, the missed offside goal in Manchester Utd. - Bayer Leverkusen and the two crucial mistakes in the World Cup play-off between France and the Ukraine were deeply analyzed and fairly criticized in the blog back then. As a consequence, Žunič was dropped and will not assist Skomina any longer. Since there is apparently nobody in Slovenia who could fill this free space, Collina and co. used the chance to create the next mixed team (because they obviously worked so well..): Gianluca Cariolato from Italy has become Skomina's second assistant referee. Skomina and the additional assistant referee on the far-side, Roberto Ponis, both speak Italian so that formally this move made some sense. What one has to keep in the back of the head is that Cariolato repeatedly made significant and blatant crucial mistakes, even in the week before the semifinal concerned. Nonetheless UEFA's committee, whose members have been appointing the assistant referees themselves since this season, seems to have deep trust into Cariolato's abilities.

In Benfica - Tottenham, there was not any controversy. The match was calm, the co-operation between the Slovenians and the Italians on expected level. In Dortmund's win over Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals, there was a first sign of lacking teamwork though: Cariolato correctly raised the flag for offside (normal situation, half a metre) but for some reason Skomina completely ignored his teammate, did not even look out to him and hence allowed the match to flow. Well, then the 33rd minute in Sevilla came.


Mistakes can happen, but it is obvious that the main reason for this blatant error was a) a mistake caused by the assistant referee who did not notice that the decisive enlarging header came from an attacking player and b) a missing alertness among referee Damir Skomina and AAR2 Roberto Ponis for the importance of this header - keep in mind that the goal would have been legally scored if the header had been done by a defensive player (deliberate play). Considering the stationary positioning of the referee when the free-kick entered the penalty area, it is no wonder that he was not able to accurately judge who enlarged the free-kick. When the ball had already crossed the goal-line and when the home fans were celebrating, Skomina ran towards the goal and seemed ready to raise his hand and whistle in order to disallow this goal. But obviously, he got different feedback from his colleagues and allowed the goal. From the distance we have, it is surely difficult to point out the exact reason why three officials were not able to communicate properly and discuss who enlarged this header either via micro or in a short discussion (why did not Skomina go out?).

Three things are however sure: first signs of inconsistencies in the co-operation between the Slovenian referee and Italian assistant referee (Dortmund-Real) were obviously not taken seriously enough. Second, Pierluigi Collina should become aware of the fact that mixed teams are on the one hand nice to politically motivate some national associations to be content with the UEFA administration, but that they, on the other hand, have the potential to cause serious problems in terms of teamwork and communication in a referee team: "Speaking the same language" goes farther than Skomina understanding Cariolato's mother tongue Italian. It also means you know your team-mate and co-operate well with him. And the third thing which is sure is that Skomina has shown significant deficits in his awareness for offside situations for the 3rd time and is, in the end, no referee who is mentally able to co-operate with his teammates as it is required. Such mistakes really can happen - even though they naturally shouldn't. But: it's the 3rd time and at a certain point you definitely have to question his ability to learn from previous mistakes and criticism he hopefully received from the observers in Manchester and Paris.

That's our transition to the actual topic of this post. The observer. UEFA has 54 national associations (including Gibraltar!). There was one nation present among both teams: Spain. The referees were from Slovenia and Italy. So Collina and the responsible committee member(s) for the referee observers had at least 51 possible national associations from which they could have assigned a referee observer. Admittedly, there is a distinction between low-profile referee observers and major Elite-observers. So the number of 51 is surely too highly chosen - but let's agree that there were at least enough alternatives besides the referee observer appointed: Roberto Rosetti from Italy, i.e. a countryman of assistant referee Gianluca Cariolato.

We have seen a lot in the past months - positive trends and negative trends. We have even seen two vice chief officers' sons attending UEFA Youth League matches as fourth officials. But what is definitely new is the scenario that the referee observer can come from the same national association / country like a match official involved in this match. And even that is not precise enough. E.g. in UEFA Youth League, the fourth official normally comes from the home team's nation and sometimes this also accounts for the referee observer. In addition to this rather low level, Pierluigi Collina observed Carlos Velasco Carballo in EURO 2012's opening match while Gianluca Rocchi was the fourth official (and Renato Faverani as the reserve AR). To be more precise: we have never seen the case that the referee observer came from the same nation like the referee or one of the assistant referees.

This case is shady. Refereeing consists of politics, we all know that. Due to the experiences made over the last couple of years, I cannot be sure to what extent honesty and integrity exist at the highest level. For sure Pierluigi Collina is an intelligent and smart man. He knows what he is doing - hopefully - otherwise he should leave the place as UEFA Chief of Refereeing. So appointing Rosetti as the referee observer for Cariolato and co. has a certain purpose. Maybe this purpose was even related to a higher sense or kind of added value. But: Collina had to know he would arouse a formal conflict of interest by making this appointment. Conflicts of interest can be practically apparent everywhere as soon as two or more different but interacting patterns of interests collide with each other. Mostly scientists concentrate on the differentiation between a primar set of interests (the actual purpose of something - in our case: a fair and impartial analysis and assessment of the match officials by the UEFA Referee Observer) and a secondary set of interests (another interest which "unduly influences the primar interest" - according to Dennis F. Thompson - in our case: national interests by the UEFA Referee Observers that tends to prevent him from a fair and impartial analysis and assessment). To make that clear, conflict of interests are normally the prestage of corruption, but do not equate it. They are two distinct things.

We all know Roberto Rosetti as one of Europe's best referees of the late 2000s, let alone his role as protagonist in "Kill the referee - referees at work". I am confident that he, as an honest man, analyzed the incident in Sevilla very well and fairly. What Mr Collina should realize - and this counts for practically the entire committee - is that even the smallest semblance of conflicts of interest must be avoided and sends a poor message to the rest of UEFA referees.

Management, including referee management, depends on the existence of compliance rules in order to make sure that it copes with the increasing importance of ethical conformity. By the way: in modern economy and politics, managers and politicians, who are blatantly lacking in awareness for this matter and get into conflicts of interest, usually have been managers or politicians for the longest time of their life.

37 Comments:

  1. Anonymous3/5/14 20:35

    Some clarification:

    - first, there are other previous cases: for example, at Euro 2000, the UEFA Referees' committe member Ken Ridden (ENG) observed assistant referee Philip Sharp (ENG) during the match between Belgium and Sweden;
    - secondly, I'm sure that UEFA observer's report is evaluated by the Referees' Committee, so there is no interest in distorting the votes.

    AssistantRef

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  2. Anonymous3/5/14 20:42

    AssistantRef is right about Sharp, I also have it in memory but ok this is before the time this blog is focussing on. Presumably we talk about the 2010-now era....
    It's indeed a problem. I'm too sure that everything is o.k. with the report. It's about the message/the impression which is send however. And this is highly problematic.

    -ref7-

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  3. Anonymous3/5/14 21:04

    - third, Rosetti currently has no roles in Italian Federation, and he became a UEFA observer only after the assignment to the Russian Federation (probably after proposal of this Federation; for example, Luciano Luci became UEFA observer in 2011, after proposal of Ukrainian Federation)

    AssistantRef

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  4. Anonymous3/5/14 21:31

    I'm sure that Rosetti was objective about AR in his report but I agree that it is about the message sent to people. Therefore any accusations of bias should be avoided if possible and, as mentioned before, in this case it would have been easy.

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  5. You really need to use more paragraphs when writing. This wall of text is difficult to read.

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  6. Anonymous3/5/14 23:38

    I cannot imagine how Rosetti could award Cariolato and the whole Skomina team unrealistic (high) marks. It was an EL semi final, the whole Europe saw the match and mistakes, as did the committee members. I think that appointing Rosetti was more a mistake than action with some purpose.

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  7. Anonymous3/5/14 23:42

    Call it mistake or not. We could even neglect the 7.9 out of our mind. The post could have already appeared before kick-off. The signal of this appointment is what worries me and my colleagues. I agree with Niklas here.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous3/5/14 23:52

      We all agree it was not OK. But I call it an administrative error and I strongly believe that it won't happen again.

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    2. Anonymous3/5/14 23:58

      But come on. UEFA had only 4 designations to make this week, only 8 observers to appoint for the semis. Administrative errors of this form are ridiculous at this level.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous3/5/14 23:47

    Regarding the language: Skomina and Ponis are from Koper, a coastal town almost at the Italian border. Inhabitants of this area in Slovenia not only understand Italian, they speak it as good as their (second) mother tongue. It's basically the same as putting together e.g. Slovenians and Croatians. Communication can't be a problem, you are right there. You are also right that Cariolato is/was only a temporary solution. Jure Praprornik is an assistant with a lot of perspective (we have once even officiated some futsal match together :), so I am not surprised that UEFA has obviously started to push him towards team Skomina. In Slovenia they often work together, while Matej Zunic basically left Skomina domestically as well.

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    1. And whom do you expect to assist Skomina as AR2 in the long run? Vukan maybe?

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    2. Anonymous4/5/14 10:36

      In the long run my bet is on Manuel Vidali. He was an AR1 to Skomina yesterday at a top Slovenian derby, they are assigned together more often as with Vukan. He is also better than Vukan IMO. Furthermore they come from the same part of the country and know each other better in terms of previous cooperation. Last but not the least, Vidali's father, a former top division referee, is quite an influential man here in Slovenia, with Vlado Sajn etc (similar as Zunic's father). ;)

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    3. Anonymous4/5/14 15:17

      Why not Ul?

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    4. Anonymous4/5/14 17:04

      Hm ... Because Ul will be 45 next year?

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    5. Anonymous5/5/14 02:25

      He does not look that old:)

      Delete
  9. Anonymous3/5/14 23:49

    Collina doesn't need Rosetti to see and evaluate a crucial mistake made by Cariolato. You can discuss that it isn't convenient, but the mark is for sure 7.9.
    I don't see why there should be a conflict of interests.
    It is under the light of the sun the mess made by Cariolato, Collina is not stupid.

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  10. To make that clear: I don't want to express that I have doubts on the integrity of Rosetti and the dodging of 7.9s by appointing an Italian observer. I targeted on the whole outer image and message that was implied in this appointment only = avoid the smallest semblance, behave with as much outer integrity as possible, integrate national neutrality into your ethical codex - and not more.

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  11. Anonymous4/5/14 02:46

    The title uses the words conflicts of interests. The article contains actual facts that relates to appointments. However what I miss in the article is the clear description of the interests that actually are involved. What interests have UEFA, PLC and Rosetti? And with which others interests might there be a conflict?

    Could there be other reason why Rosetti was appointed. Could it be that actually he was appointed to also coach a bit? I don't know.... And to be honest I don't care.

    On the topic of "sons" I don't know to which persons you refer. But there are two sides on every coin... and two stories to every event.... What we should avoid is without any evidence red flag these appointments as possible incorrect. There is always the possibility that actually the "sons" are very talented. And maybe even be appointed in the future as ref in the UCL final. At least if there is doubt, let them have the benefit of the doubt. Let them not be a victim because they are the son of..... Perception is not per definition the truth....

    Having spent my whole life in enforcement and compliance at executive level I have learned one thing.... You will never ever get compliance by setting rules, codexes charters etc etc etc. Compliance is a mindset thing. Its driven by the culture of an organization. Not by the number of pages in the rulebook. Its driven by transparency and visibility of behavior and (in)formal correction of the wrong behavior. Both the appointment of Rosetti and the "sons" were visible. The outputs of Rosetti (match assessment) and the sons (match performance) are visible. I think the starting point must be that we rely on the internal (in)formal checks and balances within UEFA.

    Having said the above, for all the right reasons its good to have the discussion. Its good that the article was written. Because discussion contributes to check and balances. Discussion give a clear signal that behavior is watched and people are able and willing to do this in public. One thing I know for sure... PLC and Co read this blog.... Regards RC

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  12. Anonymous4/5/14 13:38

    Another previous case: at Women Euro 2013, UEFA observer Carolin Rudolph (GER) observed assistant referee Marina Wozniak (GER) during the match between Russia and Spain.

    AssistantRef

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    1. AssistantRef, that does not make it much better but would mean pluralistic ignorance. Final tournaments are supervised by committee representatives at hotels. Single matches in UCL and UEL mean more power for the referee observer appointed.
      Anyway. Partly you have convinced me. As said, like RC outlined, I want to open this debate because I am only worried about the outer image UEFA sends by doing such things. And about what comes next. Thanks for your feedback, you are right that the post was not the most balanced one, maybe because I am first quite sensitive about such topics (maybe too German), and second because otherwise such a debate would not be possible in the way it had come into existence. And the missing things you constructively criticized are justified criticism.
      To answer one question of you, RC, as you asked for possible interests: Rosetti and Cariolato both were active in Serie A for the same time. So they know each other very well. Maybe even on a personal sphere. I would not be happy if soon Wolfgang Stark observes a young German assistant referee either. I am a fan of separating personal and professional matters in such a case.
      Concerning Florent Batta and Andrew Dallas, I could even understand Batta's presence as fourth official in Marseille since it is his hometown. What I can't understand is that a Scottish 3rd League referee (correct me if he is 2nd division) attends a U-17 EURO Elite Round as fourth official where usually 1st division referees and partly even international referees are present. That's the point where it becomes, as I said, "shady".
      Thanks for your opinions.

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    2. Anonymous4/5/14 23:21

      Niclas, please keep writing these kind of articles. Sometimes you have to be provocative to trigger a discussion. And sometimes we need to agree that we disagree..... But at least the arguments are in the public arena. That's the great thing of this blog! Thanks for all the work you are doing! Regards RC

      Delete
  13. Anonymous4/5/14 17:37

    Also Dutch referee Jeroen Manschot (son of nobody "famous" referee) was fourth official at Elite Round of Euro U17 in 2013. I think there isn't a rule

    AssistantRef

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    1. Anonymous4/5/14 17:39

      ...and in that period ha wasn't in the referees' 1st Group in Netherlands.

      AssistantRef

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    2. You must have a huge database..

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  14. Anonymous4/5/14 17:59

    I'm honest: this topic is very interesting for me, because similar themes has been much discussed in Italian world of refereeing, where there has been many sons of famous referees (Agnolin, Pairetto, Carminati, Pieri, Boggi, Borriello, Paparesta), but they deserved their promotions; in our 2nd Division (where observers' assignments are known), sometimes there are referees of the same local section of the observed match. It's accepted, because Referees's Committee evaluates observer's action and report

    AssistantRef

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    1. Anonymous4/5/14 18:06

      Correction: ""sometimes there are observers of the same local section of the observed referee"....

      AssistantRef

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    2. Anonymous5/5/14 02:34

      That does not mean that UEFA should do the same. There are so many former FIFA refetees who became observers that UEFA has resources for neutral appointments.

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    3. Anonymous5/5/14 20:43

      Also in Spain, observers often come from the same territorial committee of the referee. It's normal.

      AssistantRef

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    4. Anonymous5/5/14 20:50

      @ AR: are you s.o. like collina's extension? you seem to be willing to contradict everything just giving statistics. it doesn't matter whether andrew is cat 1 formally in scotland. it depends on the league. there are others in premier league. robertson for example who would need international appearance much more than dallas jr.
      my opinion and it is a scottish one. regards!

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    5. It might happen in Italy or in Spain. I would equally criticize that. You should be aware that UEFA has more resources than a national association though.
      I have problems with accepting IMO wrong conditions and transfering it into a "norm" which is supposed to justify other, similar IMO problematic conditions. You can apply this line of argumentation but from my point of view this leads to nothing and would impede every progress / change of any condition into a more positive condition.

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    6. Anonymous5/5/14 23:00

      IMO, a more positive condition would be that the "theory of suspect" does not prevail in our heads. For esample, the so-called "rule of the Confederations" that FIFA is adopting for designations does not make sense, but is the result of an unexplained theory of suspect: It does not seem appropriate that, even in the refereeing context, it will produce similar rasoning. A referee is a referee ever, both with the whistle , both behind the desk.

      AssistantRef

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    7. Anonymous5/5/14 23:23

      I agree with AssistantRef here. If you want to see suspects and plots, you can do that in every circumstance. Not only about the nationality, a referee can be friend of a coach, or even friend with a player. They can make backroom agreements, and we know nothing about that.
      Question to admin: was Cariolato mistake related to Rosetti appointment? The answer should be negative. Can we blame UEFA because they appointed Rosetti? I don't think so.
      The neutrality is applied in the referees appointments: no men from the same countries of the teams involved. But then, about the observers, it is something inside UEFA. Can can decide as they want, they have reliable people. We know the name of each observer for every UEFA match, but this isn't mandatory. Most of the national associations (including Germany, and you should know that) don't want to reveal the names.
      So, I think that we are making too much sensation for nothing.

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    8. Anonymous6/5/14 11:07

      I agree with RC that we needed to talk about this issue and I am sure Niklas is the last one who will not "learn" from the other, well-argued opinions. I see arguments on both sides but principally agree with the necessity to have a formal neutrality in appointments - that is more a PR-aspect and not questioning UEFA neutrality - but I also agree it was looking above the horizon no real problem in the specific case. You are right Anonymous, often times even mentors observe their pupils and this may cause even more biases in the reports.
      But a general thought I would like to bring in discussion.. I find assistant ref's approach noble, but not realistic. We are on international refereeing level. I experienced it many times that special referee observers came in order to promote a fellow of me or even demote him. It's normal that behind those impartial observations there is often a bit more, mostly politics. So we can't say that everything is neutral, fair and so on UEFA level.

      Delete
  15. Anonymous5/5/14 14:47

    Guys, is it true that Andrew Dallas is 3rd or 2nd category and was attending UEFA U-17 Elitte level (even as a fourth official)???

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  16. Check his profile on the respective football sites. He is active in Scottish League One (not Premier League).
    And..: http://footballrefereeing.blogspot.com/2014/03/uefa-under-17-european-championship.html

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  17. Anonymous5/5/14 20:39

    Andrew Dallas is a category 1 referee (like Thomson, Collum etc.), with matches in "Championship" (2nd Division). This is referees' list: http://www.scottishfa.co.uk/resources/documents/SFAPublications/ScottishFAPublications2013-14/List%20of%20Referees.pdf

    AssistantRef

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  18. Anonymous7/5/14 03:59

    Scotland has 4 leagues - Premiership, Championship, League 1, League 2. Mr Dallas is a category 1 referee, 2nd season I think, and normally referees League 1, but sometimes Championship and League 2, as well as 4th official in Premiership. The Scottish FA have appointments on website and it is clear to see.
    Also the local referee appointments to mini tournaments (that is the referee and assistant from the host association, who only act as 4th official and AR2 at the three matches not involving the host country) are normally (based on appointments seen on uefa.com for u17, u19, UYL) 1st or 2nd category referees and are normally potential future FIFA referees, some years ahead.
    Also, mini tournaments require 8-9 days for the referees and sometimes it is 'availability' as well as 'ability' and 'future potential'. I do not see any conflict with Mr Batta senior and Mr Dallas senior as the local referee appointments come from the host country and not from UEFA.
    I am quite sure that the FFF and the SFA have every confidence in young Mr Batta junior and young Mr Dallas junior and their appointments are merited. The appointments of these young aspiring referees have come in UYL and u17 internationals, as the local 4th official. It is the bottom step on the learning ladder for them.
    Surely it is to be commended if the sons of well known football players and football referees follow their fathers, of that there are many examples across Europe.

    from an experienced mini tournament observer (observer of games and appointments, not referee observer! :) )

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