December 11, 2014

Predictions: Promotions and Demotions in UEFA's Referee Categories

Tomorrow, on 12 December, UEFA's Referee Committee members are about to gather at UEFA's headquarters in Suisse Nyon. Without knowing the agenda of the meeting, it is relatively easy to guess that defining the promotions and demotions within their referee categories will be the focal point of discussion Pierluigi Collina and his colleagues are going to have. A prediction.


Olegário Benquerença, Stéphane Lannoy and Wolfgang Stark will leave the list of international list of referees at the end of 2014. That's why their places in UEFA's Elite Group (Elite) will become vacant. Taking their amount of Champions League matches together, UEFA loses the experience of more than 100 matches at the very highest club competition level at one dash, which should be hard to compensate in theory. On the other hand, it is no secret that all three referees were rather given low- or medium-profile Champions League matches in the past and rarely an option for the really big games.

These referees are able to stay in Elite (20):
Martin Atkinson (ENG), Felix Brych (GER), Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), Mark Clattenburg (ENG), William Collum (SCO), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), David Fernández Borbalán (ESP), Viktor Kassai (HUN), Pavel Královec (CZE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Milorad Mažić (SRB), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Pedro Proença (POR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Damir Skomina (SVN), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Craig Thomson (SCO), Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)

Who might fear a demotion?

This question is not that difficult at answer if you pay heed to some principles, e.g. that the main basis for UEFA's decisions does not care about politics but is solely focused on performances measured by the average marks, which are fairly assigned for each match the officials have refereed, and that there is no referee who is "untouchable". I additionally appeal to UEFA to recognize that the  way of thinking like "A bad-performing Elite referee is better than losing this Elite referee" is wrong. Football, whose servant referees are, does not draw any benefit from this motto.

The question becomes more difficult to answer when reckoning that almost all principles listed above are not compatible with some realities in refereeing. Besides, it is clear that UEFA will be in trouble to find 16-18 Elite referees who are able to attend EURO 2016, the first EURO played out by 24 teams instead of 16. More referees will be needed and they should preferably come from different nations. For this reason, it can be assumed that numerous officials will be promoted to Elite during the next months to compensate the loss arousing from the retiring referees previously mentioned. But it also indicates that UEFA cannot afford to demote that many - if hardly any - referee(s) to First Group (First). 

Principally, all Spanish referees are theoretical candidates for a demotion considering Antonio Mateu Lahoz' development (see below):

David Fernández Borbalán: He was promoted only 1 year ago and got no chance to proof himself in a CL K.O. stage match so far. Maybe he was just there to ensure a free spot in Elite until Mateu Lahoz would be ready. His performances were far away from shining, but they were not bad either. He is already 41 years old and has little chances for future tournaments (it is more likely that Mateu, Undiano or Velasco attend EURO 2016 and it is more likely that Mateu or Undiano attend WC 2018 than Fernández, in my opinion). Actually his promotion to Elite decided in December 2013 makes little strategical sense. Demoting him after only one year would be everything but fair though.

Alberto Undiano Mallenco: In UEFA competitions, there has not been a visible improvement or development over the past years taking into account the matches he was assigned to (he never got more than CL Round of 16 since 2011). In a number of matches, he was quite solid and showed good performances. In others, and not that few matches, he made crucial mistakes of systematical character and apparently did not convince UEFA's committee too much. But still, he is belonging to the best referees in Spain's La Liga for many years, which is a factor that should be integrated into the judgment.

Carlos Velasco Carballo: After his fast-track promotion and even faster fast-track descend in terms of performance quality, motivation and management abilities, which manifested themselves before but of course also in the match between Brazil and Colombia at WC 2014. Velasco is a paramount example for what happens if you give relatively old officials too much too early without paying special attention to them in the following years. His performances before, during and after the World Cup were partly unacceptable (specially København-Leverkusen) as they showed a lack of being motivated to protect the players, the game, and to perform at the highest level. He does not seem to be hungry anymore to reach something. The matches he was appointed to this season reveal that UEFA maybe does not have that much trust in his abilities anymore, which is underlined by the importance of the observers he had in his games (Hauge, Pedersen). A demotion would be absolutely justified and, actually, the only logical consequence from the last couple of months.

Furthermore, there are two other candidates for a demotion:

Pedro Proença: Of course he will not be demoted. You cannot demote a referee you have nominated for two huge finals within one month not so long ago. De facto, Proença seems to suffer from similar motivation problems like his Spanish colleague Velasco. He has reached everything, is not hungry anymore. Rumours say that he is about to retire after these days' FIFA Club World Cup. Maybe this would be the best solution. In the last one-two years, Proença had significant problems in most international matches he refereed. Having been one of the most charismatic and calmest personalities on the pitch back in 2012, he completely lost this character over the last months. In matches like Bayern-Real, Ajax-Barcelona or most recently Malmö-Juventus he seemed nervous, demotivated and not caring about performing at the highest level possible. Nothing of the old Proença is left except UEFA's apparently unlimited trust in his abilities - at least this is my personal impression.

Craig Thomson: From my point of view, he does not have the capabilities a referee in Elite should have. Determination, accuracy in decision-taking and control were problems in too many matches. His performances in Dortmund and Razgrad were catastrophical and his biggest problem stays the switch-over of his assistant referee. Once you think a new Thomson-trio have established, there is a new one at the next matchday. Thomson has no chances to reach a tournament in future, as Collum is the clear Scottish no.1 and will stay so in the next years. If I had to decide, he would be my first choice for a demotion from Elite to First.

Who can hope for a promotion to Elite?

For different reasons, there are, in my view, only nine officials who could be promoted. These comprise 7 names from UEFA's Coaching Program and 2 additional names:

Deniz Aytekin (Germany): He is definitely not the best German referee in Bundesliga, but has proven as a good one showing consistently good performances in Champions League. His strengths are his quite authoritative leadership style on the field of play, his match control and courage to take unpopular decisions with a huge impact. He has already shown that he is able to handle bigger matches, such as Atlético-Porto last season. 
On the other hand, he probably has no chance against Brych if we consider coming tournaments, for example in 2018. Very likely, Felix Zwayer is more talented and has more potential due to his modern refereeing style. Additionally, Aytekin got injured during or shortly before the FIFA seminar for prospective World Cup referees some weeks ago and thus was out of MD5/6. His last Champions League match was supervised by Vlado Sajn - the committee is apparently interested in him. Given Stark's retirement and the consistently good development over the past 2 years, I would promote Aytekin to Elite. But I have the feeling that UEFA does not have him in mind for that this December.

Ivan Bebek (Croatia): His statistics are impressive - in 7 out of 11 CL matches, he sent a player off. However, he has become a more communicative referee, relying on his cards a bit less than in the past in my opinion. He has an excellent fitness and stamina, which seems to be the most important factor for Collina. Though, he is still making too many crucial mistakes. In Apollon-Lokomotiv, Chelsea-Schalke and BATE-Shakhtar he made relatively clear mistakes of that type. To be honest, the sonorous Chelsea-Schalke clash was not planned for the Croatian - as you remember, he replaced his Serbian colleague whose team were having problems with their visa. BATE-Shakhtar and Anderlecht-Galatasaray were not the most important matches either. We'll see - he would not be my first option for a promotion, but I guess it's very likely that he belongs to the highest category from now on.

Ovidiu Hategan (Romania) & Matej Jug (Slovenia): In short - both are very talented, young and have enough time to develop their skills. They are not ready for the highest category yet, which was visible in their performances. Both have not been assigned to really demanding and important matches so far, something, which might happen next year.

Sergei Karasev (Russia): The 2nd minute of additional time in Schalke-Sporting came at the very poorest point of time. The presence of Hugh Dallas as the observer probably expressed that the committee wanted to carefully monitor him after his rather inconsistent performance in Malmö. The wrong penalty for an alleged deliberate handball was not his mistake but rather caused by his AAR. However, it decided the match and had the power to change the entire standings in Group G. 
In most UEFA matches, Karasev performed on expected level, sometimes even very well in the 8.5-8.6 area (e.g. Schalke-Montpellier, M'gladbach-Lazio Roma, Hannover-Wroclaw). His problem is that in all three Champions League matches he refereed in 2014, there was a crucial mistake (missed penalty in Madrid, missed penalty in Malmö, wrong penalty in Gelsenkirchen). The circumstance that he only got a UEL match this week demonstrates that he has suffered from minute 90+2 of Schalke-Sporting. He is a very complete referee, whom UEFA could have already promoted in June, but just the assessment of the last months on domestic and international level actually does not justify a promotion to Elite.

Szymon Marciniak (Poland): A very professional referee. He has all abilities you need at the top level. His matches have increased in their importance, he was observed by Collina, Layec, Batta... this says much. The only concern I have is that, at times, he has some rather "fussy" performances, relying too much on his cards, but these were exceptions. Yesterday's performance in the decisive Group G tie between Maribor-Schalke was good, he confirmed that he is a reliable official for important games.
If UEFA were not in a hurry due to EURO 2016, I would say that he is one of those referees whom UEFA should give more important matches and specially more time to collect experience, but from my point of view his promotion this December is sure.

Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain): A very special referee with a truly unique style of refereeing. He sometimes appears weird in his way of managing players. But his interaction with them is very empathic and sympathetic. His problem is that he sometimes tends to make incomprehensible mistakes in relatively easy situations. Sporting-Chelsea or Arsenal-Marseille are good examples of that. However, he has been the best referee in La Liga in 2013/14 and seems to be very much appreciated by Collina and his colleagues, which is indicated by his observers and the fact that his appointments this season have involved matches of higher importance than e.g. Velasco's or Borbalán's. The question is when they promote him (I don't think that they will debate about the "whether"). And whether four Spaniards in Elite are possible. We'll know that next week, probably. But I would predict him as a good bet for a promotion.

Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece): A very complete and modern referee, who just needs more time to gather experience. Three years ago, he still was in UEFA's former "Fourth Group". This shows his rapid development and growing sympathies for him inside UEFA. His performances were mostly good, showing almost the same strengths and rooms for improvement in the majority of the games. Then the mistake in Manchester happened and he was left out from the entire MD5/6 package of appointments. A promotion is therefore very unprobable, at least this December. I am quite confident that he will be one of the men in the middle in France in 1 1/2 years, so it is important to be careful with his development in 2015 instead of giving him too much too early.

Clément Turpin (France): Absolutely the biggest referee talent France had over the last decade. Although he appears quite small and homely on the field of play, he is able to obtain the respect and acceptance of players very quickly, being assertive, self-confident and very determined in his body language and decision-taking. It might be that UEFA promotes him, but I think and hope they give him more time so that a promotion to Elite stays an incentive for the next couple of months. One thing is sure: He will represent France as the hosting nation's referee and he needs to be Elite for that.

In a nutshell, my predictions (not what I would make):

Promotion to Elite:
Ivan Bebek (Croatia), Szymon Marciniak (Poland), Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP) and maybe Clément Turpin (France)

Demotion from Elite (besides Benquerença, Lannoy and Stark):
nobody

In short, these are predictions for changes between First and Second Group:

Possible Promotions to First:
Javier Estrada Fernández (ESP), Arnold Hunter (NIR), István Kovacs (ROU), Pawel Raczkowski (POL), Artur Soares Dias (POR), Eitan Shmuelevitz (ISR), Anthony Taylor (ENG), Kristo Tohver (EST) and maybe Artyom Kuchin (KAZ), Sergei Lapochkin (RUS), Padraigh Sutton (IRL)

Leaving First Group (new spots):
Firat Aydinus (TUR), Martin Hansson (SWE), Kristinn Jakobsson (ISL), Hannes Kaasik (EST),  Bülent Yildirim (TUR)

What do you expect?

23 Comments:

  1. Good read. Any chance Anthony Taylor will get a promotion to the First Category?

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  2. When will arrive Fifa list?

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  3. Agree on the promotions to ELITE, with the retirement of Webb, there is another place left. Marciniak, Turpin, Bebek and Mateu Lahoz seems to be the best choises. I prefer Aytekin above Thomson, so that would be 5 promotions.

    I miss some names for promotion to first category. Taylor and Klossner for example. Gozubuyuk (NED) is not ready for first category, but has a great future.

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  4. Verry good, analysis, some things to be added.
    Howard Webb spot in Elite should be considered, too.It is still empty. So 4 promotions are possible.
    Antonio Mateu Lahoz should replace in my opinion Carlos Velasco Carballo, if not, he will be the fourth Spanish Elite.
    Then, I see for a promotion: Bebek, Marciniak, Turpin and Aytekin.
    Without Aytekin promotion, Germany will stay with only one Elite referee, Brych, for (at least) six months. That is not possible, in my opinion. But let's also see what UEFA wants to do with Graefe. Perhaps knowing that Aytekin will be out for a certain time, they will appoint him in KO stage (EL or even CL?).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aytekin,Marciniak and Turpin
      have not category for ELITE.

      Delete
  5. I don't think that Aydinus will be demoted.

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    Replies
    1. Aydinus will leave the FIFA list. It was already reported on the blog.

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    2. Oh, sorry. Do you know why he does?

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  6. @Anonymous
    According to sources, he had persistent problems in passing the fitness tests.

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  7. Club World Cup started: Walter Lopez was the referee of the opening match, Proenca was fourth official.

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  8. Kakos is not possible for a demotion.

    He has retired almost 6 months now.

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  9. My nightly opinion:
    Demotion: Thomson + Fernandez (or Velasco, if Collina wants to "humiliate" Busacca...)
    Thomson's latest performances have not been on CL level and he has no perspective as Collum is the clear No.1 in Scotland and still improving.
    Both Spaniards would deserve a demotion, but (politically) it seems very unlikely, that they go down at the same time. Undiano is clearly better IMO and I could not understand, if he was demoted.
    Proenca could retire, but otherwise I think, his achievements forbid a demotion.

    Promotion: Bebek, Marciniak, Mateu Lahoz, Turpin + 1 (or 2) more
    The four names are also my favourites with the same reasons as in the post. The fifth referee could be anyone from the candidates. Hategan and Karasev are relatively experienced and strong candidates for the EURO, Aytekin would be the logical replacement for Stark and Jug had 3 CL appearences this season, which could be a Sajn ;) Sidiropolous would be the biggest surprise for me, I think, he needs more time and am not so sure to see him in France.

    BTW, my current EURO list is
    Brych, Kassai, Rizzoli, Eriksson, Skomina, Kuipers, Undiano, Moen, Cakir, Clattenburg, Collum, Kralovec, Mazic, Bebek, Karasev, Hategan, Marciniak, Turpin
    4th: Sidiropolous, Kulbakov, Aranovskiy, Liany

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Undiano,Borbalán and Velasco must
      continue at ELITE and not promote
      Matéu.

      Delete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    Replies
    1. I am wondering how you get to 4 games in UCL handled by Aytekin. He already had 7 CL games.

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  11. These are the Appointements of German Bundesliga this weekend:

    1899 Hoffenheim - Eintracht Frankfurt: Dr. Jochen Drees
    FC Schalke 04 - 1. FC Köln: Dr. Felix Brych
    FC Augsburg - FC Bayern München: Tobias Stieler
    Hertha BSC - Borussia Dortmund: Günter Perl
    Werder Bremen - Hannover 96: Tobias Welz
    SC Freiburg - Hamburger SV: Wolfgang Stark
    1. FSV Mainz 05 - VfB Stuttgart: Bastian Dankert
    Bayer Leverkusen - Borussia Mönchengladbach: Peter Gagelmann
    VfL Wolfsburg - SC Paderborn 07: Manuel Gräfe

    Wolfgang Stark is getting his 300th game in the highest German League, he is the second referee in history, after Markus Merk, who break this wall.

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  12. What makes Sutton a candidate for promotion?

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  13. I made a statistic for the referees who have chances to be promoted (at least imo).
    I want to say the promotions are based only on performances in UEFA (or FIFA) competitions (for this reason I'm not interested about Lahoz or Aytekin performances in their domestic leagues).

    What we have:

    BEBEK

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 5 games
    -WC qualifiers: 7 games

    Final tournaments:
    WC u17 (2007): 4 games
    WC u20 (2009): 3 games (including a QF)
    EURO u19 (2006): 2 games
    EURO u21 (2013): 2 games

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 10 games (debut in 2007)
    Champions League KO stage: 1 game (last 16 in 2014)
    Europa League group stage: 11 games (debut in 2006)
    Europa League KO stage: 10 games (QF in 2013)

    HATEGAN

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 3 games
    -WC qualifiers: 3 games

    Final tournaments:
    EURO u19 (2009): 2 games
    EURO u21 (2013): 3 games (including a SF)

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 7 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League group stage: 5 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League KO stage: 6 games (last 16 in 2012, 2013 and 2014)

    KARASEV

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 1 game
    -WC qualifiers: 3 games

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 7 games (debut in 2012)
    Champions League KO stage: 1 game (last 16 in 2014)
    Europa League group stage: 4 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League KO stage: 3 games (last 16 in 2013)

    LAHOZ

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 3 games
    -WC qualifiers: 1 game

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 6 games (debut in 2012)
    Europa League group stage: 3 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League KO stage: 4 games (last 16 in 2013 and 2014)

    AYTEKIN

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 1 game
    -WC qualifiers: 3 games

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 7 games (debut in 2012)
    Europa League group stage: 3 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League KO stage: 3 games (last 16 in 2013)

    JUG

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 3 games
    -WC qualifiers: 2 games

    Final tournaments:
    EURO u19 (2010): 2 games
    EURO u21 (2013): 3 games (including the Final)

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 5 games (debut in 2013)
    Europa League group stage: 6 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League KO stage: 3 games (last 32 in 2012, 2013 and 2014)

    TURPIN

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 2 games
    -WC qualifiers: 1 game

    Final tournaments:
    EURO u19 (2011): 3 games (including a SF)

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 3 games (debut in 2014)
    Europa League group stage: 5 games (debut in 2011)
    Europa League KO stage: 2 games (last 16 in 2014)

    MARCINIAK

    National team games:
    -EURO qualifiers: 1 game
    -WC qualifiers: 2 games

    European cup games (group + KO stages)
    Champions League group stage: 3 games (debut in 2014)
    Europa League group stage: 6 games (debut in 2012)
    Europa League KO stage: 2 games (last 16 in 2014)

    I also took a look at period spent in ED by some referees who were promoted in last years: Collum stayed 3 years (!), Moen stayed 2 years, even Mazic stayed 1,5 years. Only one year in ED stayed referees from big countries like Rocchi, Clattenburg, Tagliavento or Velasco Carballo...

    Every referee needs time and a number of (important) games for his development. Also the last few games before promotion should be very good (not the case of Karasev for example).

    In this order my only choices for promotion are Bebek and Hategan.

    P.S: if you find mistakes in my statistic pls correct me

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  14. Did somebody know referees list for wc 2015 in New Zealand

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    Replies
    1. Too early. Probably we will know in April.

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  15. Club World Cup Quarterfinals
    Cruz Azul (MEX) - WS Wanderers (AUS):
    Doue, Yeo (both CIV), Birumushashu (BDI), Hauata (TAH)
    ES Setif (ALG) - Auckland City (NZL):
    Proenca, Miranda, Trigo (all POR), Lopez (GUA)

    That could mean, Proenca is planned for the final.
    Semifinals probably for Roldan and Williams.

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    Replies
    1. I agree with these predictions, but it should be Osses then, who replaced Roldan.

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  16. Aytekin and Mateu Lahoz elite!

    ReplyDelete

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