Tomorrow from 8:30 to 11:00 CET in the morning, UEFA's Referee Committee will meet in Nyon - the headquarters of the European football association. Very likely, promotions and demotions are to be discussed as usual in their December meetings. However, this time the selection for EURO 2016 will be the probably more relevant topic. That's why it is worth taking a look on the formalities and candidates for France's final tournament. I highlight that the text's purpose is not to make predictions, but to give my recommendations.
How many officials will be chosen?
In the past competitions, UEFA always nominated twelve officiating teams and some further fourth officials and standby assistant referees. Considering the increased number of national teams participating in the tournament (24 instead of 16, allocated to six instead of four groups), more officials will be needed. Based on the few pieces of information we got, there will be 15 or 16 full teams - consisting of the referee, his assistant referees as well as his additional assistant referees - and some fourth officials. For the purpose of simplicity, we can calculate with 16 full teams and 6 fourth officials in the following paragraphs.
To which category should they belong?
The 16 referees should belong to UEFA's Elite Group. The fourth officials might join First Group only.
Two officials from the same nation?
That's the probably most interesting question that is to be answered by the publication of the match officials chosen: Will there be two referees from the same nation? Who is concerned by that at all?
Even though there are some nations with two or more Elite referees, only some of them are concerned (it is very unlikely that both William Collum and Craig Thomson will be nominated).
Probably this question would not be raised if there was not the "duel" in England between Martin Atkinson and Mark Clattenburg. In all other nations, the hierarchies are pretty obvious (Germany: Brych is clearly in front of Aytekin, Italy: Rizzoli is clearly in front of Rocchi, Netherlands: Kuipers is clearly in front of Nijhuis, Spain: Velasco is clearly in front of Mateu Lahoz, even though the latter was incredibly pushed in the last months).
However, Atkinson and Clattenburg are both actually too good and too experienced to be ignored. And that's the problem: If you give England two officials, Villar Llona might ask "And what about Spain?", Fandel might ask "What about Germany?", Collina might try to press Rocchi into the EURO squad, same goes for Uilenberg and Nijhuis and so on (micropolitics at its best). And last but not least, if the committee agreed on two referees from these "big4"-football nations, this would mean that there is very little space left for the other national associations which they probably won't accept.
The principle should be to merely look on performances and other factors (fitness, personality...), but not on national proportions. You cannot let a referee at home who took charge of FC Bayern - FC Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal, but you cannot ignore a UEFA Europa League final referee either (both in 2015). If Atkinson and Clattenburg are, as said, too good to be ignored, don't ignore them. If the same does not count for referees like Mateu Lahoz or Rocchi, who both developed immensely, but are still making too many clear and crucial mistakes, leave them at home - they might go to Rio later in 2016.
It probably makes most sense to go name-by-name. At the end of each official, I try to give a percentage, which means the estimated likelihood of being chosen:
Martin Atkinson: If I had to choose, I would say his "duel" with Clattenburg is 70:30 in favour of him. Atkinson has more experience, got more important matches in the past and seems to be forming a more steady referee team (Mullarkey, Child, Taylor, ...). 100%
Deniz Aytekin: Unstable performances in Bundesliga, a not that good U17 World Cup, two injuries within a year and not that much international experience are no good arguments for him. He is a good referee, but currently not at EURO level. 10%
Ivan Bebek: No option for France either, at least as a main referee. Very likely, we will be chosen as fourth official - a role he knows from EURO 2008 and from which he can brilliantly follow the weather in the city :) 5%
Felix Brych: Along with Çakır and Rizzoli, probably among the top 3 of UEFA officials at the moment. Stable performances (hardly any mark under 8.3 in our reports) and his authoritative approach make him indispensable for the final tournament and heated clashes. 100%
Cüneyt Çakır: No doubt, of course he will be chosen. 100%
Mark Clattenburg: He would deserve it from my point of view. A top referee in England for years, Clattenburg was often in the shadow of other officials such as Webb - and now Atkinson. In my view, he is a clearly safer option than e.g. William Collum, Viktor Kassai or Svein Oddvar Moen. It would be hard to understand why others are preferred over him merely because of his origin. I really hope that Clattenburg will be nominated. 50%
William Collum: After his remarkable development one or two years ago, 2015 was no good year for Collum, at least internationally. Only based on his performances, e.g. in Super Cup or Gent, he is no that safe candidate anymore. From my point of view, he has less experience than Thomson, but has the clearly more modern approach, a more sophisticated personality and much more prospect. As there will be matches like Albania vs Belgium (nothing against these teams), it would be tenable to select him (instead of Thomson). 50%
Jonas Eriksson: A safe bet as well, even though I have to highlight that his performance level has heavily decreased in 2015. To call a spade a spade, some of his performances were poor and nothing else. Others were good such as his EURO playoff. His team is one of the most experienced ones at the moment and, keeping both eyes closed, UEFA will surely appoint them for France. 100%
David Fernández Borbalán: To be honest and also here nothing against David Fernández Borbalán - I am still desperately looking for the reasons of his promotion to Elite some seasons ago. I hope UEFA knows them at least. 0%
Ovidiu Alin Hategan: A talented referee, but in my view not ready for the last step. Although Kyros Vassaras will maybe make some pressure for him, as he is the chief of Romanian refereeing right now, I cannot imagine to see him in the middle in France. But he is definitely a sure name for a fourth official spot. 15%
Sergei Karasev: Maybe a bit ahead of Hategan, Russian Sergei Karasev has managed to recover from his poor year 2014. His current shape is solid, two of his three performances in Champions League were decent - same goes for Under-21 EURO. After Marciniak, he is probably the new Elite referee with the biggest chances to receive a call-up for EURO 2016 as a main referee. But I would not choose him. He can use this tournament as a great experience as fourth official before a probable World Cup participation in his home country. 30%
Viktor Kassai: Unfortunately, my feeling is that Viktor Kassai has never managed to find his old form which made him strong and successful back in 2010. Too many obvious mistakes, partly catastrophical performances in Champions League such as Leverkusen - AS Roma and not the most stable team make him - in my view - no option for France. This does not mean that UEFA is not going to appoint him, though - but I would not do it. 50%
Pavel Královec: The Czech has developed to one of the most reliable Elite officials. Although his performances are not always free of mistakes (some crucial mistakes in recent time), they are mostly under control, inconspiciously refereed and well managed. His Slovakian-Czech team is experienced and can be flexibly appointed in France. A pretty sure name for the final tournament. 90%
Björn Kuipers: After his nightmare evening at Stamford Bridge in early 2015, Kuipers did not fully recover in my opinion. In matches like Scotland-Germany, AS Roma-FC Barcelona and others I had the impression that he slightly lost his motivation and self-confidence to give his very best. Other matches were good as we actually knew him from the last years. Even though Bas Nijhuis has been politically - and in my view only politically - pushed into Elite group and is showing satisfying, but no brilliant performances in Champions League, Kuipers still is the Dutch no.1 and should not be ignored (still, it must be stressed that he already was a safer option than today). 95%
Szymon Marciniak: A very good referee with much prospect in sight. In my view he was the only official who really deserved his promotion to Elite. At Under-21 EURO, he has proven to be a reliable referee at final tournaments and even to handle finals or openers in an excellent manner. His biggest point to improve his positioning and movement, which - I dare to say - are on the level of an amateur referee. His performances in Champions League were between O.K. and good this season. I expect him and his teammates among the names and would choose him as well. 80%
Antonio Mateu Lahoz: To sum it up in one sentence: A charismatic and empathic referee, pushed and trusted very much, but making too many clear and match influencing mistakes. After Velasco, he seems to be the clear Spanish no.2 at the moment. If two officials per nation are allowed, he will join the tournament. But I don't think so - I guess he will be nominated for the Olympic Games along with his good assistants Pau Cebrián Devis and Roberto Díaz Pérez Del Palomar. 30%
Milorad Mažić: His reputation definitely suffered after World Cup 2014 and Atlético-Real in last season's Champions League quarterfinals - his semifinal performance in Europa League was great after that. After some poor team performances e.g. in the CL playoffs (the alleged culprit Dejan Filipović, his AAR2, was removed after that match), the matches he got this season were less important - maybe to protect him and allow him to recover a bit off the spotlights (although the frequent discussions about him on this blog might suggest something else). Wolfsburg-Manchester is the first really huge appointment since last May and an important match for Mažić and his crew. I definitely expect him in France and compared to many other Elite referees, he is a safe candidate. 95%
Svein Oddvar Moen: Despite the Norwegian's comparably young age (36), he is already very experienced: 25 CL matches, a World Cup as fourth official and a U17 World Cup final nomination. Additionally, he indeed oversaw some bigger games in Champions League, but mostly only those which seemed to be already decided (Bayern-Arsenal, FC Barcelona-PSG...). This season's Champions League appointments were a step back in his development - the matches were partly not really important or he made some mistakes. Generally, Moen's friendly attitude and approach on the field of play is too unflexible from my point of view. His foul detection and consistency were reported to have been poor in many of our reports. But still, his style is modern, his fitness is great and his touch to players mostly good. I think he is a shaky candidate, but probably he will be selected. 70%
Bas Nijhuis: As written above, he is a solid referee, but in my opinion no personality for the really big matches. I am pretty sure that Jaap Uilenberg might see this differently. He remarkably got some more sonorous matches in recent times: Arsenal-Olympiakos, ManCity-Sevilla, Shakhtar-Real... don't be too surprised if his name appears on the final list. I would not appoint him and probably Kuipers will prevail. An interesting name for sure. 20%
Daniele Orsato, Paolo Tagliavento, Alberto Undiano: Clearly no names for France 2016.
Nicola Rizzoli: 100%
Gianluca Rocchi: As indicated above, a mostly good referee who is keeping big matches under his good control and leadership, presenting a quite strict and authoritative, but still empathic line. Nonetheless he is making too many crucial mistakes for my taste (e.g. FC Barcelona-ManCity, Dinamo-Skenderbeu, Bayern-Arsenal..). Matches like Turkey-Iceland were however brilliantly refereed. If he is chosen by UEFA, I will call this a not-undeserved decision. But if UEFA insists on only one referee per nation, he clearly has no chance against Rizzoli. 50%
Tasos Sidiropoulos: A modern referee for the future. His U21 EURO and some of his Champions League matches indicated his potential as well as the circumstance that he still needs more experience. I would definitely choose him as a fourth official for France. This seems to be almost sure as his teammates Koukoulakis and Tritsonis (AARs) have been removed from the FIFA list - it is unprobable that UEFA will allow two non-FIFA AARs in a EURO team. 5%
Damir Skomina: Maybe the most difficult name. In my view, the loss of his teammates Arhar and Stancin was a caesure in Skomina's career. He was not performing that securly anymore, made many crucial mistakes and generally had huge problems in terms of foul detection in his matches. He did not make the most motivated impression in some games either. However, matches like Netherlands-Iceland or ManCity-Juventus were promising and showed that he is "back", with some limitations. His team is not the most stable one yet and he is still making some crucial mistakes, at least in our reports our observers identified at least three of them in his three Champions League matches.
My feeling says that Skomina should be appointed though. He needs UEFA's trust and should get the chance to repay it. But he is far away from being a safe bet. 70%
Craig Thomson: See above. On good days, he can be a reliable official. On other days, I think that his personality and management abilities are not meeting the expectations at the highest level. Collum should be preferred, even though his two Champions League performances were quite decent so far. 25%
Clément Turpin: Monsieur Turpin is a special case and a victim of UEFA's, specially Batta's politics. Three years ago or so, everybody would have identified him as a huge talent who needs the right monitoring and enough time to improve to even get better - like football players, being a talent does not mean that much if you stay a talent. His three Champions League performances have been very poor (Gladbach-ManCity), only acceptable (Porto-Maccabi) and satisfying (BATE-Leverkusen).
In all his matches, Turpin actually faced only two really challenging matches with regard to the crowd pressure, game temperature and importance: Feyenoord-AS Roma and Gladbach-ManCity. Everybody who has watched these matches actually must see that this young man - regardless how much talent he might have - is not up to such challenges at the moment. And a EURO tournament with many motivated bigger and smaller teams will definitely present such challenges. Appointing a French referee to have a French referee, i.e. as an end in itself, cannot be reasonable. Of course UEFA will do it nonetheless. I would appoint Turpin as fourth official, maybe along with Ruddy Buquet to compensate the missing main referee from the home nation. 70%
Carlos Velasco Carballo: Although I cannot forgive him his performance in Brazil-Colombia, and even though he is still not the most stable referee UEFA has, I am convinced that at the moment he is the best solution with regard to Spanish refereeing at EURO 2016. And I am quite convinced that UEFA sees it the same way. 100%
I would choose these Referees (only 14)...
Martin Atkinson (ENG), Felix Brych (GER), Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), Mark Clattenburg (ENG), William Collum (SCO), Jonas Eriksson (SWE), Pavel Královec (CZE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Szymon Marciniak (POL), Milorad Mažić (SRB), Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Damir Skomina (SVN), Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)
... and these Fourth Officials (8)...
Ivan Bebek (CRO), Ruddy Buquet (FRA), Manuel De Sousa (POR), Ovidiu Alin Hategan (ROU), Sergei Karasev (RUS), Aleksei Kulbakov (BLR), Tasos Sidiropoulos (GRE), Clément Turpin (FRA)
... and them as possible standby Assistant Referees (8)
Tomislav Petrović (CRO), Guillaume Débart (FRA), Bertino Miranda (POR), Octavian Sovre (ROU), Anton Averianov (RUS), Dmitry Zhuk (BLR), Damianos Efthymiadis (GRE), Frédéric Cano (FRA)
You see that I only found 14 referees whom I would select for EURO 2016 with full conviction. It is probable that Kassai or Karasev and Turpin might join these 14 referees to reach the most probable amount of 16 referees (and 6 standby referees).