Tomorrow, we will very likely get to know the updated UEFA Referee Categories. After analyzing some data, we come to the conclusion that we can expect numerous changes - particularly from Second to First Group.
The following diagram illustrates the number of officials in Elite and First Group over the last five couple of years. 2016a means the categories as they were defined in June 2016. 2016b means what can be surely expected assumed that no changes would be decided (Carlos Velasco Carballo retired after EURO 2016; Serge Gumienny will finish and Marijo Strahonja had to finish their international careers each; we still don't know what might happen to Andre Marriner for example, who is born in 1971).
The rough data clearly suggest that - as long as UEFA did not deliberately decrease the number of officials in the two highest categories and as long as they are willing to increase the level towards a number of 90 again - many officials from Second Group can hope to get promoted tomorrow.
Who might that be? Our user RayHD summarized the number of appointments for UCL or UEL games for all Elite and First Group referees:
"Number of games by referees and their categories:
3 CL + 1 EL
Mark Clattenburg (ENG), Milorad Mažić (SRB)
Aytekin (GER), Felix Brych (GER), Cüneyt Çakır (TUR), William Collum
(SCO), Ovidiu Alin Hațegan (ROU), Sergey Karasev (RUS), Pavel Královec
(CZE), Björn Kuipers (NED), Szymon Marciniak (POL), Daniele Orsato
(ITA), Nicola Rizzoli (ITA), Gianluca Rocchi (ITA), Anastassios
Sidiropoulos (GRE), Damir Skomina (SVN), Craig Thomson (SCO), Clément
2 CL + 1 EL
Martin Atkinson (ENG), Jonas Eriksson
(SWE), David Fernández Borbalán (ESP), Viktor Kassai (HUN), Bas Nijhuis
(NED), Paolo Tagliavento (ITA), Alberto Undiano Mallenco (ESP)
Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (ESP)
Svein Oddvar Moen (NOR)
Michael Oliver (ENG), Manuel Jorge Neves Moreira de Sousa (POR), Martin Strömbergsson (SWE), Felix Zwayer (GER)
2 CL + 1 EL
Ruddy Buquet (FRA), Matej Jug (SVN), Alaksey Kulbakou (BLR), Artur Manuel Ribeiro Soares Dias (POR), Anthony Taylor (ENG)
Danny Makkelie (NED)
1 CL + 2 EL
Gediminas Mažeika (LTU), Slavko Vinčič (SVN)
Aranovsky (UKR), Benoît Bastien (FRA), Ivan Bebek (CRO), Vladislav
Bezborodov (RUS), Tamás Bognár (HUN), Serhiy Boyko (UKR), Aleksey Eskov
(RUS), Xavier Estrada Fernández (ESP), Jesús Gil Manzano (ESP), Hüseyin
Göçek (TUR), Serdar Gözübüyük (NED), Manuel Gräfe (GER), Stefan
Johannesson (SWE), Jakob Kehlet (DEN), István Kovács (ROU), Ivan
Kružliak (SVK), Harald Lechner (AUT), Liran Liany (ISR), Paweł
Raczkowski (POL), Robert Schörgenhofer (AUT), Aleksandar Stavrev (MKD),
Tobias Stieler (GER), István Vad (HUN), Miroslav Zelinka (CZE)
Banti (ITA), John Beaton (SCO), Kevin Blom (NED), Sébastien Delferière
(BEL), Simon Lee Evans (WAL), Paweł Gil (POL), André Marriner (ENG),
Davide Massa (ITA), Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni (ITA), Clayton Pisani (MLT),
Tobias Welz (GER), Alon Yefet (ISR)
Tony Chapron (FRA), Oliver Drachta (AUT), Robert Madden (SCO), Alexandru Dan Tudor (ROU)
0 CL & EL
Mattias Gestranius (FIN), Serge Gumienny (BEL), Halis Özkahya (TUR)
Əliyar Ağayev (AZE), Orel Grinfeeld (ISR), Andris Treimanis (LVA)
Carlos del Cerro Grande (ESP), Andreas Ekberg (SWE), Stephan Klossner (SUI), Ali Palabıyık (TUR)
Clancy (SCO), Hugo Filipe Ferreira Campos Moreira Miguel (POR), Craig
Pawson (ENG), Radu Marian Petrescu (ROU), Sandro Schärer (SUI), Daniel
Stefański (POL), Bart Vertenten (BEL)"
This does help us to a certain extent. However, many officials were promoted from Second to First Group without having handled any UEL game before that in the past (Tamás Bognar, Christian Dingert, Oliver Drachta, Aleksei Eskov, Matthias Gestranius, Jesús Gil Manzano, Harald Lechner, Tobias Stieler, Tobias Welz, Clayton Pisani and Slavko Vincic). Most of them were promoted to replace a referee from the same nation who either got demoted or retired.
So a nation's representation in the categories seems to play a vital role. As indicated, Belgium will lose their only place in First Group due to Gumienny's retirement, so that it is extremely likely that Bart Vertenten gets promoted. Similar might go for Croatia, who lose a First Group place - Fran Jović (currently in Third) has excellent chances to move up to Second Group. It might be worth to now look at nations who generally lost some places in the past:
Comparing 2011 to 2015, the following nations went from X to Y places in Elite and First Group taken together (referees behind that are possible promotion candidates from the same nation):
These nations lost 2 or more places...
- France from 6 to 4: Benoît Millot or Frank Schneider (no UEL)
- Sweden from 5 to 3: Andreas Ekberg (2 UEL)
- Portugal from 5 to 2: Hugo Miguel (1 UEL)
- Norway from 3 to 1: Svein Erik Edvartsen (no UEL)
- Switzerland from 3 to 0: Stephan Klossner (2 UEL), and maybe Sandro Schärer (1 UEL, young potential)
These nations lost 1 place over the time...
- England from 7 places to 6 places: Craig Pawson (1 UEL)
- Turkey from 4 to 3: Ali Palabiyik (2 UEL)
- Russia from 4 to 3: ?
- Greece from 2 to 1: ?
- Belgium will lose 1 of their 2 places: Bart Vertenten (1 UEL)
- Ireland from 1 to 0: maybe Neil Doyle (no UEL), probably Paul McLaughlin from Third to Second (no UEL)
- Bulgaria from 1 to 0: Nikola Popov (no UEL, but some important UYL with good observers), alternative: Georgi Kabakov (WC Qualifier)
- Cyprus from 1 to 0: Christos Nicolaides (no UEL, but WC Qualifier)
- Estonia from 1 to 0: Kristo Tohver (no UEL, but high experience and good observers in the past)
- Iceland from 1 to 0: maybe Gunnar Jonsson from Third to Second
Apart from that, Aliyar Aghayev (AZE), Orel Grinfeeld (ISR) and Andris Treimanis (LVA) seem to have convinced by good performances and are probable candidates for promotion. Radu Petrescu (ROU) should not be underestimated either.
As we have seen, approximately 10 places might be filled. Maybe even more if Özkahya and Gestranius are removed (failed fitness tests).
Those I consider as most likely to be promoted in order to fill this gap in 1st Group are:
Aliyar Aghayev (AZE), Andreas Ekberg (SWE), Stephan Klossner (SUI), Hugo Miguel (POR), Ali Palabiyik (TUR), Craig Pawson (ENG), Nikola Popov (BUL), Kristo Tohver (EST), Andris Treimanis (LVA) and Bart Vertenten (BEL) - and maybe Radu Petrescu (ROU)
Of course, it is possible that some officials replace colleagues from the same nation (e.g. Daniel Siebert might maybe replace Tobias Welz).
In terms of possible promotions from First to Elite Group, I am rather sceptical and don't expect many changes. If there are changes, however, possible names would be Ruddy Buquet (FRA), Aleksei Kulbakov (BLR), Danny Makkelie (NED), Artur Soares Dias (POR), Manuel de Sousa (POR), Martin Strömbergsson (SWE), Felix Zwayer (GER) and either Michael Oliver (ENG) or Anthony Taylor (ENG). Actually I think only Makkelie, Soares, Taylor and maybe Zwayer have real chances at the moment. We'll see. What do you expect?