October 28, 2012

Urs Meier: "It's not only money which gives a referee the feeling he's a pro"

Despite persistently enhanced professionalism in football refereeing, which is widely considered as needed to keep pace with the development football itself as a game is featuring, Switzerland's football federation is obviously failing in terms of that.

At the start of October 2012, four out of twelve Swiss top referees (Damien Carrel/30, Ludovic Gremaud/32, Cyril Zimmermann/36 and Daniel Wermelinger/41) announced their retirement at the end of year due to a defective support they encounter by their federation, an amateurish level of professionalism and a lack of respect shown to the referees by diverse sides.

Switzerland have lost a great referee hope: Damien Carrel (c) RTS

In addition, the above mentioned officials have found themselves unable to combine their personal life including family and full-time jobs in high positions both in the industry and in the economy with a high degree of professionalism as a referee. A few weeks ago, Swedish official Markus Strömbergsson withdrew his FIFA status for this reason, too. Damien Carrel, who was regarded by Swiss referee committee chief Carlo Bertolini to become the next international top referee for Switzerland, stated in an interview to blick.ch that there was a huge "lack of respect for their work", although he emphasized that he did not merely concern fans and media, but the Swiss referee pool and specially the Swiss football federation SFV as well: "Three weeks ago, a clear penalty was overseen in a match. And what did the referee do? He told the media that it had been a big mistake by his assistant. [...] The tendency of publicly looking for other culprits is alarming." [remark: he concerned the match between Young Boys Bern and FC Basel of which Stephan Studer had been in charge and later highlighted a communication error caused by his assistant Sandro Pozzi as the only reason for the clearly missed penalty]
Besides, Cyril Zimmermann stressed the need "to facilitate more means to relieve the difficulties full-time employees have to cope with".

While this specific criticism issued by current and coming FIFA officials certainly cannot be generalized to all the countries, it however seems to be a widely spread issue referees are facing. 

Dutch Referee Blog and World of Football Refereeing spoke exclusively to Urs Meier, former Swiss top referee having, among others, joined two World Cups (1998/2002) and two European Championships (2000/2004) and taken charge of 2001/02 UEFA Champions League final between Leverkusen and Real Madrid. He had moreover headed the Swiss referee committee for a while before he retired for quite similar reasons. It is the second time I had the chance to get an interview of this top referee, you can find the first one here (on German).

DRB/WoFR: Mr Meier, what was your first reaction following the announced retirement of four Swiss top officials?
Meier: "I was a bit shocked by the news that four of the twelve Swiss top referees will quit officiating after this season. Especially because two of them are young referees, both from the French part of Switzerland. Damien Carrell, one of them, was even nominated to become a Fifa referee. It's not usual, but they had no time anymore for refereeing.
At the time I was the referee chief - I quit about a year ago - I saw always that same problem with my referees. As referee department we need to get more time for them. The Swiss referee system needs a professional or semi-professional organisation with better training facilities and higher payments for referees, so they could stop working and spend more time in refereeing. The football association has to do something now, otherwise there will be more problems in the future. There are more young refs considering to stop."

"Refereeing nowadays costs more time then before, for example in the period I was an international referee. There are more mandatory trainings, meetings and more appointments because there need to be extra assistants. That means they got less time for business and family. Refereeing takes more and more time, but some just couldn't combine that with a job."

Urs Meier, an advocate for more professionalism in refereeing (c) ursmeier.ch

There was some news about a sponsor contract between the Swiss SuperLeague and InfrontRingier for CHF 140.000 million in five years. The refereeing budget is 200.000 francs.
"Football has become so professional. That also needs a change in the way we think about refereeing. But the association doesn't want to. The four referees are not the only who stopped because they feel unappreciated. It's the same with Massimo Busacca. If have not gotten the job at Fifa, he would looked for a job as fulltime referee in another country. Otherwise he would have stopped."

But you made it too as top referee without much financial support from the national FA.
"Becoming top referee and going for it, is of course also a case for the referee himself. But there's a difference: I was independent with my own business. I could spend the whole time on refereeing. All the referees who stopped have a good job. One's a lawyer, another has a good position at a bank. You can't spend more and more time on refereeing, they need to be at work too."

Is this a Swiss problem?
"No, it's also a problem in other countries. The FAs lose a lot of experiences due to lack of respect for referees. In Sweden and England they try to do something for the referees, but Austria is for example the same as Switzerland. But it's not only salary. In Germany referees get more money than in some parts of Europe, but they also need a more professional referee structure. It's not only money which gives a referee the feeling he's a professional. They also need the possibilities to have proper training via internet and on the pitch."

Do countries need to collaborate more?
"They have the same problems and can help each other with creating professional referee structures. But I don't think it's a good idea to get a similar payment system for all countries. There are so many differences in each country, also in level and available money. But one thing is for sure: referees do need more money to be professional."

What if the Swiss FA is going to spend more money to get a professional structure, as you suggested when you were the boss?
"I am always there to help, but I am not going back to the situation when I was the head of refereeing. I'd like to compare the situation with a train that goes up the mountain to reach the top. There are other ways to reach the top, but you need to pick just one. In refereeing I'd choose the route with a professional structure and only go this way."

Thanks a lot for this interview, Mr Meier.


  1. OUT of Topic, but on my blog we are making "predictions" of the selected referees of the Club WC, if you want to participate here is the link: http://internationalreferee.blogspot.com/2012/10/el-mundial-de-clubes.html

  2. Hard decisions for Chelsea. Wrong sending-off against Torres and the 2-3 was offside.

    1. Here the Italian commentator of Premier League was blaming Clattenburg all match long.
      He thinks that he isn't a top referee and he must never referee such top clashes in Premier League.
      Of course, he was exaggerated...

    2. I like commentators, but I do not like that one cannot talk to them into the TV to tell them one's opinion ;)

    3. Back to his decisions on pitch: IMO, dive-in decision was very hard to decide for that angle. The duriation of tackle was minimal (just for a second), then Torres feels the pain and let himself down. It is undoubtfully a foul. However, for a referee which hasnt seen the contact, dive-in is an inevitable decision.

    4. Right, contact is very minimalistic. We saw the scene from the side, Clattenburg from behind. So I actually can understand the two crucial mistakes (also the disllowed goal should have been seen, but it was not easy)

  3. I agree.
    To be honest, the commentator didn't say "he isn't a top referee" of course I have changed the words... he was very drastic. He said that he ruined a such wonderful match.
    This commentator is against many Premier League referees, also Atkinson.
    Instead, he likes Oliver, Webb and Dowd.

    1. petschovschi28/10/12 20:12

      Massimo Marianella is one of best commentator that I ever heard. Of course he has his own favourites and Clattenburg is not one of them.
      Otherwise I have to agree that Clattenburg is not in his best form lately. I saw him making terrible mistake in few matches lately: Bordeaux- Crvenza Zvezda, Chelsea- ManUtd and one other game that I don't remeber right now...

    2. Totally right. I was talking about Marianella.
      Interesting to hear that he is famous also in Romania.
      And I think that a commentator mustn't have favorite referees in his mind, he has to evaluate the performance for each match, otherwise he appears as biased and not neutral.
      Because also the referees are part of a game.

  4. 30.10.2012 19.00 Berliner AK 07 - 1860 München Bibiana Steinhaus, Arne Aarnink, Martin Bärmann, Stefan Lupp
    30.10.2012 19.00 Wormatia Worms - 1. FC Köln Robert Hartmann, Benjamin Cortus, Thomas Färber, Rafael Foltyn
    30.10.2012 19.00 Preußen Münster - FC Augsburg Marco Fritz, Volker Wezel, Marcel Göpferich, Marcel Pelgrim
    30.10.2012 19.00 Eintracht Braunschweig - SC Freiburg Dr. Felix Brych, Martin Petersen, Marco Achmüller, Thomas Stein
    30.10.2012 20.30 TSV Havelse - VfL Bochum Christian Bandurski, Malte Dittrich, Sven Jablonski, Simon Marx
    30.10.2012 20.30 Schalke 04 - SV Sandhausen Michael Weiner, Frank Willenborg, Frederick Assmuth, Kai Voss
    30.10.2012 20.30 VfR Aalen - Borussia Dortmund Günter Perl, Michael Emmer, Karl Valentin, Torsten Bauer
    30.10.2012 20.30 FSV Mainz 05 - FC Erzgebirge Aue Bastian Dankert, Rene Rohde, Sebastian Schmickartz, Thorben Siewer
    31.10.2012 19.00 Karlsruher SC - MSV Duisburg Tobias Stieler, Dr. Manuel Kunzmann, Jonas Weickenmeier, Benedikt Kempkes
    31.10.2012 19.00 Arminia Bielefeld - Bayer Leverkusen Dr. Jochen Drees, Tobias Christ, Christian Dietz, Dirk Wijnen
    31.10.2012 19.00 Kickers Offenbach - 1. FC Union Berlin Peter Gagelmann, Matthias Anklam, Sascha Thielert, Timo Gerach
    31.10.2012 19.00 VfB Stuttgart - FC St. Pauli Peter Sippel, Christian Leicher, Markus Schüller, Eduard Beitinger
    31.10.2012 20.30 Hannover 96 - Dynamo Dresden Wolfgang Stark, Robert Kempter, Georg Schalk, Marc Frömel
    31.10.2012 20.30 Bayern München - 1. FC Kaiserslautern Daniel Siebert, Harm Osmers, Jan Seidel, Dr. Robert Kampka
    31.10.2012 20.30 Fortuna Düsseldorf - Borussia Mönchengladbach Knut Kircher, Florian Steuer, Wolfgang Walz, Thorsten Schriever
    31.10.2012 20.30 VfL Wolfsburg - FSV Frankfurt Manuel Gräfe, Markus Häcker, Marcel Unger, Thomas Gorniak

    1. 30.10.2012 20.30
      VfR Aalen 1-4 Borussia Dortmund

      Günter Perl - 8.4
      Michael Emmer - 8.4
      Karl Valentin - 8.3
      Torsten Bauer - 8.0

      Perl with very good performance in one-sided match. Excellent play reading and communication with players, always nicely positioned, big authority. Everything was under full control and he hadn't to show unneccessary cards to be a boss. He correctly rejected one Aalen's penalty-appeal after Perisic-Valentini duel (78', soft pushing).

      Emmer with two offside calls. Both correct, especially the second one in which Aalen's forward was minimally offside (56').

      Valentin totally not challenged as well as 4th official Bauer.



  7. Still about Chelsea - United.
    This morning I read on the newspaper that after the match, Chelsea presented to the FA a official complaint about Clattenburg, because in their opinion he had a racist behavor against Mikel and Mata.
    Furthermore, Di Matteo and Mikel tried to talk to him in order to have explanations, but he refused that.
    It isn't anyway explained what Clattenburg really did, to make Chelsea complain.

  8. Hm.
    By the way, the appointments are not Bundesliga, but DFB Cup appts.

  9. The Guardian reports that the referee union is backing Clattenburg and he has 'full support'.
    I don't see Clattenburg refereeing any matches if the allegations are proven, anyway he is innocent until proven otherwise (like Rocchi and Brych). Whichever way this is going to end, it's very bad for refereeing and football in general.

  10. The main difference is that Rocchi's and Brych's cases are off-pitch and with Brych even off-football. Anyway, being accused for having issued racial statements on the pitch must be considered as pretty serious, his reputation has already suffered, that's clear. I am by the way stunned how big the problem racism is in England compared to Germany (I do not know how it is in other countries).

    By the way, you can find marks for every Bundesliga performance here:

    Mostly these are based on conversations between Philipp and me regarding every performance.

  11. Therefore a good decision to keep him clear of appointments at least until all this has been cleared up.

  12. Further I must remind you that assumed innocence does not take the seriousness of the crime into account.

  13. That's clear, can you imagine that he will return one day to Stamford Bridge? I mean, he was also rejected by Everton for many years.

  14. A news that I got this morning: starting from last Saturday (27/10) in Zurich there is the FIFA meeting for assistant referees which are on the pre-list, as it happened for the referees one month ago. So, here in Italy we have Di Liberatore, Cariolato, Faverani and Stefani there. In my source there is written that the total number of the assistant referees is 54. I don't know how long they have to stay there.

  15. As far as I know 8-16 November o.O
    Will check that.

  16. Indeed, the number of 54 is strange, it means that they are the assistants of 27 referees, probably they have split the meeting of assistants in two sessions.My source about Italian presence is sure, they haven't been appointed in serie A last sunday and this week (today and tomorrow). Furthermore, a newspaper states that Elenito Di Liberatore is there.
    You can check if Brych and Stark assistants were appointed last matchday and also this week, if not, I think that they are there, too.

  17. Borsch had a match as fourth official on 27/10, Lupp today in DFB Cup (although he is not on pre list, it would not make sense to only send Borsch). It is also crap that Schiffner is still injured and probably misses this meeting.

  18. Niclas, Can you please explain to me why in English Premier League referees are assigned as 4th officials on saturdays and as referees the next day?

    I mean do they not have enough referees or what? what will happen if a referee gets injured in one game and 4th official has to step in and he already has another match the next day?

    I remember when Probert was slide tackled by two players, his 4 official had another "very important" match the next day.

  19. I cannot answer that question, probably it is no logistic problem as you can reach every town from every other town in ENG pretty quickly compared to other countries, perhaps those who are more familiar can say more onto that.
    It is also interesting in England that e.g. Scott Ledger received 38 matches in 38 matchdays in 2010/11.

    1. Some interesting pics from Zurich:

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