September 15, 2013

Now We Mix More

As recently presumed, UEFA's Referee Committee headed by Pierluigi Collina have decided to form mixed teams of referees to be appointed even in the highest competitions such as UEFA Champions League. Politics in the pure form that rarely happened over the past seasons.

UEFA is obviously going to mix some teams (c)

All started after UEFA EURO 2012. At last year's tournament in Poland and the Ukraine, Pavel Královec from Czech Republic functioned as fourth official in a couple of matches. Slovakian Roman Slyško, who is probably remembered as one of two excellent assistant referees at Luboš Michel's side in former times and who sourly upset José Mourinho having awarded a ghost-goal in a Champions League semifinal between Chelsea FC and Liverpool FC in 2005, attended the tournament as reserve assistant referee and thus accompanied the referee teams and Královec as the fourth official in several matches. In a newspaper article, UEFA Referee Committee member Dagmar Damková (Czech Rep.) confirmed that, after the tournament, Pierluigi Collina had the idea to integrate Slyško into Královec' team in "some matches". However, this also had an effect on the prospective list of referees for 2014 FIFA World Cup. Královec and Slyško were said to suit together in terms of their characters and hence, both agreed to Collina's plan. The other Czech Republican assistant referee, Antonin Kordula, who performed well in every match he had with Královec, was of course not asked how he would find it being removed from the pre-list. Certainly, one may not withhold that Slyško is indeed one of the best European assistant referees and had some very good calls in last season's Champions League campaign.
Today, Sandro Pozzi's name caught our eyes when going through the referee appointment for Bayern München - CSKA Moskva as part of next week's Champions League group stage start. As gathered last week, he is intregated into an Italian officiating crew, since he is fluent in the Italian language due to his origin. Like Massimo Busacca, Sandro Pozzi is living in the Southern part of Switzerland close to the Italian border (this fact will be revelant later on, too). Pozzi was good at UEFA Under-21 EURO 2013 in Israel and also showed his skills at Stephan Studer's side during FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2011. To make that clear: Pozzi practically deserves to be seen and appointed by UEFA for important matches taking into account his quality. Nobody questions that and nobody begrudges him his nomination. But...there is a "but".
There is a clear principle in football refereeing which should be aspired and considered as somehow ideal: referees or assistant referees may not be assessed or appointed on the basis of politics. Performance principle has to count. Surely, this might sound naive. Even at the grassroots level you only move up if you have someone behind you. But it actually lies in UEFA's and specially Collina's interest to avoid even the appearance that some referees acting at the highest level are only there for political purpose. Therefore I must congratulate Mr Collina that he did not even try to put his political appointment procedure under a veil. In fact, it has already come to that. And that's good. It makes things easier for me to analyze and makes sure that criticizing this referee management with regards to politics won't be considered as mere conspirary theories but as mere facts. 
Now we can ask several questions. Why is the Suisse referee management, which was also criticized by Urs Meier in an interview to and The Third Team, rewarded for having failed to produce top-class referees after Busacca and Meier? If they do not produce good referees, their assistant referees have bad luck, it is as simple as that. Why is the Suisse football association so important that there has to be a Suisse assistant referee in Champions League? The UEFA coefficients or the domestic structures cannot be the reason, otherwise countries like Greece or Belgium should have drawn a profit from that, too. The same speech might count for Austrian Roland Brandner, who attended the UEFA courses two weeks ago as well and is therefore expected to accompany a foreign referee into UCL. Austria, with all due respect, is no country that is known for top-class (referees) in modern football. As indicated, the origin of those match officials might give a hint: Sandro Pozzi is from the very Soutern part of Switzerland (Lugano), as said. He is living quite close to the Italian border. Same counts for FIFA referee head Massimo Busacca and, what might be even more interesting, a quite powerful man in UEFA refereeing, being an important referee observer and having taken some relevant roles in sub-committees during the past years: Francesco Bianchi (living in Morbio Inferiore). So was Pozzi "recommended" by Bianchi? 
Same could count for Roland Brandner, who is living in Linz (county Upper Austria). And who is from Upper Austria, too? Horst Brummeier, a meaningful UEFA referee observer who is mostly attending highly important matches and referees. Only two coincidences? I hope so.
Another explanation for today's appointment (Rocchi with Pozzi) might sound more logical. Collina is probably facing resistance in the committee and I furthermore cannot imagine that all the referees and assistant referees concerned accept these plans and movements without saying a word. It is no secret that "PLC" tends to do what he likes in the committee. So it's just phenomenal to choke off every form of criticism by "erasing" an own (= an Italian) assistant referee who makes place for a foreign assistant referee. Very clever.
By the way, Elenito Di Liberatore was surely full of joy when he noticed that Rocchi and company would take the flight to Munich without him. Same will count for Kordula, Rose and other men who are perhaps still fearing to be ruled out so that Brandner gets his place in CL.
In Rocchi's case, a pre-selected trio is destroyed and cannot collect international experiences together. Rocchi has potential, but of course quite low chances for next year's World Cup, considering Rizzoli has too strong arguments at the moment (not to forget his relation to Collina). Actually one should believe UEFA appoints these pre-selected trios as often as possible together on the international stage where they can recommend themselves. One has to wait whether this change will happen once, twice...or will affect the entire season.
And finally, there were and are good reasons why FIFA and UEFA moved away from mixed teams. The recent Under-21 EURO was a paramount example for what happens if you have six men on the field of play who are supposed to communicate on a foreign language in extreme moments. Please Mr Collina, don't return to the start of this millennium, where even at World Cups quite absurd appointments were made, e.g. consisting of a Jamaican referee and two assistant referees from Belarus and the Maldives...
A good team is created over months, mostly years. If Pozzi and Rocchi go into five or six matches per season, this deal-making has no sense at all expect satisfying politics.
In Slyško's and Královec' case, that's different, because they are both acting together in the Czech Republican league as well. Thus Collina should be consistent and invite Pozzi into Serie A - of course he won't do that. And for this reason all that seems to stay a practical hazard and political shenanigans.


  1. Excellent text, Niclas!

    One can also add another strange - someone say deserved - advances for some federation's refs...

    Slovenia - Vlado Sajn (Skomina and Jug are very good, but if not Sajn would we see Jug in ED? I doubt...)

    Italy - Pierluigi Collina (4 Elite, 1 ED)

    Ukraine - Pierluigi Collina (ultra-quick progress of Boyko, Kozyk, etc...)

    Russia - Roberto Rosetti (8 FIFA refs, quick progress of Karasev)

    One must say that cause it's not fair to push some federations more than the others.

    UEFA Referee Committee should be called Collina, Sajn and Co.

    1. Anonymous15/9/13 16:49

      Who is the fourth Italian Elite referee - Rizzoli, Rocchi, Tagliavento and ...?

    2. 4 is near 3 on the keyboard, sry :)

  2. Anonymous15/9/13 16:46

    I don't have any problems with this, if the mixing is made on merit and if the team members can communicate properly with each other. And ONLY if this makes the entire refereeing team better. And in reality, this is probably where the problem is.

    Many times referees from smaller countries can be just as good, or even better than, as referees from so called bigger countries. This goes for assistants too of course.

    So, I have no problem with the assignment of, for example, Pozzi, if he is better than di Liberatore - and strenghtens the Rocchi team.

    But - then this has to have a consistent approach, ie that Pozzi also joins Rocchi in Serie A. If this does not happen, it would seem only as a political appointment with Pozzi joining Rocchi.

    It will be interesting to see how this unfolds... Noone wants back to the times where three referees from three nations were appointed together for the first time in a World cup or Euro match!

    /Swedish observer

    1. The question: did Di Liberatore deserve to be removed. The answer: of course, not. And that's a problem.

  3. I agree with you, Swedish observer. As outlined, Pozzi is a very good AR. The problem is the background of his appointment and nothing else. Of course the case around Brandner will be more interesting, as he could perhaps join a German team.
    And concerning Di Liberatore: many people say he is the best Italian AR along with Manganelli ;)

  4. Danny Makkelie with another 3 red cards in one match :)

    1. Anonymous15/9/13 18:48

      All three cards were spot on. The third ( 2xYC Chery ) had to be a straight red card. Great performance.

  5. EUROPA LEAGUE Referee Observers (interesting or relevant observers marked with "!")

    Valencia-Swansea Sedlacek (AUT)
    St Gallen-Krasnodar Fernandez Marin (ESP) !
    Dinamo-Odessa Lopez Fernandez (ESP)
    PSV-Ludogorets Snoddy (NIR) !
    Salzburg-Elfsborg Asumaa (FIN)
    Standard-Esbjerg Sarvan (TUR) !
    Zulte-Wigan Casha (MLT) !
    Maribor-Kazan Koho (FIN)
    Fiorentina-Pacos Ross (NIR)
    Pandurii-Dnipro Trefoloni (ITA)
    Frankfurt-Girondins Ormandjiev (BUL)
    Maccabi-APOEL Wegereef (NED)
    Dynamo-Genk Jokic (SRB) !
    Thun-Rapid V. Ivanov (RUS)
    Freiburg-Liberec Georgiou (CYP)
    Praia-Sevilla Sundell (SWE) (!)
    Betis-Lyon Ersoy (TUR)
    Vitoria-Rijeka Tsachilidis (GRE)
    Apollon-Trabzonspor Trentalange (ITA) !
    Lazio-Legia Ward (IRL)
    Sheriff-Anji Khudiyev (AZE)
    Tottenham-Tromsö Kirschen (GER)
    PAOK-Shakhter K. Plautz (AUT) !
    Maccabi-AZ Goethals (BEL) !

    1. Anonymous15/9/13 21:19

      Surely Ivanov must be more relevant/interesting than Casha...?

      /Swedish observer

    2. I would even add Lopez Fernandez from Spain to the important observers...

    3. In fact I forgot Lopez. Ivanov never got remarkable matches or referees. Casha is powerful at FIFA and e.g. had Skomina in Portugal-Russia or Velasco in Arsenal-Fenerbahce - certainly for certain reasons.

  6. Glad to hear teams are being mixed. Like mentioned before, hope it is based on merit.


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