Ahead of Euro 2020, resident European Football expert Jason Pettigrove has linked up with legendary former Fifa referee Keith Hackett, who also worked as a referee’s assessor and general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL) to bring you a regular feature here – A Referee’s View.
Back In The Day
As we head into another European Championship, things are certainly different for today’s officials than they were for my colleagues and I.
I had run the line for George Courtney in the semi-final of Euro ’84 in a game in Lyon, France, between Spain v Denmark. Then, in 1988, I had the great honour of officiating the opening game of Euro ’88 in Dusseldorf between hosts West Germany and Italy.
When you are officiating games at the Elite level you are managing an event. In the weeks leading up that appointment, I was sent a form requesting me to fill in various sizes to be supplied with a full set of Adidas kit, complete with boots and bench side apparel. All I had to do at was ensure the Velcro strips that held my FIFA badge in place were secure and that the boots had a good run out in the local park. I used to get my local cobbler to change the shape of the each boot to ensure comfort when running and that it didn’t dig into my Achilles tendon!
I also had the honour of meeting UEFA officials at the Waldorf Hotel in London and, along with the Managing Director of Hituri Ltd (Seiko manufacturers), selecting the watch design to be used by all of the officials at Euro ’88.
My two colleagues on that wonderful day in 1988 were Neil Midgely and Brian Hill, both FIFA referees, but with limited experience of acting as linesmen. Ahead of the tournament, we officiated three First Division games to establish good teamwork and, unlike today, our stay in Dusseldorf would be for just four days, so a bit of a whistle-stop tour.
On match day, we had to attend a 10am meeting at the stadium.
Laid out on the table before you in the meeting room are the shirts/shorts/stockings of both teams including the first team goalkeeper and substitute goalkeeper.
To avoid any confusion ball boy/girl colours and bibs that they are going to wear are also on the table. Finally, the colour of the bibs that the substitutes will wear when warming up are checked and approved.
This meeting will also discuss security and medical arrangements should they be required. UEFA operate a countdown clock which is a detailed minute by minute schedule leading up to the kick-off.
Both teams will decide the time that they intend to leave their respective hotels. The official also has to agree the time they will leave with their colleagues.
Each team bus and our people carrier are provided with a police escort, and I can assure you that at times the journey from hotel to stadium can be rather exhilarating.
On arrival at the stadium most referees will take an early opportunity to walk out onto the pitch to do a cursory check of the goal nets and field markings.
In the 1970 World Cup finals, English referee, Jack Taylor, delayed the kick-off of one game because the corner flags were missing.
I can recall in my Euro 88 match having to talk to UEFA officials because a Lurpack Butter advertising board was positioned at the head of the tunnel and there was no way on the walk out to the middle the teams and I would be striding over it.
Seconds before kick-off you are watching the television controller standing at the halfway line carefully, awaiting his signal that the game can proceed.
I can assure you that at times the journey from hotel to stadium can be rather exhilarating.Keith Hackett
The Modern Day
For the upcoming tournament Referees, Assistants Referees, Fourth Officials plus VAR operators – all specialists in their various roles – will gather at a selected hotel venue and most of them will stay for the full length of the event.
They’ll fly to and from the various venues the day before a game and return the day after the match.
Fitness tests and group discussions will take place prior to the tournament to ensure that uniformity of interpretation of the laws of the game are applied on the field of play.
A few days before the games commence the UEFA Referees committee, headed by Roberto Rossetti – himself a former FIFA international referee, will start to make the appointments to matches.
All of the officials will be waiting to see how quickly they get involved, with one set of officials being given the honour of officiating the opening game.
The UEFA Referees’ Committee has appointed 18 referees and their referee assistant teams to take charge of the 51 matches at EURO 2020.
I look forward to the announcement of the match official for the opening game. My guess is that it could be multi-millionaire Dutch referee Björn Kuipers.
As part of an exchange programme within the framework of the cooperation agreement between UEFA and the South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL, for the first time ever a South American referee will join the European group of referees, and a European will travel to South America.
Argentinian referee, Fernando Rapallini, and his assistants will join the selected European referees for EURO 2020, while a Spanish refereeing team led by Jesús Gil Manzano will be part of the selected CONMEBOL officials for the Copa América 2021, now to be played in Brazil.
The VAR specialists performance will be carefully monitored and discussed and I expect an improvement in what we have had to put up with in the Premier League where it has been a disaster.Keith Hackett
There is no doubt that one of the talking points in this tournament will be VAR.
However, I am pleased that UEFA have selected a panel of specialists who they consider to be the best in Europe in this role.
They will, in the build-up to the tournament, be attending special training sessions where video clips will be used for them to make their interjections. Only the very best after various tests will be appointed to games.
They will be reminded that VAR will only come in on CLEAR AND OBVIOUS errors, a criteria that at times Stockley Park have ignored.
The VAR specialists performance will be carefully monitored and discussed and I expect an improvement in what we have had to put up with in the Premier League where it has been a disaster.
Remember, in the Premier League we have had the likes of Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor refereeing one day and the next operating VAR at Stockley Park. This has simply not worked.
Oliver and Taylor will only have to referee at this tournament where UEFA will operate with the team of Assistant Referees, Fourth Officials and VAR.
This is how PGMOL should operate with a specialist panel of VAR operators in the Premier League.
Get more from Keith on his Twitter: @HACKETTREF