Euro 2020 has provided a whole host of drama so far. With late winners, penalty shoot-outs and upsets aplenty but more attention needs to be paid to impact that the referees are having on the tournament’s excitement.
Former referee Keith Hackett is back once again as he joined Jason Pettigrove for another instalment of A Referee’s View.
We are now into the business end of Euro 2020 and the selection of referees for the semi-finals and final of what has been the very best European Championship on record.
Roberto Rossetti, Chairman of UEFA referees, has delivered a group of officials who have been on top form, and he should be rightly proud.
English Referees, Anthony Taylor and Michael Oliver, have delivered performances well above the standard that we witnessed last season in the Premier League.
Taylor, in particular, has been outstanding, his fitness level, movement and decision-making first-class.
Anthony Taylor is the first referee appointed to a knock-out stage game of @EURO2020
After a string of good performances, the @CCFARefs has been appointed for the game between Italy and Austria @wembleystadium
Well done, Tayls! pic.twitter.com/XsogNkXBVG
— @NW_Ref (@nw_ref) June 24, 2021
It highlights for me the poor leadership at the PGMOL. Their lack of clear leadership and direction, as well as over working our top referees, have influenced the standards of performance from Premier League officials.
For example, our top referees should just operate in the middle. There is no need for them to be seconded to VAR or operate as the fourth official.
Rossetti’s clarity on how he wanted VAR to operate has been first class in delivery and helped rather than hindered with offside decisions.
No toes coming into play thanks to the widening of the offside lines that are used, and we haven’t seen the process (i.e. the ridiculous margins that VAR operatives are sometimes working with), just the decision.
Let’s hope these standards will remain for the remaining games.
VAR and foul challenges
One area I am becoming increasingly concerned with is how foul challenges are being reviewed in the VAR process.
As I’ve said above, I have been very impressed with how VAR has been operating at Euro 2020, but I wonder if reviewing foul challenges in slow-motion rather than real time speed is impacting negatively on the outcome.
Frankly when reviewing challenges in such a manner, invariably a red card is always going to be the outcome.
Is this what the game wants? Is it fair?
I understand the law and the need to protect players and I am fully aware of a player’s duty of care requirements when making a challenge. However, we owe it to the game that the system is fair.
In the Sweden v Ukraine game, the referee was asked by the VAR to review the challenge by Sweden’s Marcus Danielson on an opponent.
Danielson had appeared to win the ball fairly and managed to clear it up field, however, in the process of winning the ball he was challenged by an opponent who was trying to close him down.
The Ukraine player continued his run towards Danielson whose raised foot made contact high up the leg of his opponent.
The referee was close by and had a good view of the incident. When he looked at the review, he was faced with a rather distorted view because of the slow-motion replay.
Red card or no red card? 🤔#SWEUKR #SWE #UKR pic.twitter.com/HknUlrzGIb
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) June 29, 2021
The inevitable outcome was to issue the red card.
There is no doubt in my mind that using slow-motion replays distorts and is unfair.
Please let us change the criteria in the interests of fair play and ensure that incidents which are going to be reviewed, are done at normal speed and rely solely on the expert eye of the referee when taking a second look.
The current reality is that we all know once a referee goes to review a challenge like the one last night, the slowed down version of the incident leaves the referee with no alternative other than to issue a red card.
If I was in the same position, I would have also issued a red card based on what I am viewing on the replay, but that’s clearly not the way forward.