Will UEFA’s firm stance on officiating at Euro 2012 yield any results?

On Wednesday of last week, UEFA’s chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina, affectionately known worldwide as one of the finest officials the game has ever seen, read out the riot act to his refereeing subjects at their training camp in Warsaw. Attended by all manner of nationalities, including England’s very own Howard Webb, the session saw an array of somewhat paltry running drills and other various ‘fitness’ tasks being undertaken by all twelve ghastly purple and yellow-clad yet incredibly enthusiastic referees and assistants alike.

The full list of referee appointments can be seen below;

Cüneyt Çakır (TUR)
Jonas Eriksson (SWE)
Viktor Kassai (HUN)
Bjorn Kuipers (NED)
Stéphane Lannoy (FRA)
Pedro Proença (POR)
Nicola Rizzoli (ITA)
Damir Skomina (SVN)
Wolfgang Stark (GER)
Craig Thomson (SCO)
Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)
Howard Webb (ENG)

Aside from the increasingly unconvincing nature of the seriousness of the session, of most note was Collina’s set of priorities and areas of focus for the tournament. This included protection of players and the game’s image, punishment for mobbing the referee, and disciplinary action for incidents of mass confrontation. At first glance, these seem like logical directions to take officiating at Euro 2012 in, clamping down on some of the European games’ most denounced issues over the past few domestic seasons.

Referee Mark Clattenburg is surrounded by both Manchester City and Manchester United players in the Premier League.

However, much can be said for the cynical counter-argument likely to face Collina and the UEFA Referees Committee when the players inevitably quash attempts to enforce such ambitious statutes. Failure to readily deal with these problems in their evolution in to the forefront of domestic football across the continent has culminated in their almost irreparable ingraining in to the ways of the modern footballer, whether consciously or not. With icons and role-models one and the same surrounding referees and harassing decisions out of them damaging the game’s image alone, the concerning incline of rash and at times idiotic challenges from professional to professional only compounds the sorry state of affairs Collina is looking to rectify.

Pierluigi Collina has taken an objection to the recent treatment of referees by players.

The referees and their assistants themselves are not solely to blame for the issues faced by the game today. History dictates that the creation and endorsement of a particular culture will inevitably rub off and influence its younger members and followers. As such, the game has no choice but to welcome new players and other figures connected with the sport in to its upper echelons, already indoctrinated by the ways of the rulebook rebel.

With methods of controlling and punishing those at the top that continue to set a precedent  to those below often failing, UEFA and other governing bodies are fast running out of ideas to halt the vicious cycle. Their latest plan has been to, quite frankly, over-compensate. With every game at Euro 2012 set to receive a referee, two assistant referees and fourth official, supplemented by two additional assistant referees as well as a reserve assistant referee, it is no wonder England, at least, is crying out for more youngsters to turn to the ‘man in the middle’ role, as opposed to a playing one, to help ease future demands on the refereeing community.

Players are being encouraged to refrain from continuing the ugly trend of career-threatening tackles, Axel Witsel seen here breaking Marcin Wasilewski’s leg in 2009.

After trial runs in the Champions League among other competitions, however, it seems the extra officials at games offer little more than the standard set of decision-makers always have done, rendering the attempt something of a failure, and the only foreseeable resolution a comparatively tough one. One would hope that the guidelines and instructions beseeched upon the referees for this summer’s Championships mark the start of a stricter, more authoritative role for football’s much-maligned referees. A more willing brandishing of cards for such offences, for example, should pave the way at least for future rectification of the concerns had by the UEFA Referees Committee.

It will be no easy task for the twelve men burdened with this mission, yet Mr Collina has managed to restore a degree of faith in the suitability of those selected, claiming “The instructions given to the match officials will be exactly the same as those delivered to the players and coaches. I and members of the Referees Committee will visit each national-team camp to speak to coaches and players – we would like referees, coaches and players to be speaking the same language in terms of football, interpretation and the Laws of the Game.”

Despite sounding a lot like a Sunday League fair play pledge by a man at the cutting edge of part-time refereeing, this reasoning may well do the trick. As a fan of football first and foremost, and being fond of seeing my favourite players on the pitch as opposed to crutch-ridden in the stands, I sincerely hope a solution of sorts has been reached, allowing the spectacle, rather than the unsavoury sub-plots to flourish in the memory.

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