UEFA's chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina has expressed his satisfaction at the quality of refereeing in the 24 group stage matches at UEFA EURO 2012 – and has also praised the players for their overall behaviour in the tournament so far.
Giving his overall view of refereeing issues up to now in Poland and Ukraine, Collina said that the pre-tournament dialogue between members of the UEFA Referees' Committee and the players and coaches of each team had played a considerable part in the reduced number of incidents during matches.
"There has been a long period of preparation for the match officials in various aspects, to help them to produce the best possible performances on the field of play," said the experienced Italian, who took charge of some of the biggest matches in world football during a distinguished career. "Over the last two years the feedback we have received about referees' performances has been very good. The general feeling from the football world has been very positive, and we're very happy about this.
"The 12 referees selected for EURO 2012 are definitely among the best in Europe," Collina added. "After the first 24 matches, we are satisfied by the performances. We have tried to achieve consistency, which is always a very important goal when you need to interpret the Laws of the Game on the field of play – and in particular, decisions relating to offside and fouls. We need to reach consistency, and I think we have had it in this competition."
Before the tournament, UEFA Referees' Committee members met with the players and coaches at their training camps to discuss the instructions given to the UEFA EURO 2012 referees. "We felt the need to make the decisions of the referees understood by the players and coaches," Collina explained. "The feedback is very positive. The players' behaviour on the field has been very positive in terms of cooperation with referees and accepting referees' decisions. We have definitely seen less incidents on the field of play. We have had no red cards for violent conduct. I would like to take this public opportunity to thank all the players who have played in the first 24 matches."
Collina said that the preparation of the assistant referees had also been stepped up in recent times. "In modern football, offside has become very important. We decided to dedicate more attention to the assistant referees – a staff of former assistant referees worked with the selected referees before EURO, and we have former assistant referees here as instructors.
"When an assistant referee takes a decision, he can raise the flag or keep the flag down. We considered all the assessments made by assistant referees involving a distance of one metre from the offside line, with the assistant either raising his flag or keeping the flag down. We had 302 of these decisions in the 24 matches - with 289 correct decisions and 13 wrong decisions. This represents 95.7% accuracy, and that is a huge result.
"What is even more important, 19 goals were scored on a very positive decision taken by the assistant referees to keep the flag down. We can be very happy about the performances of the assistant referees."
The 31 games in Poland and Ukraine are each being handled by a referee, two assistant referees and fourth official, supplemented by two additional assistant referees as well as a reserve assistant referee. The additional assistant referees are positioned behind the goalline as part of a continuing experiment, authorised by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), and they focus in particular on incidents in and around the penalty area.
"As an overall assessment, the additional assistants have contributed 16 times in the 24 matches to the decision taken by the referees," Collina explained. "Among these were three goal/non-goal situations. Two decisions were absolutely correct, and the third was unfortunately wrong – it was a human mistake made by a human being. This was the only problem we have had with this experiment in a large number of matches in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and at EURO. We have done our best to make the experiment work, and we are training the additional assistant referees very hard to prepare them for situations which can happen.”
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