Incompetent Refereeing Costing World Football Clubs Millions

Varun MathureContributor IFebruary 18, 2010

MONACO - AUGUST 28:  UEFA President Michel Platini speaks to the media during the UEFA Europa League Group Stage Draw at the Grimaldi Forum on August 28, 2009 in Monaco, Monaco.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The UEFA Champions League encounter between Bayern Munich and Fiorentina brought to light the disastrous officiating standards in Europe's premier competition once again.

Tom Ovrebo, the man who was infamously in charge of the Chelsea-Barcelona semifinal last year, was the culprit once again as a serious of shocking decisions left Fiorentina feeling like they were cheated out of a well deserved draw.

It was not just Ovrebo but also his assistant Dag Roger Nebben who made a horrendous offside call for Miroslav Klose's last minute winner. Klose was at least three yards offside as he headed the ball past Sebastian Frey, amidst protests from the Fiorentina players.

In the other game, Martin Hansson was also subject to much scrutiny as he allowed Porto to take a quick indirect free kick with Arsenal seemingly disoriented. Though the goal was legal and well within the framework of the rules, Arsenal may rightfully feel aggrieved.

Hansson, as the Irish will remember, was the man in charge of the controversial France-Ireland qualifier where he missed Thierry Henry's handball incident. It was his linesman again to be blamed for the debacle as Hansson's view was obstructed.

What surprises football fans the world over is how referees like Ovrebo are still officiating at the top level despite their evident mistakes in past games. Ovrebo has made a serious of high profile errors over the last two years and was even being considered for the World Cup this summer.

In typically appalling UEFA fashion, no official statement has been made and is unlikely to be made either about the incidents in Munich last night. In fact the UEFA website completely ignores Klose's offside in its official match report.


Clubs - The Real Sufferers

Michel Platini has been campaigning ever since he took up the Presidency for the inclusion of more teams from the smaller European nations. Though this move has been supported by most associations, it seems that UEFA itself is not competent enough to handle such an event.

The Champions League is about the best team on the continent plying their trade so it is expected that the referees are also among the best in the continent. Tom Ovrebo is certainly not amongst them and many of the other UEFA officials will also fall into this category.

The clubs are the ones who predictably suffer the most due to the poor officiating as it the Champions League is a very lucrative competition. Every round a team advances through earns them close to £5 million in TV rights and prize money. Manchester United walked away with a cool £33.5 million after their victory over Chelsea in the 2008 final.

For smaller clubs around Europe, every million means a lot more than to the European heavyweights. Fiorentina might have been denied a draw last night but it is likely to have an adverse impact on their earnings if they are to go out because of Ovrebo's mistakes.

The same point can be made with regards to smaller national associations like Latvia. The Latvians were at the receiving end of another shocking Ovrebo decision when he gave away the softest of penalties to the Greeks in their World Cup qualifying encounter.

Latvia were leading 2-1 at the time and went on to lose the game after conceding from the penalty. They finished third in their group only three points adrift of second placed Greece who went on to qualify for the World Cup. A World Cup spot is a straight injection of £10 million into the kitty of the association.

With such huge amounts of money at stake, it is confounding how UEFA decide to continue with their policy of having clearly incompetent referees.


The Solution

Under the current system referees from most of the European nations are elected as officials for the competition. Ovrebo and his staff for yesterday's game were Norwegian.

Without meaning any disrespect to the Norwegian Premier League it wouldn't be wrong to suggest that the level of the Tippeligaen and the Champions League is miles apart. A similar case can be made against Martin Hansson and his assistants who all hailed from Sweden.

In such a scenario as English is the official language of the competition, it might be a good idea to have some mix n' match with the referees. It shouldn't be entirely difficult to have referees from different associations coordinating together.

This way we can be assured that at least there is not a whole set of incompetent officials at a game who will ruin the match for everyone. Such a combination of referees from different countries has worked successfully at the World Cup so why not the Champions League?

The other option which I would personally favour is for the coefficient system to be applicable to the appointment of referees as well. If one can acknowledge the strength of various leagues, then the same must transcend to their officials as well.

It is a well known fact that some of the best officials come from the top European nations. In fact four of the last six referees for a European Championship final have come from one of Italy, Germany and France.

So why not have a similar structure throughout the competition where the referees from the most competitive associations are looking after the games in the Champions League.

It is indeed high-time that UEFA acted upon this problem lest it lead to a serious fallout.