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Euro 2012: Why Referees Will Be Strong Storyline Through Entire Tournament

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2012

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 08:  Konstantinos Chalkias and Giannis Maniatis of Greece (C) react during the UEFA EURO 2012 group A match between Poland and Greece at National Stadium on June 8, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland.  (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Referees in this year's Euro tournament are receiving a plethora of attention. Euro play has been tainted by harsh, racial overtones.

After a frightening incident surrounding Polish fans, English-speaking fans and a few of Holland's brightest talents, clearly, something needs to change.

But until then, the officials must learn to handle and diffuse this situation.

All eyes are on the officials. How they choose to handle this tense topic could be the difference between controlled chaos and total anarchy.

Let's look at why the referees are in the limelight.

The Situation

Innocent people being harmed by thugs is never a good thing. It's worse when it involves a major tournament in the world's biggest sport.

Racial slurs should never be something people must worry about. No one should be tossing these scathing phrases around.

Adding to this incident is the backlash.

England will walk off the field if anything like this happens again. Professional Footballers Association chairman Clarke Carlisle summed it up perfectly in an interview on BBC1, per the Daily Mail.

Nobody should be abused in their work place, especially not racially. We don't want any form of discrimination at all in football. This is going to be a real test of UEFA to see if they have empowered their officials to take control of these situations.

Speaking to the officials themselves, Carlisle also had this to say:

If you see that the referee is taking control of it. If he has stopped the game and it is one or two individuals and they are being sorted out, or if it is a group and he is taking the players off the pitch to sort it out, then you'd be happy because you know it is being dealt with.

The last eight words hit the nail on the head. Dealing with racially-charged issues is not easy, but it must be dealt with. The end result may not be perfect, but a legitimate effort must be made to end any tension.

Will the Referees Overshadow the Actual Game?

Ideally, the answer is no. But with issues deeply embedded in race and ethnicity, you truly never know.

If actions are not taken quickly, these issues are not going away. Why would they? Angry people will feel the same way tomorrow as they did today, unless they are forced to show otherwise.

The officials cannot police the stands, but they must harness their responsibility on the field. Emotions can boil over, and fuming players do not help diffuse a situation. The referees must keep a constant pulse on their match.

Soccer fans can only hope that dazzling play from the world's best sides is overwhelming. This would allow the focus to shift toward the games at hand. But I don't see that happening.

When we look back on Euro 2012, these incidents will be one of the first things we remember.

The referees find themselves smack in the middle of this year's central issue.

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