Pierluigi Collina has blown away any mystique over the universally lauded refereeing standards at Euro 2016 where practically all the talking was about teams and players.
UEFA’s refereeing chief simply put it down to “hard work, organisation and preparation” at a recent get-together of leading European officials.
However, You Are The Ref’s team of experts believe Collina achieved a difficult and vital balance during the tournament in France. Says Keith Hackett: “He managed to instil a high degree of uniformity and consistency among all the officials, without taking personality out of the equation.”
Hackett and YATR colleagues, including Mark Halsey, have previously spoken out about a tendency to clone referees in England. Individual character hallmarks have appeared to be discouraged, which may go some way to explaining why Mark Clattenburg – an official with a strong personality on the field – was not the FA and Premier League’s first choice for Euro selection.
Clattenburg confounded his critics in being championed all the way to the final by Collina, completing a historic treble having also taken charge of the finals of the FA Cup and the Champions League.
Another hint to referees being more than automatons has come from the the chairman of UEFA’s referees committee, Angel Maria Villar, who remarked: “I always say that all of the actors have to be good for a tournament to be good – and the Euro referee teams did a fantastic job.”
Hackett, who praised Collina’s leadership throughout the tournament, said: “No-one wants showmanship from referees. The players have to be centre stage. But a referee’s personality is part of the presence he exerts on the field. And presence is vital, especially in big games among big-name players.
“Mark Clattenburg has that presence. He can manage those people. And he was far from alone in that respect during Euro 2016. Quite clearly, Collina encouraged officials to develop their own style while still working in perfect synchronisation with the group.
“This, for me, is the way forward in refereeing. A referee in the middle is very much on his own. He has to have a strong individual character or he wouldn’t – or shouldn’t – be out there.”
Collina, talking to UEFA’s website, chose not to highlight his own role and kept his public assessment very simple, saying that the officials at the tournament all deserve congratulations.
He added: “Everyone agreed that the standard was excellent. The level at Euro 2012 was already high, but the 2016 referees took the level even higher. The referees worked hard and the results were there to see.”
Hackett added: “Of course, it was not that simple. There was clearly great attention to detail in the preparation process and it was particularly illuminating to see professional football coaches brought in to prepare referees for the tactics each team might employ.
“All in all, it set a standard for referees in all competitions, including the Premier League, to aim to emulate.”