Full-time job PROFESSIONAL REFEREES
When Sepp Blatter announced that referees at all World Cup f inals from 2014 onwards must be fu l l -t ime, he caused consternat ion among many ambitious match of f icials. “Some people say there’s not enough money to pay them, but there always seems to be plenty in the professional leagues,” said Blatter. This prompted particular concern among Germany’s part-time off icials. When Blatter recently clarif ied his position he did not back down, insisting that German football association must “establish a system in which the referees are its employees”.
FIFA’s rules prohibit referees from being employed directly by leagues, which tend to generate the money for their match fees. In England, which Blatter cited as an example to Germany, a handful of top of f icials went full-time 11 years ago. The Professional Game Match Off icials Board was formed and referees were given a salary of £33,000 plus match fees of £900. There are now 15 ful l-t ime referees earning £70,000 annually and two other of f icials employed parttime, but there are no full-time off icials in the Football League.
The English system has been emulated elsewhere. Swedish match of f icials used money made from Sweden’s Euro 2008 qualif ication to employ f ive full-time of f icials, which will eventually be increased to eight. Blatter also cited France as an example. But, contrary to his claim, not all French off icials are professional. A spokesman for the French football federation said: “Some of our referees benef it from their employers’ willingness to free them. Most have a particular status that enables them to have a part-time job. They can train and prepare in professional conditions, but without a real professional status.”
The employment status of referees dif fers widely from country to country and often depends on individual circumstances. Dutch of f icia l Bjorn Kuipers, who i s set to referee at Euro 2012, remains part-time as he owns a handful of supermarkets. His peers work for the Dutch football association in other capacities.
Even the 2014 World Cup hosts do not yet have full-time of f icials. Brazil’s tax system does not recognise refereeing as a job. After Blatter’s initial comments, Marco Antonio Martins, the president of Brazil’s referee association, said: “Our profession does not exist. Even the prostitutes are already recognised as professionals. But we are not. It seems it is in the interests of some people to have the situation this way. Otherwise, who would be in charge of the wages, taxes, labour lawsuits?” According to Martins, the Brazilian confederation asks referees for proof of other employment. In neighbouring Argentina, referees are recognised, but only a handful of off icials are full-time.
Sepp Blatter greets officials at the 2010 World Cup f inal
Another obstacle to Blat ter’s ostensibly laudable plan is political r ivalr y. Peter Mikkelsen and Kim Milton Nielsen were among the world’s leading referees in the 1990s but could not attend the same World Cup f inals as both were Danish and no country is allowed to be represented by more than one referee.
The appointment of Seychelles’ of f icia l Eddy Maillet as one of only four African referees at the last World Cup was l inked by some critics to the rise through FIFA’s ranks of ambitious Seychelles football federation president Suketu Patel. Maillet explained his appointment by saying: “I work full-time at the Seychelles football federation as a referee co-ordinator, which gives me t ime to train and keep up to date with the changes in the laws of the game.” Maillet’s case highlights the problem of gett ing big-match experience for off icials from small countries. Alain Hamer of Luxembourg went abroad to gain experience of high-prof iles games. He refer-
eed matches in Belgium and France, but that will surely be more problematic for Tonga’s Tevita Makasini, a l inesman at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and one of six part-time off icials sent from Oceania.
Surprisingly, none of the 24 Asian off icials in South Africa came from Australia, home to the professional A-League. Australia quit the Oceania region for Asia in 2006. The presence of two referees from New Zealand, Michael Hester and Peter Leary, regular off iciators in the A-League, must have been bitterly ironic for Australian off icials.
“You could have a list of the top 24 referees in the world but they will not be at a World Cup,” admitted George Cumming, a leading Scottish referee in charge of match of f icials at the 2002 World Cup. “I support Blatter in principle but it’s about the def inition. Given the political demands of confederations, it could be professional in their approach but not full-time in terms of f inance.”
Scenes from Football History