Referee bosses want to adjust communication from refs: “Asking questions on Monday should be possible”

“The reason we are gathered here today is that the refs are too much in the media,” Herbert Fandel, the German president of the Professional Refereeing Board, opened the round table discussion. “It is time to come together and speak openly. The pressure on our refs is too much. We have to be careful with that. We must protect our people. People seem to think that the VAR can solve everything, but of course that is not the case. But not everyone seems to understand that. I perfectly understand the emotions after a wrong decision, emotions are part of football. But we must remain careful. If a striker misses a big chance for an open goal, a trainer will also protect him. The way Kevin Van Damme has been spoken about is inhumane (gets excited) Of course he made a mistake, but we must not forget that he is still a reliable ref that we count on.”

“I spent a lot of time with Kevin this week,” adds technical director Bertrand Layec. “And not to talk about the whistling itself. Kevin is mentally uncomfortable with this situation and has support from his colleagues and the Professional Referee Department. He’s been attacked in the media, by clubs, by other people. It will be hard for his family. That is something to worry about.”

Interviews on Monday

Layec and Fandel thus point to Hein Vanhaezebrouck, among others, who was very sharp for Van Damme after Club Brugge-AA Gent on Sunday. Although the referee bosses also put their hand in their own bosom. “Sometimes we need to be more transparent in our communication,” says Layec. “We are consulting with the Pro League to improve our communication. We are thinking about making changes in the coming weeks. This morning we sat together to test a new format. It will come into force within this and three weeks. Making the ref available to the media immediately after the game is not a good idea. But as far as we are concerned, it should be possible to ask questions to me, Frank (De Bleeckere, ed.) or the refs on Monday.” The Referee Department is also considering making communications between the ref and the VAR public, in certain cases, but that would also require IFAB approval. That would be open to experimentation, according to Layec and Fandel.

In an ideal world, fewer mistakes are made and there are therefore fewer things to ask questions about on Mondays. “Since the beginning of this season, there have already been twenty wrong key decisions after an intervention by the VAR. That number must go to zero,” Layec realizes. “But to help you understand everything better, I also want to explain a few things about the indications. In Germany there are 24 refs for first class, in Italy 31, in Spain twenty. We have sixteen, while there are nine matches every weekend in 1A. To be even more flexible, we need more top refs. We also have to deal with illnesses, injuries, and so on. Boys are arriving in 1B, but to pass them on, we also have to go through all kinds of IFAB protocols. So we must be patient. We cannot buy refs abroad.”

Need more budget

Another difference with other countries, Layec points out, is the status of our refs. “While in France almost everyone is a professional, we work with twelve semi-pros, who also work alongside their job as ref. Four of our refs in 1A are not even semi-pros, so they can’t even come and train in Tubize on Tuesday. Can you imagine that a coach cannot have access to all his players during training? To get even better, it would be good to be able to spend even more time with our refs. That way we could work even more professionally. But to be able to work more professionally, we also need more budget.” And that has to be paid for by the Pro League.

Fandel, who came over from Germany especially for this meeting, also pleads for patience. “But that is a difficult fact in football,” he realizes. “I’ve only been here a few months, but I’ve already seen that we have a talented crop of referees. Only the trust here was shattered a few years ago by what happened in the match fixing story. So we had to start from scratch again. Obviously mistakes will be made along the way, but we are taking steps in the right direction to make our refs even better. Instead of criticizing our referees, people should be proud.”

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