Euro 2024 refereeing: More bookings, quicker VAR, tactical foul crackdown (2024)

UEFA’s chief refereeing officer Roberto Rosetti has said he is “super happy” with the quality of decision-making during Euro 2024 so far, hailing a crackdown on tactical fouls, less dissent and quicker video assistant referee (VAR) calls.

On a video conference call with reporters on Friday, Rosetti presented the key refereeing statistics from the 36 group-stage games and showed clips of several of the tournament’s most contentious decisions.

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Most of the numbers — match duration, fouls and red cards — were broadly in line with the last two editions of the Euros but there has been a big increase in the number of yellow cards shown, rising from 2.7 per game during the pandemic-delayed 2021 tournament to 4.6 per game this summer.

“The increase is related to more yellow cards for stopping promising attacks,” the 53-year-old Italian explained.

“In the last Euro, we gave eight yellow cards for stopping promising attacks but at this edition it is already 35. Referees are now more alert to the tactical fouls.”

In total, there have been 166 yellow cards shown so far, up from 98 in 2021 and 129 in 2016.

This is despite the number of fouls per game falling slightly since 2016 and being the same as in 2021.

Another reason for the spike in cautions is less tolerance of dissent, with 19 yellow cards shown for this offence, up from 10 in 2021.

Before the tournament, all the teams were told that only their captains could speak to the referees and cautions would be awarded to any other player who complained to the referee about a decision.

Rosetti said he was delighted with how this “protocol” was working, adding that he had spoken to “top players and coaches” about it and “everyone is happy”.

He also said UEFA had already been contacted by many of its member associations to ask how they could roll out the same approach, and confirmed that it would be used in UEFA’s club competitions next season.

In his presentation, he highlighted two positive examples of “captain-referee cooperation”. The first involved Harry Kane and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg during the England-Denmark game. The other was the conversation between French referee Clement Turpin and Scotland captain Andy Robertson while they waited for a VAR ruling on Ryan Porteous’ foul on Germany’s Ilkay Gundogan.

Euro 2024 refereeing: More bookings, quicker VAR, tactical foul crackdown (1)

(Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Rosetti described Robertson’s behaviour as “excellent…a great player, this is what we want”.

He was less impressed, though, with Italian captain Gianluigi Donnarumma, who rushed out of his box to complain about a foul on a Spanish player during their match and received a yellow card. Rosetti explained that Donnarumma had forgotten that teams captained by goalkeepers were allowed to nominate a vice-captain to speak to the referee and this meant one or the other could do it, not both, which is what happened in this case.

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On the always contentious topic of VAR, Rosetti said there were 20 corrections during the group-stage matches. Eight of them were on-field reviews, which resulted in two goals being disallowed, one goal awarded and five penalties given.

Perhaps the most controversial of these was the goal disallowed for Belgium during their match against Slovakia for a handball by Lois Openda in the build-up.

There were also 12 direct reviews, which means the decision was made by the VAR. Of these, two of the most memorable involved France goalkeeper Mike Maignan. The first was when Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries was adjudged to have stopped him from making an attempt to save Xavi Simons’ shot while in an offside position against France, and the second came when he came off his line too soon to save a Robert Lewandowski penalty against Poland.

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Rosetti said he and his colleagues on the UEFA referees committee had reviewed all of the VAR decisions and decided they were “100 per cent correct”.

“Our VARs are doing a very good job and we are super happy,” he said, noting that VAR decision times at Euro 2024 have also been marginally quicker than during last season’s Champions League tournament.

The one exception to that, however, was that decision to disallow Simons’ goal for the Dutch against France in Leipzig, which was made by Premier League referee Anthony Taylor and VAR official Stuart Attwell and took more than three minutes.

Euro 2024 refereeing: More bookings, quicker VAR, tactical foul crackdown (3)

Simons’ goal against France was disallowed after a VAR review (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Rosetti said his committee “totally supports” the decision, and was “happy with the full process”, but did acknowledge that “duration” was an issue, although he added that it was a difficult call which involved checks on an offside earlier in the move and a possible off-the-ball foul.

He also specifically praised Attwell’s VAR work in another clip he shared with reporters on Friday. This was the decision to disallow a consolation goal for Croatia against Spain, when Bruno Petkovic saw his penalty saved by Unai Simon but then scored when Ivan Perisic crossed the rebound to him for a tap-in. Attwell, however, correctly saw that Perisic had entered the area too soon.

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“I don’t need to say add comments — when Stuart Attwell is speaking it’s like from the textbook of modern VAR communication,” said Rosetti.

Returning to the Openda decision, Rosetti said this was one of three VAR decisions aided by “connected ball technology”, which involves a microchip in the ball that sends precise tracking data to the VAR officials in real time.

Without it, he said, it is very unlikely that anyone would have spotted the ball flicking Belgian player’s hand while he tussled for the ball with a Slovak defender, before crossing to Romelu Lukaku for what would have been a late equaliser.

But when the referee was called over to the monitor to review his decision, he was shown a graph that clearly demonstrated the precise moment the ball flicked Openda’s hand in the same way that cricket’s snickometer system operates, as shown in the bellow photo from UEFA.

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There was, however, one very controversial call that Rosetti did not choose to highlight and that was Argentine referee Facundo Tello’s decision to wave off Scottish appeals for a penalty in their defeat by Hungary.

The incident occurred in the 79th minutes of the match when Hungary defender Willi Orban appeared to take down Stuart Armstrong from behind when the Scotland substitute was through on goal.

But Rosetti said the decision was reviewed by the VAR who decided Armstrong had initiated the contact, a decision that the referees’ chief backed. He also pointed out that Scotland had benefited from another marginal call 11 minutes before, when John McGinn had pulled a Hungarian player’s shirt in the box.

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(Top photo: Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images)

Euro 2024 refereeing: More bookings, quicker VAR, tactical foul crackdown (6)Euro 2024 refereeing: More bookings, quicker VAR, tactical foul crackdown (7)

Based in North West England, Matt Slater is a senior football news reporter for The Athletic UK. Before that, he spent 16 years with the BBC and then three years as chief sports reporter for the UK/Ireland's main news agency, PA. Follow Matt on Twitter @mjshrimper

Euro 2024 refereeing: More bookings, quicker VAR, tactical foul crackdown (2024)
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