Monday, 5 August 2019

Dangerous Commercial Tokenism in UEFA Super Cup - A week in refereeing that points to a darker future (Law 5 View, 2/3)

Though the 2019/20 season is in its infancy, we have certainly enjoyed an interesting week of European football; also, a rather controversial one too - regarding executive match calls, final appointments, and evaluation of crucial decisions.

In the second of our Law 5 View posts, we look at the surprising designation of Stéphanie Frappart to handle this year's UEFA Super Cup.

When predicting who would take charge of UEFA's annual Super Cup, it seemed it was not really a difficult task. Guessing appointments for UEFA's three major finals requires one to follow a general logical pattern that one follows to find a group of potential candidates; of UEFA Elite referees, you eliminate those from participating nations, those who already had the match (though UEFA were forced to break that last year), and those who's form wouldn't allow them to be a logical name for this game - then you have left a smaller group of referees from whom you can select.

It was the first condition where we all went wrong: despite never having handled a UEFA men's competition match before, it was Stéphanie Frappart who will handle the curtain-raiser for the European football season. Anybody who managed to guess that has a very special talent, or rather some inside information.

Stéphanie Frappart during the Women's World Cup 2019 Final.
French referee was praised medially for her performance in the showpiece game. 

Law 5 - The Referee blog categorically disagrees with this appointment.

Firstly, it puts absolutely immense pressure on the French-Irish team, especially Frappart herself. While such occasions such as her Ligue 1 début game Amiens-Strasbourg, two host nation matches at EURO 2017 (opening game and semifinal) and recent Women's World Cup Final give her great experience of big matches - the pressure in Istanbul will be a whole new level, and of a whole different tone.

The course of women's international refereeing will have changed in the interceding period between Frappart's first and last. Media will scrutinise her not personally, but as the best and pioneering female referee in men's football. In the worst case scenario, UEFA will have needlessly ruined the career of a great referee - her first season in Ligue 1 will be extremely challenging if the whole world sees her mess up [sic] this match. Furthermore, how female referees will fare even long in the future could be determined by how this match goes. What a pretext for Frappart to officiate the biggest game of her life, besides all the typical pressure of handling a big final. But, something that is the key thread of this post, UEFA's appointment is not about Frappart.

Gianluca Rocchi during the Manchester United - Barcelona game this year.
Italian was logically appointed to handle UEFA Super Cup 2017. 

Secondly, it manages to further erode away the performance principle. Any final appointment at any level should reward a referee for positive work at that level, this is also true in UEFA competition (names such as Danny Makkelie, Ovidiu Hațegan, Clément Turpin, Cüneyt Çakır and Antonio Mateu Lahoz would fall into such category for this upcoming Super Cup). Conceptually, unless using a table of value computed by observer's marks that is anyway more-or-less impossible for UEFA, the idea of the performance principle is subject to individual differences, relying on one's perception of good performance. 2019 has not been a good year for deserved appointments at an international level - I don't go into specific details about each one - but this is by far the biggest destruction of the good performances -> good matches notion

As touched upon, performance principle relies on an individualistic opinion of good performance. We'll give an example: Alioum Alioum's appointment to the AFCON Final. While we disagree with that designation, and his performance (unsurprisingly) bore that out, it would be possible to justify his appointment, if CAF deems his passive, permissive approach in handling matches to avoid trouble as good. At least, there is still a performance principle visible. 

But Frappart's appointment is something else entirely - it even denies the existence of the performance principle itself, because there are no performances at all. It tells referees - it does not matter how you perform: you might still get a final, you might not - it would be impossible to know! For referees like the quintet above that is extremely demotivating. 

But, again, UEFA did not appoint Frappart because they thought she deserved it. 

Roberto Rosetti, Chief UEFA Refereeing Officer since 2018.
This role is de jure the most powerful in UEFA refereeing hierarchy.

Finally, we reject this appointment principally because it actually has nothing to do with refereeing. People who say this shows that gender does not matter in refereeing could not be more wrong: Frappart got this game because she is a woman. I read in the comments a comment that said, "this is nothing different than leftist ideology" - this is also fundamentally wrong.

Frappart's appointment is rather a pragmatic, business choice, this is even hinted at in the statement released on when UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin says "I always said that women's football has no limits" - this appointment has nothing to with Frappart or with refereeing; UEFA want to increase the amount of revenue they can make from the lucrative and exponential market of women's football. 

As was rightly said many times, why does it have to be a final, surely it is more logical that we start in CL / EL qualification like Nicole Petignat or any other referee did or even from the group stages. Indeed logical, but not as commercially valuable as the Super Cup for UEFA. In case of a good medial resonance - which has been maximised by the fact it's a Premier League duel - we can surely expect more "deserved" appointments in CL group stage. 

Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA President since 2016.
De facto the most powerful person in UEFA refereeing hierarchy?

At this point, we should say that Law 5 - The Referee does not hold any sexist viewpoints, there should absolutely be a place for women at the top-level of refereeing in men's football. In our opinion, such appointments as this are a step in a wrong, unmeritocratic direction that does more to harm women's refereeing. Stéphanie Frappart with this appointment becomes a fall guy for very powerful people.

We find it impossible to say that Roberto Rosetti himself ordered this appointment. Some might suggest he is a man without principles; we disagree. He does like all of us, have a family to provide for and surely still a passion to do the best for refereeing; that deserves our respect. A resignation in any case would likely be futile and not manage to change anything. 

This appointment should be viewed as the latest step, of many, that undermines referees by using them not as humans but as a means to an ends, which is visible in all big confederations. Many different reasons for that, but the results are clear - such track is contributing to a slow, gradual destruction of refereeing; we are deeply convinced that Law 5 - The Referee has to speak out about such things and hold big confederations to account, in the perhaps utopian and unrealistic hope that our voice can make a difference. 

Refereeing team smile after the Women's World Cup 2019 Final.
From left: Manuela Nicolosi, Frappart and Michelle O'Neill.
Trio together will handle UEFA Super Cup 2019. 
Besides all that politics, we should not forget there is a trio of women who just want to officiate the biggest match of their lives well. 

We would like to wish Stéphanie Frappart, Manuela Nicolosi and Michelle O'Neill well for the UEFA Super Cup 2019!

Tomorrow: a look at the latest relativisation regarding crucial decisions in Germany's Super Cup. 


  1. A general remark...

    I agree with most of the statements above in this article. I disagree with pretty much everything in the first post.

    I would like to ask you to consider these topics in a more differentiated way. It's good you trigger discussion by strong messages and maybe you also need to use strong and sensational words for that...

    But I think you don't signal much ability and willingness for discourse and debate by that. Very much black-white-arguing (to stay in the colors: 'darker future' is dramaturgic and not helpful), and most important, not taking into account bigger pictures.

    An example: If the safety officers and UEFA are pretty sure that the Northern Irish team would not have got out of this hell safely if they had abandoned the match or ordered the penalties to be retaken, if they would have been harmed, injured, murdered (you never know what happens in such a hell!!!) - then who would have assumed responsibility for this? You certainly not? UEFA, surely. Blogs like this one would have been the first to blame them. We can blame them for allowing such teams to play the competition. However, some things cannot be anticipated. Things can erupt in football without prediction.

    So why, my God, can't we start to think that the people in charge might have some good reasons for what they are doing? They are experienced, they have years of background in their profession (many UEFA security officers have a long track record in their domestic police). They have to decide within seconds of pressure knowing that this affects people's health. It's easy to judge such things from the couch at home.

    Same goes for VAR-decisions. If you maintain the same 'not-big-picture'-level in the next article, I don't think you will do a credit to discourse about refereeing. Let me anticipate this: There was a very nuanced and very correct comment on the Kimmic action (violent conduct or not). The reader pointed to the criterion of excessive force and intensity. He's very right, it's something you can't really judge in the slowmos we have seen here... this nuanced comment did not get any reply by Chefren, Mikael, or other lead users here. This shows me that there is little understanding of big picture refereeing (which is very important for assessment of violent conduct) but it shows me even more that there is little willingness for discourse and showing tribute and respect to more differentiated opinions. Opinions which could enrich discussions, make it broader. Which could make posts like the first article in this series unnecessary because more arguments and perspectives are shed light on, which could make the blog's statements more mature.

    Thanks a lot.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. @Anonymous 9:46 as we already stated for some similar situations occurred on previous days, we wont accept such comments in which without evidence an anonymous is attacked.

    3. Well, I didn't reply to that comment, but I will reply to yours now.

      To my taste, any use of violence, performed in a non-friendly manner (I say this because of course, a soft slap in a friendly context between two players is not worth a card of any colour), away from the ball and in a tense situation, is automatically worth a YC at the very least. In this exact situation, the hitting point makes it a very clear red card for me. It's not unsporting, it's violent. The stamp is on an articulation, which are parts of the body prone to injuries. Had it been a kick, no one would have defended a YC. Yet this kind of action is at least as dangerous as a kick, if not more.

      My view is that violent conducts should be banned from football in all its forms. It should not be measured (has it been hard enough to break his ankle? No? Then YC!) when the ball is out of the equation. What bigger picture do you think of in this case? I can accept that in the case of Hunter, followed by an official disqualification statement as soon as the officials are safe. If there are concerns that any further UEFA match in that stadium will produce security problems for that decision, ban the team altogether until UEFA are satisfied that the security conditions are appropriate. But not punishing those kind of incidents (VC both of them) only endangers the players and officials in further games, in which those violent people might try to go a step further to seek the limit.

    4. We were taught here that if the incident targeted to hurt/provoke an opponent has place off the ball/play and it has nothing to do with fight for the ball in play, the force doesn't need to be very high in order to deem it as violent conduct because 'excessive force' is almost everything above normal contact here. And it was the conclusion everyone agreed with.

      Nowadays, it seems to be a different interpretation, that many argue with (and rightly so!): even if you deliberately step on an opponent, the force has to be very high in order to deem it as violent conduct.

      The next step of such relativisation (it has nothing to do with the big picture, tbh) is the following scenario: a player clearly deliberately steps on an lying opponent's chest but performs that in a very sneaky way, without any jump or additional movement. Those who prefers such 'big-picture refereeing' will argue the force is not enough to call it a violent conduct. It's absurd but the arguments about "big-picture refereeing" are like this.

      Once again: at an off-the-ball/play incident targeted to hurt/provoke an opponent almost everything above normal contact (apart from 'normal' (mutual) pushing - mandatory YC(s)!), for example every deliberate stamp, strike and kick, should be deemed as 'excessive force' and a red card is fully in line with the LoTG here.

  2. +1, superb post

  3. OT: Ligue 1 (Matchday 1)

    09.08 (Friday)
    Monaco - Olympique Lyonnais, 20:45 CET, referee: Ruddy Buquet (VAR: François Letexier)

    10.08 (Saturday)
    Olympique de Marseille - Stade de Reims, 17:30 CET, referee: Brisard Jérôme (VAR: Sébastien Moreira)
    Dijon - Saint-Étienne, 20:00 CET, referee: Thomas Leonard (VAR: Amaury Delerue)
    Nice - Amiens, 20:00 CET, referee: Jérémie Pignard (VAR: Benoît Millot)
    Montpellier - Stade Rennais, 20:00 CET, referee: Willy Delajod (VAR: Jérémie Stinat)
    Angers - Girondins de Bordeaux, 20:00 CET, referee: Hakim Ben El Hadj (VAR: Karim Abed)
    Stade Brestois - Toulouse, 20:00 CET, referee: Olivier Thual (VAR: Florent Batta)

    11.08 (Sunday)
    Lille - Nantes, 15:00 CET, referee: Mikael Lesage (VAR: Eric Wattellier)
    Strasbourg - Metz, 17:00 CET, referee: Antony Gautier (VAR: Benoît Millot)
    Paris Saint-Germain - Nîmes Olympique, 21:00 CET, referee: Clément Turpin (VAR: Karim Abed)

    1. Better not to spoil Frappart before Super Cup, right?

    2. Frappart is appointed in Ligue 2 on Friday evening.

  4. Maybe ít's just better to test her here. Supercup is (like community shield) for teams a "friendly" they like to win, however not to sad about if they lose.
    So if her performance would be below average "so be it".
    However if she was tested in Preliminary CL and her performance should be below average, then there is hell to pay for UEFA from the losing side as being knocked out of CL cost them a lot of money.
    So there might be more logic to this appointment that one maybe should think.

    1. I've mentioned already a couple of times in the past days that Supercup is NOT a friendly in UEFA. Ask William Collum, who never really recovered from his nightmare performance in 2015 (I think it was assessed as a 7.2 performance back on "The 3rd Team" blog. And before 2015 Super Cup, Collum was really a promising referee who was consistent and a safe pair of hands. Ever since then, he's pretty "shaky", if you know what I mean...

    2. It is not a friendly to UEFA, but it usually is to both of the teams.

  5. OT: VAR at AFCON 2019.
    I have made a spreadsheet containing statistics about VAR at the AFCON, all information about every of the 5 VAR reviews and links to full videos of the reviews. Check it out at

  6. OT:
    Shame for Croatia.
    Ivan Bebek was attacked by some group of people.
    I assume they're Hajduk fans because it happened near Split,where Hajduk plays.

    We can remember few years ago Hajduk fans attacked Bruno Maric,giving him multiple injuries.

    In Bebek's case I think it's not that bad but it is enough that he in the future would like to be excluded from any Hajduk match which will be shame if we dont see him refereeing Croatia's biggest match between Dinamo and Hajduk.

    1. The attack was in the middle of the night in front of some night club. Bruno Maric was attacked in a restaurant in the middle of the day, and after a huge mistake in croatian derby Hajduk-Dinamo in 96 minute.

      The previous day Bebek was officiating Hajduk-Lokomotiva in Split and Hajduk won 3:0, so i dont see how it could be a motive. We will see what official investigation reveals.

  7. German Supercup:

    Fröhlich and Drees said today that it was a clear mistake by the VAR.
    Daniel Siebert did not see the incident, so that an OFR would have been necessary.
    But Robert Schröder and Christof Günsch did not follow the VAR-protocol and they took the decision "Yellow Card" without Daniel Siebert.
    So the VAR and not the referee on the pitch took the decision.
    A real shame for DFB.

    1. Wow! The VAR protocol has been broken! Unbelievable mistake by Schröder - it's not a wrong/dubious interpretation but just an inexcusable violation of internal procedure. Sorry, but my decision would be a suspension although I read that Drees doesn't seem that as a very big mistake (relativisation again).

      I criticized both Fröhlich and Drees many times in the past but this time I have to praise Fröhlich for transparency and not relativising / backing involved referees at all cost. I read that Fröhlich stated that every deliberate stamp in off-the-ball incident is a red card offence. Well done!

    2. I praise DFB for transparency this time and I fully agree with Mhmd S. AlKhalifi on the rest. What Schröder did is absolutely uacceptable for a referee at his level. They decided from VAR room for YC without allowing referee to rewatch? One can't believe that. I would be very harsh with Schröder, he could miss the whole season as VAR.

  8. +1, I completely agree.

    I also wrote an article on the appointment of Frappart, feel free to check it out.

    1. Great blog, great article. Fully agree with your thoughts. A shame that you have got so few followers on Twitter - the blog is high quality. So, people, please have a look at the blog and it's account. ;)

  9. Mikael W, but can't you really think that she'd referee the match well? You only talked about the negative consequences for her and UEFA, I'd like to see your face if she should referee well or very well. All your theories would evaporate

    1. I'm waiting for Chefren's advice.

    2. You talk about worst case scenario...try to imagine the opposite.

    3. The question is… what do you expect that will happen if she referees well or very well (which is what I expect from any referee appointed for a final game)?

    4. I'll answer after they answer.

    5. No answer yet...I wait patiently

  10. Why should she be treated differently to all the other referees? Prior to this year the Super Cup went to an Elite referee with experience of CL group games and knock out matches. What changed?
    To allow someone to referee the Super Cup with only 2 matches in their top division and no experience of the 2 sides (or equivalent) is wrong.
    I say this not because she is a woman but that she has no experience of top level mens football, which is definitely faster, more intense and more physical that the women's equivalent
    I see no justification in the appointment at all

  11. But can't you wait before you judge? You might all be surprised.

    1. Its not about how she performs (I have wished her well on another forum)
      Its the fact a man will never have such little experience and be appointed to that game

  12. OT

    Hunter's injury is worth 3 matches behind closed doors. That's what UEFA decided.

    No comment...........

  13. Thanks, Law-5, for making these reasonable articles about the bad things currently happening in refereeing and at least trying to make a difference! Who knows, maybe someone from UEFA reads this blog and will start to act more appropriate?
    Talking about the appointment, sad to see the mainly positive reaction from people in social networks and media. Most 'ordinary people' (they who haven't any refereeing knowledge) and even some referees (who lack general knowledge about 'the refereeing world' (I mean about all happening outside one's matches, the laws and his league; for example, they don't know what level referees are usually appointed in certain UEFA matches and how the referees gradually progress before getting there...)) are very satisfied. I won't say anything more - my tweet (,this post and the Player23 post (link higher in comments) expresses my opinion about this ridiculous appointment. But of course, as always, I wish very good luck to Stephanie and her team!

  14. For decades now, UEFA and FIFA have treated women's football as a 'separate sport', in the sense that only women referees were allowed at the top, even in those periods when clearly there were not enough good women referees. (Judging from the 2019 WC this may still be the case). So perhaps we are a bit late in protesting the Frappart appointment. Prestige/propaganda and a false sense of gender equity have been with us for a long time. The women players want the best referees, but apparently they cannot have male referees. If women referees are now seen as candidates for the highest men's games, why not have symmetry and allow the opposite. Top men referees should be able to handle women's games, as long as they have some experience with it. And two questions become obvious: why have an UEFA list of referees with many levels and slow progress to the top, if someone (regardless of gender) can come from the outside and get one of the most prestigious assignments. Why then not some male referees for several of the top/CL games for women each season? And if we think that Super Cup is a nonsense game which can be used for propaganda, then please eliminate it immediately!

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