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June 2021

Germany is facing its own refereeing scandal, by taking action, not hiding behind silence

by Tony Attwood

The big problem in Premier League refereeing is silence.  The silence engineered by PGMO, and only just, after years of missed opportunities, occasionally broken by the normally obsequious national media in England.

It is this silence that reveals why we are still struggling to show something is fundamentally wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.

But that silence has been broken in Germany.  There too they have problems with high-minded and heavy-handed officialdom.  But Germany found two Fifa referees (Gräfe and Brych) who have been willing to stand up and make serious allegations against DFB referee manager (Krug) and against Fandel, (the chairman of the referee committee).  It is a model for what we now urgently need in England.

The allegations focus on “nepotism” and “lack of transparency” in the selection and nomination of the Bundesliga referees.  There is also the accusation that Krug has asked referee observers in some cases subsequently to change the ratings of several referees.

Manuel Gräfe is ranked as a UEFA top group of referees having been officiating in the Bundesliga since 2004, receiving his FIFA license in 2007.

And he has spoken out on the issue of who gets what match, and how referees are rated by Hellmut Krug and Herbert Fandel, “The two have made their referee list as they wanted it, it was not primarily based on performance.”   Krug is described as a consultant to the DFL in matters of refereeing but thought by many to be the key player in the referee’s association.  Herbert Fandel was chairman of the DFB referee commission – and since 2011 he has been a member of the UEFA Referees Committee.

In short, Manuel Gräfe in Germany asks the question no PL referee would ever dare to ask.  The question that even recently more questioning English newspapers still don’t ask about the PL.  The question the UK media won’t report because they know it will focus even more questions on PGMO.  “How do referees get into top referees group, and what happens to them once there?”

Others, like ex-FIFA referee Bernd Heynemann, agreed with Gräfe and he is certainly not the first to comment critically on the way German refereeing has been organized for years. The most recent case was Ms Bibiana Steinhaus. The referee was (according to a secret ranking of the DFB in 2016 organised by the referee’s association), the best ref in the second division.  But she then failed to get promotion to the Bundesliga.   She is quoted as saying that the rating system in Germany depends on who you know and what they want.

The system has also been criticized by Babak Rafati. The referee, accused Krug and Fandel of systematically bullying him and he tried to take his life before a Bundesliga game in November 2011. He had not once received approval for his work, he said, but only “cold and relentless bullying” by Fandel, Rafati. “There was a lack of appreciation for me as a human being,” he said.  “Just this endless vote of no confidence from the boss, who supposedly has a duty of care to his employees.”

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Fandel is widely reported to have said to him: “Everyone is allowed to make mistakes, only you can not, Babak!”    Fandel and Krug denied the allegations.

And then there was Felix Zwayer, who was also mentioned by Gräfe.  Zwayer was a referee assistant who more than ten years ago was found guilty of fixing games and collecting money on behalf of a betting syndicate. Zwayer was then 23 years old and after the verdict of the DFB sports court in May 2004, he helped in the investigation of the case. He was suspended by the sports court for six months for reporting the events too late. He is now a FIFA referee, and is ranked as a UEFA elite group referee.

Legally, that case is closed, but Gräfe is now asking if it is morally right that someone who, according to the sports court ruling, has accepted money as a referee, should get such a prominent position Gräfe accuses  Fandel and Krug indirectly of having promoted Zwayer, because of something that came out of the deal in which he helped the 2004 investigation.

So Manuel Graefe remains very dissatisfied, and in a way that we have never seen in England, he is speaking out, and speaking plainly saying, “It is now up to the DFB to make changes…. Since 2015, I have repeatedly addressed this entire issue internally both to those responsible for the referees’ committee as well as to the higher levels of the DFB and, ultimately, to the public.”

Of late he has accused Fandel and Krug of zero transparency, bad leadership style and nepotism.  “And now we see it in the inadequate treatment of the subject of video evidence,” he added.

Then the Fifa and Uefa elite referee Felix Brych described his similar personal experiences in recent years with Hellmut Krug and Herbert Fandel, and as spokesman for the Bundesliga referee the impression of several referees according to German newspapers.

Now the Presidium of the German Football Association has decided to implement a far-reaching structural reform within the referee’s association. In the future, a key role will be played by national team manager Oliver Bierhoff.

The current referee dispute is meanwhile a case for the DFB ethics committee. “In our opinion, it is time to have the conflict reviewed by a neutral body,” said DFB Vice President Ronny Zimmermann. The committee, led by former Foreign and Justice Minister Klaus Kinkel, is already examining the  allegations of Bundesliga referee Manuel Gräfe against former referee bosses Herbert Fandel and Hellmut Krug, who continue to hold influential posts at the DFB.

After a “peace summit”  in the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt brought no settlement in the affair the Ethics Committee of the DFB suggested that Hellmut Krug will retire from his position on the Elite Referees Committee and remain the head of the Video Assistant project.

“Manuel Gräfe will not speak about internal matters and about colleagues in public,” a statement said. If he does he will no longer be used as a referee in the Bundesliga, according to the DFB. In addition, he will no longer act as a video assistant in the Bundesliga.

The ethics committee headed by the former Federal Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel has, it is said, in recent days “dealt intensively with the disagreements in refereeing.” In a personal conversation between Kinkel and Fandel, Krug, Gräfe and Felix Brych, as well as numerous other contacts, “an agreement was reached that is supported by all members of the Commission”.

The proposal also provides that in addition to the changes that have already been initiated – such as the rating system, fees and mentoring – the DFB will “once again develop a modern, transparent and fair structure in the  area of refereeing”.

Is such ferment bubbling under the surface in England?  Certainly given the fanatical devotion to secrecy by the PGMO it would seem likely.  What we need now is for someone to speak out.


13 comments to Germany is facing its own refereeing scandal, by taking action, not hiding behind silence

  • The_Ledge

    Jeff Winter aired issues with elevation in his book. Mark Halsey spoke about PGMOL in his.

    Nobody took it on, and nobody seems to care.

    The game in England is now too big for anybody to try to destabilize it.

    The only people who MIGHT change it are fans, but we have no voice!

  • WalterBroeckx

    So there can be no bias with top referees and at the top of the referee world they told us time and time again. I said the contrary. There is bias both with referees and at the top people.
    Now in Germany my point of view has been confirmed.
    A bravo to the German refs who spoke out and for the authorities to act and take out people who don’t play according to the rules of neutrality.

  • WalterBroeckx

    According to Bild Kruge (who is a Schalke supporter) tried to influence referee decisions with the VAR system in the match Schalke-Wolfsburg…. but no there is no bias at the top of the referees. Impossible they told me time and time again. Despite the scandals like in Italy….
    Now change the name Kruge with Riley (who is a proven Arsenal hater and Mu fan – match 50) and you can start to see what is happening….

  • Jax

    I don’t know how old your story is Tony, but it seems to need updating as Bibiana Steihaus became a Bundesliga referee this season.
    As an aside, she’s also Howard Webb’s girlfriend

  • I am not waiting with bated breath for what is happening in Germany to occur in England anytime soon. The forces in favor of the status quo are well entrenched. I may be wrong but it just doesn’t look like it would happen unless an insider, who currently is on the gravy train gets short changed and blows the whistle. Ah ha.

  • Jax

    Bibiana Steinhaus

  • Shakabula Gooner

    This sad Arsenal fan no longer looks forward to watching Arsenal play against a top 6 club. It’s so blatant that it will be wrong to call it a hidden agenda by the match officials against Arsenal.

    Yet, I wonder: Why this bias against Arsenal, year after year? What is the motive? What keeps it burning annually? In what way do the other clubs “conform” that Arsenal fail to do the same? Time it was when the excuse was that Arsenal has a non-British coach but now, ALL top EPL clubs have non-British coaches.

  • Menace

    I think it is a corrupt bunch who were involved way back when Marseille were outed by Wenger. They, together with our corrupt bunch have a lot to hide & pocket.

  • Menace

    The brown envelope brigade (household names including ex Arsenal players) that were involved with football were skimming the game wholesale. Then Stroller got caught with his fingers in the cookie jar & everyone panicked except for ‘Red Nose’ who just kept control of the officials & media. They didn’t like the intrusion of honesty so they make it pay with loss of true success. Despite it all, success came has kept coming, pissing in the pizzas that were scoffing. They just cannot control honesty as it always rises & upsets the corrupt.

    Lets not forget where & how far corruption has been proven. The Palace of Westminster, Maggie Thatcher & the Police that reported on Hillsborough & were involved in the miners strike, The media under News International – includes their holdings (9%) in football clubs that were totally legal but immoral. They didn’t have Arsenal shares (now aint that a shame).

    There’s a lot more but I’m sure Tony will write a whole book on social corruption in England one day.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Johnny races into the farmhouse and yells excitedly to his Grandpa, “Hey Grandpa, the bull is fucking the cow!”

    Grandpa informs Johnny that he won’t tolerate this sort of playground language on his farm and that in future if Johnny wants to inform him about such things, he should say something like “The bull is surprising the cow.”

    A few weeks later, Johnny is again visiting the farm. Once again he comes racing in and yells, “Grandpa, the bull is surprising the cows.”

    Grandpa says to Johnny, “I’m pleased to hear that after my conversation with you a few weeks ago, you have cleaned up your language”,”However, your grammar is not quite correct.
    It is not “the bull is surprising the cows”; it is “the bull is surprising the cow”.
    The bull can only surprise one cow at a time.”

    Johnny replies, “No Grandpa, the bull is surprising all the cows because he’s fucking the horse!”

  • Any institution or socio-cultural environment where corruption is rampant, honest and disciplined folks stand out like an accusing finger pointing at the crooks. The corrupt elements cannot tolerate such cleanness of soul and would do everything to make that person join their brigandage. When they fail to convince that person to join them, what happens next is to device means to hound him out of the system to ensure that only their ‘own’ sort remain around so that they can continue in their corrupt practices in an unhindered manner.

    AFC appears to me to be the one Club that is refusing to play the ‘game’ as others may be playing it and for this it’s fortunes in football are being hampered in every possible manner. Arséne happens to be the lead character on the AFC side. Wherever you are out numbered by crooks in any environment and you refuse to join them, be prepared to endure what Arsenal is going through.

    Unless AFC changes its ethos and values, what they currently hold dear and valuable will forever clash with what is out there. We should not expect to see any white flags on either side soon. The triumph of good over evil is usually delayed but it is inevitable.

  • Rich

    Oh, oh. I’ve been drawn back. Felt I’d exhausted all I could say about the ref situation here in past but, maybe not.

    Old Dermott Gallagher has caught my attention today. The fact he condemns Wenger’s comments and claims it was a good pen is of little interest. Both were guaranteed.

    It’s the issue of him being used extensively by SKY and presented only as ‘ex ref Dermot Gallagher’. I’m 99 per cent certain that, at least until recently, he is an important figure within pgmol. The 0. something of doubt is purely because an error of memory from me is not impossible.

    Anyway, I believe that last year I read extensively about part of his role at Pgmol in Howard Webb’s autobiography. Gallagher, working for Pgmol, can be found in a dedicated studio on most match days, watching live footage of the games and ready at al times to communicate with their media partners- Sky, BT.

    For the brief period Webb worked with PGMOL after his retirement as a ref one of his jobs was working alongside Gallagher on these occasions. The job of the Pgmol men was to be ready to answer any live enquiries from sky or BT about ref issues during the match, while also recording any incidents they believed were noteworthy, presumably with their own notes.

    One extra little job for them was compiling a little dvd, which they would use during a meeting they held with the Motd lads before that programme is filmed in the evening. They share studios in Salford. All so cosy and neat, and, i’m sure, defensible on the grounds of being entirely sensible practice, featuring fair, respected referees imparting their wisdom.

    So why do SKY use Gallagher endlessly as ‘ex ref’ Gallagher instead of ‘current pgmol whatever Gallagher’. For me there’s no escaping the conclusion this is a dishonest and misleading practice.

    Anyway, while looking for any confirmation of Gallagher’s status within pgmol, I found none, even though I am pretty sure I have seen some previously. During my brief look around I again got the impression they have tightened up their secrecy more than ever. There was never much information about them, but I’m almost certain there was more in the past. For instance details about others in the organisation aside from Riley and the refs.

    Before, I found with no effort stuff about the make-up of the pgmol board, past and present, but I suspect this is harder to find now, and I’m also pretty sure the premier league website now gives less info than in the past. Until about a year ago, it allowed you to look through the history of the refs games year by year. No more.

    Was hardly enough to find anything damning on them, but it did let you see things like what happens to a ref who supposedly makes a big mistake in our favour, and other bits and bobs like that- marriner not doing a Utd game for couple of years after upsetting Ferguson, etc. But it seems it was enough for them to decide to remove it.

  • para

    When you don’t play by their rules, they shut you out of the circle.