Friday 21 June 2013

Positioning Guidelines For FIFA Referees

The 2013 UEFA U21 European Championships held in Israel was home to some wonderful matches from players, some solid performances from match officials, and some fantastic entertainment in general for everyone involved.

For informative and insightful analyses, I suggest visiting The Third Team website. It is a great website looking at refereeing from Europe. They also have some dedicated and passionate "blog observers" who produce useful and helpful assessment reports.

My observation here is just a comment on the consistency of knowledge amongst all the upcoming referees from Europe. The natural assumption is that all FIFA referees are familiar with the LOTG—especially with the interpretations—and with special guidelines or directives that arise from time to time.

On this basis, it is puzzling to see the positioning of Referee Matej Jug (Slovenia) during penalty kicks. The following incidents occurred during the 2013 UEFA U21 Final between Italy and Spain on Tuesday 18 June 2013. The match finished 2—4, with 7 YCs.

Penalty One

In the 37', Referee Jug is perfectly positioned to make the correct call. Here are the freeze frames:

Notice the Italian players surrounding and hounding the Referee

Look at Referee Jug's positioning

Penalty Two

In the 64', Referee Jug is far behind from play as an Italy defender trips the Spain attacker. Here are the freeze frames:

A couple of seconds after the foul. Referee Jug comes into the frame. Who made the penalty call? The EAR or AR?

Referee Jug keeps his whistle in his mouth (see similar "whistle in mouth" case here). Something else (not a second whistle) dangles on the other end. What is it? It looks like a dog tag or key fob.

Again, notice the Referee's positioning


Referee Matej Jug (Slovenia) and his colleagues who officiated at these U21 Championships are the next generation of top FIFA referees from Europe. They are currently categorized as Elite Development FIFA referees. The fact that there are still obvious inconsistencies with the interpretation of the LOTG should raise some concern. All match officials at international level should have sufficient training and knowledge to be consistently correct in the basic positioning concepts as described in the LOTG.

I can perhaps excuse the blatant performance of older match officials who stubbornly refuse to change their ways even in the face of the most up-to-date FIFA guidelines. The example here would be the stubborn and slovenly AR Arhar who previously worked with up-and-coming Slovenian Referee Damir Skomina (example here).

However, for Elite Development FIFA Referees, there can be no excuse for any inconsistencies with regard to the standard interpretations of the LOTG. If this basic procedure (i.e. positioning for a penalty kick) cannot be followed consistently amongst all FIFA referees, then what does it say about the referee assessors and instructors of the next generation of top FIFA referees? This blog has previously mentioned consistency problems amongst the next generation of referees (see here).

The match officials for the Final were:
Referee: Matej Jug (SVN)
Assistant Referee 1: Roland Brandner (AUT)
Assistant Referee 2: Vencel Tóth (HUN)
Additional Assistant Referee 1: Halis Özkahya (TUR)
Additional Assistant Referee 2: Ivan Kružliak (SVK)
Fourth Official: Ivan Bebek (CRO)
UEFA Referee Observer: Hugh Dallas (SCO)
UEFA Delegate: Petr Fousek (CZE)


  1. First: Matej Jug is 33 yo, is no ED ref but only in First Group.
    Second: it was impossible for him to have an optimum positioning in the 2nd penalty scene. It was a very quick counterattack with some unexpected moves and passes. Freeze frames are nice but they blur reality in this case.
    Furthermore, you could pay more attention to the basic performance, which was overall very good.

  2. Thank you Anon for your comments. Although your comments are not relevant to the main message of this post, I shall nevertheless address them (to emphasize the main message).

    1) I apologize for assigning the incorrect category of FIFA referee for Matej Jug (sorry, I promoted him prematurely !!). However, this does not excuse the fact that he is still a FIFA referee, and as an international referee, Jug has shown a different application to FIFA's standard positioning for penalty kicks.

    I would imagine that Jug's local and regional referees association will have taught this standard positioning for penalty kicks at the start of his early refereeing career, or given updates. Later, Jug's national referees association will have taught this too, so that all national level referees should apply FIFA's suggested positioning consistently. And then FIFA workshops and meetings would have probably covered this too (with assessors pointing out any incorrect applications of the Laws). Throughout this chain from local referee level to FIFA level — where referees receive regular assessment reports — the aim is to teach and achieve a consistent standard of refereeing performance.

    2) I did not comment on the reason *why* Jug was far behind play when the second penalty occurred. Obviously, there will be times when the match referee is far behind play and must therefore rely on the assistance of his AR (and EAR, if applicable). I simply asked who made the call? The AR or EAR? Was there assistance and teamwork?

    3) Early on in the post I clearly stated that others have observed and assessed the performance of Jug (see The Third Team). The main message of this post was just an observation about the inconsistencies of the application of the LOTG amongst FIFA referees. We should be concerned that if there are inconsistencies amongst FIFA referees about relatively "simple knowledge" (i.e. the basic knowledge of positioning for penalty kicks) then what other inconsistencies might exist amongst FIFA referees … who, we are told, are always striving for consistency? This is the concern.

  3. Ok, I'll bite. What's wrong with his position on the two PKs? You don't elaborate on that while implying its not correct.

    1. I'm curious on this one... Are you implying that the Center Referee is standing at the wrong spot during the PK? To me - he's sort of halfway between where he should be for a PK and Kicks from the Mark. And the AR is standing where he should be during Kicks from the Mark, not a PK. Glad your website is up and running. Chris

  4. Standing a few metres out of position on a penalty kick... THE HORROR!!!

  5. Thank you everyone for your comments.

    I have posted a response in "FIFA Guidelines For Referees: Positioning for a Penalty Kick"

    Please feel free to comment further if clarification is needed.

  6. I'm also a bit confused about your positioning comments - please elaborate with reference to this article... it looks standard to me!

  7. Here's a previous post that can serve as a good teaching example of positioning during penalty kicks ...