Refereeing during corona crisis: what if the referee is infected?

Refereeing during corona crisis. The German Bundesliga starts on May 16th, but what happens if the referee is infected? How are they tested? How are appointments done and can you safely be a VAR with social distancing? And which protocols are in place to protect players and referees during the restart of the season. You’ll get the answers to that in this article.

Lutz Michael Fröhlich in video of DFB sponsor Dekra.

Season starts soon: what happens?

Because the German Bundesliga restarts on May 16th, lots of things need to be arranged. I got inspired by this article by interview Alex Feuerherdt on ntv, where he spoke with the German referee boss Lutz Michael Fröhlich. Alex also makes the German referee podcast Collinas Erben with Klaas Reese. The chairman also spoke on the website of German football association DFB.

Special preparation for matchdays

“Both the special hygiene regulations and the corona tests as well as the whistling in front of empty stands require special preparation,” says Lutz Michael Fröhlich in an interview with ntv.de. But what does the special preparation look like?

  • Firstly, in the week before the season restart all referees will be tested for Covid 19. Fröhlich explains they haven’t been tested before, as they are not involved in group training sessions.
  • Secondly, the day before the game a referee, the assistants and the 4th official will be tested again. On the matchday before 10 am the result must be available.
  • If the result is negative: the referees are good to go. If not, another match official needs to be appointed. How that works? “If the venue is central, like the clubs in the west, we would be able to send a replacement in time that has a short journey”, the referee boss tels ntv.de. “In more remote venues, for example in Freiburg or Leipzig, it will be more likely that the 4th official is a Bundesliga referee who can take over the game if necessary.”
  • Because of this the match appointments will only be confirmed on the matchday on the DFB referee appointments page.
  • The DFB wants to put restrictions on travel. Ideally referees will travel on the matchday. If they stay in a hotel, only in approved hotels that meet certain hygiene requirements. Ideally travel distances are shorter, which has consequences for the appointments.

Refereeing appointments nearby

The appointments. German referees will be able to referee more teams than normally. In The Netherlands referees can’t officiate teams in their city, but in Germany match official won’t officiate teams in their region. Fröhlich explains: “We will not use the referees in their place of residence or in the immediate vicinity.” The journalist shows the example with referee Felix Brych, who is from the Bavarian region and the city Munich. He will not lead a game of FC Bayern Munich, but is allowed to officiaate games from FC Augsburg or 1. FC Nürnberg. Both clubs come from the Bavarian region as well.

Getting used to empty stadiums

Because refereeing in empty stadiums is different, German referees “will receive a presentation specifically on the topic of Games without a spectator”, Fröhlich says. “Which means that they can familiarize themselves with the changed background noise and acoustics of game situations.

Referee Andreas Ekberg in empty stadium in Europa League game in Frankfurt, Germany.

How referees in Germany kept active during lockdown

For Fröhlich it was important to stay in touch with their referees. On the German FA’s website he talks about the situation. With circulars in the first few weeks and phone calls at the starts, but with more education orientated information later on. “On April 9th ​​we had a big virtual meeting with all elite referees and assistant referees, where we presented the current situation and possible perspectives”, he says.

Online training program

In the last week of March the DFB also started an extensive online training program to get referees up-to-date with Laws of the Game and match situations. There were 10 topics referees can study on, such as handball, personal penalties, duels in the penalty area, how to use the VAR, offside exercises.

Want to practice yourself as well? That’s very crucial, says Lee Betts in a story on my blog. Make sure you find time. “After a physical training, I like to spend 1 hour on referee-related activities.” One of the options is watching clips in Uefa’s Refereeing Assistance Programmes.

Laws of the Game changes due to corona

IFAB has announced LOTG changes due to corona. For example extra substitutes. Check all changes due to corona.

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