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Urs Meier expects more European referees to quit

Former Swiss referee boss Urs Meier is shocked that four of twelve Swiss top referees will quit after this season. He warns the Football Association that there will be more refereeing problems in the future if the FA does not change it’s policy.

And Switzerland is not the only country which has to worry about their refereeing future, says Urs Meier in an interview with by the Dutch Referee Blog and World of Football Refereeing.

Last month Damien Carrel (30), Cyril Zimmermann (36) Daniel Wermelinger (41) and Ludovic Gremaud (32) announced their retirement as Swiss referee. They’ll stop after this season due to lack of respect and lack of financial support.

Urs Meier, who was Swiss referee boss from 2007 untill 2011: “I was a bit shocked by the news that four of the twelve Swiss top referees will quit officiating after this season. Especially because two of them are young referees, both from the French part of Switzerland. Damien Carrell, one of them, was even nominated to become a Fifa referee. It’s not usual, but they had no time anymore for refereeing.”

Screenshot of the website of Urs Meier, who’s now giving speeches at big companies.

Urs Meier: “At the time I was the referee chief – I quit about a year ago – I saw always that same problem with my referees. As referee department we need to get more time for them. The Swiss referee system needs a professional or semi-professional organisation with better training facilities and higher payments for referees, so they could stop working and spend more time in refereeing. The football association has to do something now, otherwise there will be more problems in the future. There are more young refs considering to stop.”


Urs Meier: “Refereeing nowadays costs more timen then before, for example in the period I was an international referee. There are more mandatory trainings, meetings and more appointments because there need to be extra assistants. That means they got less time for business and family. Refereeing takes more and more time, but some just couldn’t combine that with a job.”

I read about a sponsor contract between the Swiss SuperLeague and InfrontRingier for CHF 140.000 million in five years. The refereeing budget is only 200.000 francs, said the current chief Carlo Bertolini, your successor.

Urs Meier: “Football has become so professional. That also needs a change in the way we think about refereeing. But the association doesn’t want to. The four referees are not the only who stopped because they feel unappreciated. It’s the same with Massimo Busacca. If have not gotten the job at Fifa, he would looked for a job as fulltime referee in another country. Otherwise he would have stopped.”

But you made it as top referee without much financial support from the national FA.

Urs Meier: “Becoming top referee and going for it, is of course also a case for the referee himself. But there’s a difference: I was independent with my own business. I could spend the whole time on refereeing. All the referees who stopped have a good job. One’s a lawyer, another has a good position at a bank. You can’t spend more and more time on refereeing, they need to be at work too.”

Is this a Swiss problem?

Logo Swiss FA / Schweizerischer Fussballverband
Logo Swiss FA / Schweizerischer Fussballverband
Urs Meier: “No, it’s also a problem in other countries. The FA’s loose a lot of experiences due to lack of respect for referees. In Sweden and England they try to do something for the referees, but Austria’s is for example the same as Switzerland. But it’s not only salary. In Germany referees get more money than in some parts of Europe, but they also need a more professional referee structure. It’s not only money which gives a referee the feeling he’s a professional. They also need the possibilities to have proper training via internet and on the pitch.”

Do countries need to collaborate more?

Urs Meier: “They have the same problems and can help each other with creating professional referee structures. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to get a similar payment system for all countries. There are so many differences in each country, also in level and available money. But one thing is for sure: referees do need more money to be professional.”

What if the Swiss FA is going to spend more money to get a professional structure, as you suggested when you were the boss?

Urs Meier: “I am always there to help, but I am not going back to the situation when I was the head of refereeingin Switzerland. I’d like to compare the situation with a train that goes up the mountain to reach the top. There are other ways to reach the top, but you need to pick just one. In refereeing I’d choose the route with a professional structure and only go this way.”

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