Blatter: Professional referees are the way forward
In an exclusive interview for German sports weekly kicker, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter discusses potential changes to the laws of the game, the problem of gambling, professional referees and FIFA's new deal with equipment manufacturer adidas.
kicker: Joseph S. Blatter, how concerned is the FIFA President about the match-fixing scandal in Germany?
Blatter: Let's never forget football is a game. Competitors in every sport - football, sailing, tennis, cards, whatever - are always looking for an advantage. Nothing surprises me in football. But if it affects the referees who are the authority figures at every match, and if the official neglects his authority, rights and also his duties and loses respect, then I have to say I'm shocked.
What has to be done?
We have to get to the bottom of it. The German Football Association (DFB) and the public prosecutor in Berlin are both looking into it. We've seen the written evidence. I trust the DFB and the judiciary. I believe they will work quickly - it will be dealt with more quickly in the football world than the courts - and they'll get to the bottom of it and establish the facts. There needs to be transparency about what's happened. You have to say one question mark remains: how come it's taken so long to become public knowledge?
Match-fixing appears to be an international problem.
Match-fixing isn't new. We cleared up a case of corruption in south-east Asia. The local judiciary and association have both intervened there. But in that case it involved players not referees.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was quoted as saying this week in the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport that FIFA ought to reopen the case of the 2002 World Cup match between South Korea and Italy, as referee Moreno made some bizarre decisions in South Korea's 2-1 victory.
It's all very easy with hindsight. Blazevic (the former Croatia coach) has also been speaking out. At the moment there's a case in progress in Germany but we're not getting involved. We've been assured by the Austrian association there's no evidence of any such incidents. The Czech association has intervened in one case which has needed attention for a few months now regarding a referee. In any case, one important subject on the agenda at the FIFA Executive meeting on 7 and 8 March is refereeing.
Can you say anything concrete about Rummenigge's suspicions? Will you re-open the "Moreno case"?
You'll have to ask Rummenigge exactly what he means. We questioned Moreno, not because of the match but due to statements he made and because he appeared unprofessional. What we have established is that the regulations laid down by the FIFA President for the Referees' Committee were not observed. These regulations specify that a referee and his assistants should have worked together as a unit. In this case we got to the last sixteen and quarter-finals and found ourselves with refereeing teams who were not acting as a unit.
Can you stop match-fixing?
You can't prevent gambling. And you can't stop players or referees betting via third parties. I like a bet occasionally, but if I don't have time to buy a ticket I send my assistant. You should only introduce bans you can realistically enforce, and that's not possible with a gambling ban. Before the last World Cup, the FIFA Executive Committee resolved not to enter sponsorship agreements with betting companies. But you can't ban betting. Betting is a huge part of our culture. It began with the Toto in Italy before the Second World War. We needed Toto and football to raise money for the sport.
Gaming company ODDSET is an Official Supplier of the 2006 World Cup.
ODDSET is an official state-run company. We had many offers from English private companies. If the German OC takes on a state-run operation as a supplier to the World Cup I don't see it as inconsistent.
Are German referees now less well regarded internationally?
I don't believe German referees are any worse off. The bribery scandal has damaged the entire world of refereeing.
Referees are now named no more than two days before matches in Germany. Is that a vote of no confidence?
Other associations - Italy, Brazil and Mexico for example - have been doing that for ages. It's not a question of trust. It takes pressure off the referees. If a referee knows he has a vital game coming up in a week's time it just puts pressure on him. Naming referees at the last moment is for their protection and doesn't indicate a lack of confidence.
So you approve of last-minute assignments?
As late as possible.
Would professional referees help?
It's THE solution! I've been saying it for a decade and I don't want to say it again. Professional refereeing would be a career, and once you have a career, and you see it as going to work, then you're not going to cheat. It's a question of professional honour. Referees should not be able to say to themselves, "Once this is over I can go back to something else." It's the solution. There's so much money in professional football there has to be enough for the referees to be paid properly, by which I mean well-paid. Not on a per-match basis. They should sign fixed-term contracts and be paid by the association and not by the league.
Can you define well-paid?
We were once ready to table a FIFA dossier which proposed three categories. If we're talking about Europe, category A included the biggest leagues, meaning Germany, England, France, Holland, Italy and Spain, and in South America it was Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, where the referees are already contracted to their association.
So you are talking about professional referees?
In Argentina, Brazil and Mexico they're contracted to their associations. In England it's the Premier League, and in France they have contracts with the association. Elsewhere, in Germany, Italy and Spain for example, they're very well paid but not contracted. There is a contractual relationship in Italy but it's not one I'd describe as professional.
What level of salary could you imagine?
It depends on the league. Officials should be able to earn a decent salary. What does a senior judge earn in Germany? I'm thinking of a sum in the region of €100,000 annually.
Small change compared to what the players earn.
The pianist accompanying a famous singer doesn't earn the same. In any field, only the stars earn millions. But let me return to the psychological side of things. The ethical and moral dimension is very different when you are a professional rather than an amateur. And professional referees would be viewed in a different light and respected by players and the public alike.
What can you as FIFA President influence the introduction of professional referees?
We all have our own ideas. But the referees have to make the decision. The committee is saying: "we've officiated for 110 years; we've done well, so we don't need this. It's not the solution." I don't see how you can say it isn't the solution. We need a solution for professional football which offers referees the opportunity to go professional. And it's a job creation scheme as well.
Is Hoyzer a one-off?
It's a one-off case. The positive aspect of this bad example is that it's a warning for all referees. But you can't judge them all based on one bad apple. You have to react, then be proactive, get to the bottom of it and move on.