Under the impetus of SAFE (Syndicate of elite football referees), the French officials are moving to offer a more modern refereeing, more open and understandable for the large number. 19 proposals are put on the table, concerning the game but also the social aspect of the life of the referees. A working group will submit them to the LFP at the beginning of next year, before a potential validation by the FFF.
For Olivier Lamarre, president of SAFE, French referees must take the lead first for the game, but also for « their well-being, because this will contribute to the value of football if they can work in good conditions ». The Union of elite football referees thus proposes 19 measures, on the one hand social (status of referees, remuneration, sick leave, precariousness of contracts, etc.) but also concerning the game (sound system for officials, pedagogy concerning VAR, communications on the facts of the game…). A working group will meet on November 17, then in December, before submitting these proposals to the LFP board of directors in early 2022.
Referees want to talk open mic
SAFE wants to humanize arbitration, and allow viewers and observers to better understand decisions in real time. The first important point is the sound of the referees, in other words the fact of making public the exchanges between the referees on the ground and with the video assistance, but also between the referee and the players.
« It is the broadcast of live sound, approved overwhelmingly by the referees, says Lamarre. We will have to work on the protocol with the LFP and the broadcaster because we cannot hear the referee speak during the whole match. » The president of the union sees this innovation, which already exists in rugby, as an important educational tool. « And that will also prevent some players from speaking badly to the referees, he estimates. We see some hiding the mouth or the face to speak to them. If they have something to hide, they will not be able any more. »
The VAR still too opaque
Besides the sound system, there are many game facts that are still debatable and debated, despite the use of video assistance. SAFE therefore puts forward the idea of making available to viewers and supporters present at the stadium, on giant screens, the images analyzed and dissected at the same time as the video assistant referees.
Moreover, the VAR must be even better understood by the players in the game according to Olivier Lamarre, which is why he recommends courses and demonstrations to the general public, at the level of leagues and clubs throughout France. To go further, SAFE asks arbitration institutions to explain coldly potential arbitration errors or controversies that have arisen during a match. This would take the form of a « press release the day after or two days after the match in question ».
Arbitrators not paid enough in France?
Last important point defended by the union of arbitrators: their social status. « It is not normal that we are not recognized as professional sportsmen, which we are nevertheless », regrets Olivier Lamarre. Certain arbitrators thus have to be satisfied with a one-year contract, renewable, « which does not help the well-being ». Moreover, in the event of illness or injury, referees forced to rest are no longer paid. And the salary of the French referees does not please the SAFE.
« A central referee in Ligue 1 earns 126,000 euros per year, which is a lot compared to the average for the French, and we know it very well, he slips. But is it normal that in Spain, the referees are paid 225,000 euros per year, or 78% more? Arbitrate PSG, Lyon or Monaco, how is it different from doing it for Real Madrid or Barcelona? » In Germany (+ 35%), England (+ 16%) and Italy (+ 12%), referees are also better paid.