Southgate 'not concerned' by referee choice after once-banned official allocated to England Euros semi-final

9 July 2024, 20:00 | Updated: 10 July 2024, 05:07

Jude Bellingham criticised Felix Zwayer after he officiated Borussia Dortmund's loss to Bayern Munich
Jude Bellingham criticised Felix Zwayer after he officiated Borussia Dortmund's loss to Bayern Munich. Picture: Alamy

By Will Conroy

Gareth Southgate has said he is "not concerned about who the referee is" after a scandal-hit official criticised by Jude Bellingham was chosen to oversee England's Euro 2024 semi-final clash tomorrow.

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The England midfielder was fined for slamming German referee Felix Zwayer after his Borussia Dortmund team lost 3-2 to Bayern Munich in 2021.

Mr Zwayer, 43, was given a six-month ban by his country’s football federation in 2006 for his role in a match-fixing scandal involving another ref, Robert Hoyzer.

While working in Germany's second tier, Zwayer helped expose Hoyzer's links to a Croatian gambling syndicate based in Berlin but was banned after admitting to accepting a bribe from the corrupt referee.

Uefa has complete confidence in Zwayer, who has been Fifa listed since 2012 and is set to take charge of England’s match against the Netherlands tomorrow.

Gareth Southgate has said he is "not concerned about who the referee is"
Gareth Southgate has said he is "not concerned about who the referee is". Picture: Alamy

Asked about the choice of referee, the England boss said: "I think everybody knows how I deal with referees. We have complete respect for every referee.

"I think there's a right way to conduct yourself towards officials. I think it's very important for the image of the game.

"So, no, I'm not concerned about who the referee is."

Taking to social media after it was confirmed he would oversee England’s clash, one fan wrote: “How can he be neutral, and what on earth are Uefa playing at?”

Jude Bellingham, who was 18 at the time, was fined £34,000 after suggesting Zwayer may have been involved in match-fixing.

After his clash with Bellingham, Zwayer took a two-month leave of absence before returning to overseeing Bundesliga matches.

Felix Zwayer was banned for six months in 2005.
Felix Zwayer was banned for six months in 2005. Picture: Alamy

Speaking after a controversial penalty decision went against his side, Jude said: “You can look at a lot of decisions in that game.

“You give a referee that has match-fixed before the biggest game in Germany.

“What do you expect?”

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Manchester United star Luke Shaw has dismissed Zwayer’s involvement in the match, assuring Three Lion’s fans that players would not let officials impact their performance.

Shaw, who returned from injury against Switzerland, said: “We have to respect Uefa in whoever they decide to pick as the ref.

"That won’t change anything about us.

“We still just focus on the game in hand, not too much about what refs we’ve been given or this and that. For us, it won’t make any difference.”

Luke Shaw of England talks to the media during a press conference conference.
Luke Shaw of England talks to the media during a press conference conference. Picture: Getty

Many England fans, however, feel differently.

“This defies logic,” said 67-year-old John Millar, The Sun reports.

“How can a ref who has clashed with our best player over match fixing take charge against Holland.

“Why is he even allowed to be a ref? How can he be totally neutral and what on earth are Uefa ­playing at?”

Prison service worker Richard Wilson added: “With so many experienced and unbiased refs in the world, why choose this one?

“If he was suspended for links to match fixing, you have to ask why he was allowed to be a referee again in the first place. Why let him take charge of such a huge game involving a player fined for criticising him. It’s all going to go horribly wrong.”

Uefa has been approached for comment over the decision to appoint Zwayer.

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