Why players could be booked for approaching Euro 2024 referees

A new UEFA initiative will make it a bookable offence for players to approach referees during European Championship games, unless they are a team captain.

UEFA managing director of refereeing Roberto Rosetti announced in May that officials will endeavour to explain key decisions to captains, but would not entertain approaches from any other players.

It is hoped the directive will breed “trust” between players and officials and prevent referees from being “mobbed”.

Prior to the tournament — which begins on Friday night with hosts Germany’s Group A game against Scotland — European football’s governing body informed all 26 participating nations that only team captains would be permitted to approach the referee during matches.

National teams have been warned not to crowd the referee, and failure to do so will result in a yellow card for the offending player or players.

In an open letter explaining the rationale for the change, Rosetti said he wants officials to be “ready to speak and share more details with the players and coaches to help them understand how a decision was taken”.

He wrote: “Explaining a decision with up to 22 players mobbing you is impossible for a referee. It can lead to a breakdown in communication, with the beautiful game turning very ugly very quickly, which, everyone agrees, is bad for the image of football.”

He added: “We ask the captains to ensure their teammates do not encroach upon and surround the referee, allowing direct conversations to take place in order that the decision be relayed in a timely and respectful manner.

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France captain Kylian Mbappe converses with Portuguese referee Fabio Verissimo during his side’s international friendly against Canada earlier this summer (Photo by Frank Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

“Importantly, we want only the captain from the team who wishes to discuss a decision to be able to approach the referee. It is the responsibility of the captain to ensure his teammates respect the referee, keep their distance and do not surround him.

“Any team-mate ignoring his captain’s role and/or who approaches the referee showing any sign of disrespect or dissent will be shown a yellow card.”

If a team is captained by a goalkeeper, then an outfield player will need to be nominated to fulfil the role.

Premier League referee Michael Oliver, who is officiating at his second European Championship after taking charge of three games at Euro 2020, said the change “can only be a positive”.

He said: “It will definitely help,” he says. “A lot of the situations you see now are players and fans wanting answers and clarification. Having that link and that dialogue with a designated person can only help provide that.

“To be able to establish that bond or relationship with the captain means you can get your point across, you can listen to theirs, you provide that explanation and clarity to them. It can only be a positive.”

(Photo by Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images)

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