England manager Gareth Southgate backs referee for Euro 2024 semi-final despite past suspension

Gareth Southgate
-Credit: (Image: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

England's manager Gareth Southgate has dismissed concerns over the appointment of previously suspended referee Felix Zwayer for the team's Euro 2024 semi-final match against the Netherlands.

He stated that it is "not even a consideration" and fully supports UEFA's decision.

Zwayer, aged 43, was handed a six-month suspension by his country's football federation in 2006 while working as an assistant referee alongside Robert Hoyzer.

The German official played a key role in exposing Hoyzer's match-fixing scheme, which led to a relatively short ban for Zwayer in recognition of his contribution. Hoyzer, on the other hand, received a lifetime ban.

Jude Bellingham, the England midfielder, was fined by the German federation after he mentioned Zwayer's involvement in the scandal following a defeat for his former club Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich in 2021.

However, Southgate expressed full confidence in UEFA's choice to appoint Zwayer for the semi-final clash with the Dutch in Dortmund on Wednesday.

When asked if he had any worries about the referee or if he had discussed the matter with Bellingham, he responded: " No. I think everybody knows how I deal with referees - with complete respect for every referee.

"I know the two guys at UEFA, (managing director of refereeing) Roberto (Rosetti) and (refereeing officer) Bjorn Kuipers, who've been running the referees programme and I think they appreciate the respect we've shown to the officials as a team over the past eight years.

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

"So, no, I'm not concerned about who the referee is. He will be at the very highest standard because that's the way UEFA make those decisions and the way they monitor the games during the tournament. For me, it is not even a consideration."

Zwayer will spearhead an all-German officiating team at Signal Iduna Park. His assistants Stefan Lupp and Marco Achmuller, along with VAR Bastian Dankert, complete the team.

This isn't the first time Zwayer has been in charge of a Dutch match, as he also refereed their last-16 victory over Romania.

Previously, Zwayer was the man in the middle for Italy's opening match against Albania and also Portugal's triumph over Turkey in the second round of group matches. When questioned on Monday, England defender Luke Shaw dismissed any uneasiness about Zwayer's appointment.

"No, not at all. We have to respect UEFA in whoever they decide to pick as the ref. That won't change anything about us," stated the Manchester United full-back.

"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."

When probed if he had ever played in a game where he felt the referee was against his team, Shaw responded: "No, not really. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, you get angry in games and you might think that, but no."