POZNAN: A test of nerve of all the referees at Euro 2012 is under way: Which one will have the nerve to resist the stadium kickoff countdown which has infuriated traditionalists (not to mention radio and TV commentators) in Poland and Ukraine.

Just before the start of each match the stadium announcer bellows out: “Ten, nine, eight . . .” with the referee charged to ensure his kickoff whistle coincides with the zero.

The question thus arose over whether this piece of presentational tatt infringed the laws of the game in that control of the match and its timing had been taken out of the referee’s hands.

Not so, according to a FIFA spokesman, asked to clarify matters on behalf of the world federation and the International Football Association Board.

A statement (deep breath) read:

“In general the General Coordinator as he is called at FIFA Competitions or the Venue Director at UEFA events provides this countdown for the Fourth Official anyway. The Fourth Official then informs the referee that everything is ready for the referee to start the match.

“At Euro 2012 this announcement is simply made public to allow the spectators to be part of this experience. For the referee it does not make a difference whether this announcement is made only to the Fourth Official or is provided to the entire stadium.

“The actual starting of the match is still down to the referee (via the blow of his whistle). ”

So there it is: the referee is still the man in control and if, for any reasons (such as the missing corner flags at the 1974 World Cup Final) he wants to delay the start, then he has the perfect right so to do.

Now . . . who is the man brave enough?


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