The topic of refereeing in Russian football last season again became one of the central ones. So far, it has not been possible to reduce the number of errors made by arbitrators. Neither the VAR system nor the Expert Referee Commission (ESC) under the President of the RFU created to analyze controversial episodes help. The suspension of referees after poorly worked out matches does not save either: they return and again make wrong decisions on the field.
Everyone understands that the situation needs to be corrected. However, the leadership of the union did not find a sufficiently authoritative figure among domestic specialists who could engage in the training of new personnel, methodology and motivation of existing arbitrators, so it was decided to invite a foreign specialist: Milorad Mažić was appointed to the post of head of the RFU refereeing department on Tuesday, June 27. The Serb entered into a two-year agreement with the possibility of extension for another year.
"Improving the quality of refereeing in such a large country as Russia is a big challenge for me. Since 2019, Russia has launched a large program to reform football refereeing. During this time, a lot has been done, especially at the initial level of training, but we must not stop there, but continue to move forward, "the official website of the RFU quotes Mazhic as saying.
At the same time, Pavel Kamantsev, who previously held this position, will remain in the structure of the RFU. He will lead the refereeing committee. Moreover, according to the Championship portal, this was one of the conditions for Mažić, who entered the ESC back in September 2022 and managed to get to know the Russian well during this time.
We started working with Milorad last season: he evaluated the decisions of our referees in the ESC, during the winter break he came to the training camp to the RPL referees. During this time, he managed to immerse himself in the specifics of Russian refereeing, to learn the strengths and weaknesses of our referees. I am sure that in his new role he will help us in the implementation of the launched reforms. This is the best candidate who will allow RPL referees to take a step forward and strengthen the VAR project," Kamantsev said.
The 50-year-old Serbian specialist has extensive experience in refereeing. He worked at the 2018 Champions League final, at the World Cups in Brazil and Russia, as well as at Euro 2016. And there were no complaints about him at any of these tournaments. At the end of his career, Mažić headed the panel of arbitrators in Cyprus for two years.
Interestingly, in the very first welcoming speech, the Serb announced what changes he plans in the work of the referee. One of the first notable innovations will be a different concept of evaluating arbitrators.
"It will be based on the best practices of FIFA, which were used at the last World Cup in Qatar. Starting from the new season, VAR inspectors will evaluate the work of referees. They will have access to the negotiations of the refereeing team and will follow the match not from the stands of the stadium as before, but in a separate room of the VAR center. This change will significantly improve the quality of assessments, as well as reduce logistics costs," Mažić said.
At the same time, phones from employees working from the VAR center will be taken away for the duration of the match. This should completely eliminate any possibility of influencing the inspector.
The very operation of the VAR system will also change. If earlier it was resorted to when it was necessary to check the correctness of the decision made by the referee, now the assistants at the monitors will be able to intervene if the referee in the field looked at a red card or penalty. As for the approach to evaluating the judge, it seems that he will become more loyal. Now it will not be considered a mistake if the referee missed a moment because he physically did not have time to be on the scene of the episode, or when, after watching the VAR, the right decision was eventually made.
Despite Mažić's fighting spirit, domestic experts reacted cautiously and even skeptically to his appearance because of his foreign predecessors. Before the Serb, the judiciary was headed by Roberto Rosetti and Victor Kashshai, but, unfortunately, they did not achieve serious results. According to ex-FIFA referee Sergei Khusainov, the same thing will happen this time.
"In my opinion, changes for the better should not be expected. He will not cope with his task. Because this problem is systemic. As it worked on the principle of "friend or foe", it will continue to work. No matter how professional Mažić is, "said the interlocutor of RT.
In addition, according to former FIFA referee Yuri Savchenko, there is a worthy candidate among Russians for the post of head of the refereeing department - Alexei Nikolaev.
"He is an expert in his field and a very good referee in the past. I had the opportunity to inspect his matches at the beginning of his career. And his work has never caused great complaints or inconsistencies. In addition, he has great authority among our referees, he is a very respected figure in our refereeing. Therefore, I am in favor of entrusting him with the post of head of the RFU refereeing department in the future. And now it is quite possible to appoint him as Mazhich's deputy, so that Alexei gains experience in such a position. He rolled into the work and after the Serb would take this post, "Savchenko told RT.
Changes are also planned in the ESC RFU, but here we are not talking about the principles of work, but about the composition of the participants. The leadership of the union wants to make the commission as independent as possible, reducing the likelihood of a conflict of interest. That is why, in the fall, together with Mažić, Ravshan Irmatov entered it. And from the new season, the famous Turkish referee Çüneyt Çakır is likely to begin to evaluate controversial episodes. It is expected that in the future there will be another foreign expert.
And if many experts reacted negatively to the appointment of the Serb to the post of head of the refereeing department, then the idea of the RFU with the transformation of the ESC, on the contrary, found support.
"Çakır impresses me. He has always been a very principled referee, I remember him very well from the Champions League matches, especially the games with the participation of English clubs. I would call him an indomitable judge, because he worked with dignity and was able to leave with dignity. In certain circles, they would say that he has big balls. But it is important to note that if you were an excellent arbiter, this does not mean that you will cope with a higher and more responsible position. In the ESC, he will have even more moments when he should show character. So, I hope it will benefit our refereeing," Khusainov explained.