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Gareth Southgate gives his backing to referee ahead of Euro 2024 semi-final

Referee Felix Zwayer during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B match between Italy and Albania. (Nick Potts/PA)
Referee Felix Zwayer during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group B match between Italy and Albania. (Nick Potts/PA)

Gareth Southgate insists the appointment of previously suspended referee Felix Zwayer for their Euro 2024 semi-final clash with the Netherlands is “not even a consideration”, as the England manager backed UEFA’s call.

Zwayer, 43, was given a six-month ban by his country’s football federation in 2006, having worked as an assistant referee alongside Robert Hoyzer.

The German referee was one of the officials who brought Hoyzer’s match-fixing plot to light, with the relatively short duration of Zwayer’s ban a recognition of that contribution. Hoyzer was banned for life.

England manager Gareth Southgate during the UEFA Euro 2024, quarter-final win over Switzerland
England manager Gareth Southgate during the UEFA Euro 2024, quarter-final win over Switzerland. (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Later, England midfielder Jude Bellingham was fined by the German federation after he referenced Zwayer’s involvement in that scandal following a defeat for his old club Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich in 2021.

Southgate, though, gave his full backing to UEFA’s decision to select Zwayer for the semi-final meeting with the Dutch in Dortmund.

Asked if he had concerns over the referee or had spoken to Bellingham about it, he replied: “ 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 lead an all-German officiating team at Signal Iduna Park, which also includes his assistants Stefan Lupp and Marco Achmuller, plus VAR Bastian Dankert.

It will be the second time Zwayer has overseen a match involving the Dutch, having also refereed their last-16 victory over Romania.

Before that Zwayer took charge of Italy’s opening match against Albania and Portugal’s win over Turkey in the second round of group matches.

Referee Felix Zwayer warming up before the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final between Olympiacos and Aston Villa
Referee Felix Zwayer warming up before the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final between Olympiacos and Aston Villa. (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Speaking on Monday, England defender Luke Shaw was asked whether the team were uncomfortable 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,” the Manchester United full-back said.

“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.”

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