MARK HALSEY: BETDAQ Euro 2020 Ambassador and ex-Premier League referee Mark Halsey offers his thoughts on the tournament, including on England’s final defeat to Italy and what Premier League officials can learn from the past month.

Jorginho should have been shown red card

The main refereeing talking point from Sunday’s final is obviously Jorginho’s challenge on Jack Grealish. It’s a subjective one. Bjorn Kuipers was in an excellent position and in real time you sometimes don’t see the intensity of the challenge. But I don’t think anybody – Jorginho or Italy – would have had any complaints had he been dismissed for that challenge for serious foul player or for endangering a player’s safety. VAR didn’t intervene as they didn’t see it as a clear and obvious error. It’s a subjective decision and Bjorn in real time judged it as a reckless challenge and gave a yellow card.

That’s one decision out of many, many, many that he made during the game and I thought Bjorn Kuipers had a really solid game. He kept the discipline well, kept engagement with the players and he had a smile on his face as well. I just think he’s had a terrific tournament and so have many referees. I don’t think we can look at the referee and point the finger of blame for anything on Sunday night. I thought he had a super performance. Gareth Southgate will be looking at other areas as to why England lost the game, not that incident. Bjorn, and Felix Brych, have been excellent and were the best at the tournament. But for me, Bjorn Kuipers is the number one referee in Europe at the moment with Felix Brych as a close second.

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Premier League referees must follow Euro 2020’s lead

The referees in general have been brilliant at Euro 2020 and UEFA referee chief Roberto Rosetti has got to take an enormous amount of credit for the way he’s led his refereeing team – giving them the freedom to go out and referee, not giving them too many directives. It’s been down to the management of UEFA referees and that’s something we can look at with the management of Premier League referees next season. The referees at Euro 2020 were brilliant, the Euros had the best referees from each country, so they should be.

But it’s also the leadership, direction, training and education of the referees. Coaches turn average players into good players and good players into great players – and that’s no different with referees. That’s the problem we have in the Premier League. We haven’t got natural ability referees, we haven’t got leadership and direction or the top coaches to help these guys. It’s all about natural ability and not manufactured referees. We’ve got too many manufactured referees instead of natural ability referees.

It’s been fantastic to see how the referees have allowed physical challenges, they’ve not been quick to show the yellow card. They’ve used their body language and verbal communication to calm the players down. That natural ability, showing empathy for the players and giving them a chance… We’ve seen that all through the competition and it’s been great to watch. It just goes to show you can still referee with common sense, like we saw in the finals. They’ve been so proactive as well, which is so important during the 90 minutes when they’ve been performing on the field of play.

In the Premier League, some of our guys are a little too aggressive in the way they engage with players. It comes down to the way they are coached. Sometimes the referees also need an arm around the shoulder and a little bit of loving but I don’t think the management team at present have it in their capabilities to do that.

Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor set for the World Cup

I thought Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor both had a great Euros. If FIFA take two English referees to the World Cup next year then Michael and Anthony will be the two because the other English guys on the international list are nowhere near their class. We should have the young guys coming up through now but we’re not seeing them. You’re allowed three referees in the elite group of UEFA and we’ve got two because we’ve got no-one else that’s near that group yet.

So, at this moment in time, they will be the referees that are officiating in the Champions League next season and they’ll be our referees that will be selected to go to the World Cup. Keep your fingers crossed that both go as at the last World Cup we didn’t have any! We’ve got some good English referees coming through – Chris Kavanagh, Andy Madley – but it’s all about the training, education and coaching of our referees and unfortunately they don’t have that high-level training they need to get to the next level.

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A referee’s off-season schedule

As for how the referees will now be spending their summer… When the season finishes, firstly you do your fitness tests for the following season. I’d do mine then come away to Spain for four to five weeks to relax and recuperate and then I’d start getting myself ready for the pre-season training camp. We used to do lots of fitness and high-intensity running tests there. I used to give myself a few weeks off first and then slowly start back in the gym, most likely spin sessions. You do need to switch off, but when I did take the time off I used to find myself very tired and lethargic too. That was from the strains of the season.

That’s what I used to do and most referees will be similar. You can let your hair down for a while and then you go again. We used to all go away together for the pre-season camps, which are now at St. George’s Park. Anything that a player would do in pre-season, we’d do as well. We’d also have the nutritionists and be told what to eat, what not to eat, when to eat, when not to eat… It’s no different to players and rightly so. I used to enjoy it, I always kept myself fit. I used to love everything about being a full-time referee.

Watch Mark’s reaction to England’s loss here ->