UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine

Referee Review

Wolfgang Stark (Germany) 

By Adam Higgins

Chief Football Editor 

Age-  42           FIFA Referee since-  1999            Promoted to the Elite List-  2003         German Bundesliga referee since 1994

Season 2011-12:      Matches-  39        Yellow cards-  147          Red cards-  11          Penalties-  10

Best game of the season:  22nd January 2012          German Bundesliga          Hamburg 1-5 Borussia Dortmund
                                    Venue: Imtech Arena

Our average rating from Euro 2012:  18/20 (9/10)

Euro 2012 statistics-   Matches-  2        Yellow cards-  10         Red cards-  0         Penalties-  0       Average cards per game-  5

Best game of the tournament:  Tuesday 12th June 2012          Group A Game Two          Poland 1-1 Russia

                                          National Stadium, Warsaw (Poland)

German referees have a reputation for being more laissez-faire than most, with relatively few cautions issued, and red cards a great rarity during Bundesliga games. Florian Meyer, for example, is known to talk to players and almost always gives a warning before flashing the yellow card. The Bavaria native of Wolfgang Stark is far less hesitant than most of his colleagues in reaching to his pocket, and is greater than 50 per cent more likely than the average Bundesliga official to dismiss a player. Although he is less forgiving than many of his compatriots, Stark remains a lenient referee relative to the average in Europe. And he is one who has been involved in his share of controversy, especially on the big stage. Stark was a reasonable choice as German's representative as referee despite there being more obvious and popular choices among their contingent. The highest level at which the 42-year-old has officiated is the Champions League semi-final, which he has twice overseen. In the most recent case, a 2-0 win for Barcelona against Real Madrid in the El Classico derby, he took heavy criticism for sending off Madrid defender Pepe and subsequently sending their manager Jose Mourinho to the stands. Although Stark has been involved in recent controversy, he has no shortage of experience and his rise to prominence came very quickly. Compared to many other referees, Stark seems to enjoy the limelight and appears to welcome controversy. And while he is likely not to card a defender for a potentially bookable offence, he will not hesitate to use his right to discipline a dissenting voice if any players or coaches disagree with his decisions. Attitude is extremely important to Stark. Players voted him as the best referee in the Bundesliga in 2010 which speaks volumes for the way he takes to them on the pitch. Though he has been involved in controversy in the past, he has gone on to display the composure and command required to keep control when it matters. Players must be wary, though, not to offend him: it could easily mean an early trip to the showers. Just last season, Stark took charge of the third UEFA Europa League final in Bucharest between Spanish sides Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao in May which the Madrid team won 3-0 with the German putting in a good display and repaid the faith shown in him by UEFA. In Poland and Ukraine, his second major international tournament after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, he was given two refereeing appointments in the group stages. His first match of the tournament came in the second round of group fixtures in Group A where he was tasked with handling the massive Eastern European derby between co-hosts Poland and Russia at the National Stadium in Warsaw. With fans not taking to each other and players the biggest of enemies, it is one of the most combustible derbies in world football. This was apparent hours before kick-off as fans from both nations clashed outside the ground throwing missiles at one another and police with unsavoury scenes putting a negative effect on the game of football being played. To the players' credit, there were no problems on the pitch during the game with solely football and not political issues off the field or aims to cause trouble on their minds. Stark must have been fearing the worst on the day of the game with the goings-on happening outside the ground however he handled the match well and it felt like an ordinary clash between two teams. He kept to his usual style in not rushing to get the card out and didn't become agitated by the players. He kept up with the play well and tried to let some fouls go rather than blow the whistle too often. There was one moment where tempers looked to fray and an argument looked to have ignited however it was quickly extinguished by the calmness of Stark who rushed over, kept his composure under intense pressure and defused the situation. His second game was overseeing Spain's Group C encounter with Croatia on matchday three which was a fairly dour match before the final minutes when Jesus Navas broke the deadlock. In many ways, it is easy to referee a match involving Spain as they retain possession for so long therefore there are not many fouls and it doesn't involve a lot of running around or exhaustion as the passing is mainly done in the midfield area. He looked in control and command throughout and the match ran out easily for him- it was just another day at the office for the bank assistant. However, UEFA decided after all 24 group matches had been played that Stark and his German officiating team would be one of the four leaving the competition and going home along with Carlos Velasco Carballo, Bjorn Kuipers and Viktor Kassai. Overall, Euro 2012 was a very short and sweet experience for Wolfgang Stark, however, he put his experience and know-how to full use when officiating the two matches he was given showing he can maintain a high level of performance. He should be in contention for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.


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