Romanian FIFA AR abusively removed from an UCL match

Cristian Nica, the best Romanian assistant referee for the last five years, revealed the incredible story of how he was removed from an international match to make room for the former vice-president of the Romanian Referees Committee's son, Sebastian Gheorghe. Recently, another top assistant referee, Adrian Vidan, broke the silence about the dicretionary methods used by the former Referees Committee to push their children onto the FIFA List. Three out of the 10 names proposed by the former committee for the 2012 FIFA AR List are sons of former committee members. If FIFA will allow it, the new Romanian Referees Committee would like to review the nominations for 2012.
- Is it true that you were replaced from an international match in order to make room for the son of the former vice-president of the committee?
- I know what you are referring to. It is true and I can tell you exactly what happened. In the summer of 2010, UEFA notified the Romanian Referees Committee that Cristian Balaj was appointed for a Champions League match, Milan – Auxerre. Under the procedure, Balaj chose his assistants, Zoltan Szekely and me, along with Sebastian Gheorghe, the vice-president’s son, as a back-up if one of us becomes unavailable.
- You did not end up going to that match. Why?
- Because of the former leaders of the committee. I was appointed to the first division match Medias – Timisoara, along with Hategan and Nagy. Guess who was the referee observer? Constantin Gheorghe, who wanted to put his son in the UCL match. A game without any problems for me turned into a tirade by the observer, who blamed me after the match for one hour and a half! I never saw the report of that game, although, according to the regulations, I should have received it. I found out later that I was marked 7.9 or 7.8, which means a low mark, which usually is awarded when there are significant errors, such as red cards not issued or goals mistakenly canceled.
- And what followed?
- After a few days, we had a meeting with all referees. Before entering the room, someone told me: "Be careful that they are very angry with you!" In the meeting, Vasile Avram, the former chairman of the committee said: "You should know that, even when you have a good match, you can receive low marks because of improper behaviour towards the observer. Do you understand, Nica?” At that point, it was clear that they wanted to chop me.
- Why?
- Well, the UCL match Milan – Auxerre was coming and they needed a reason to replace me with Gheorghe. It was the moment when they called referee Balaj and “suggested” him not to take me anymore, but to take instead the vice-president’s son.
- And what did Balaj do?
- He accepted. Later, he confirmed that it was “suggested” to take along Sebastian Gheorghe, as AR, because… I was not in a good shape. The message was clear and Balaj accepted in order to keep his good relations with the committee.
- Did you have other problems because of that?
- People reached their goal, but in the last round I did my first major error after 10 years in the first division. Vasile Avram, who was the chairman at that time, told me: "Mircea Sandu (president of the Romanian Soccer Federation) is very angry with you for what you did, he is really upset”.
- And why you did not go directly to Mircea Sandu?
- That is what I wanted to do, but when I told Avram about my intention, you know what he said? "Keep quiet, Cristian, I will solve that with Mircea Sandu, do not worry!"
- But at that time why you did not not ask for an explanation from the vice-president Constantin Gheorghe
- What could I have asked, "Why did you take me off and put your son in my place?" It would have jeopardized my entire career. I had just been released from an international match, was the message not clear?
- Did you talk to him after the committee was changed?
- No and I do not even want to deal anymore with such people who have suppressed all that is valuable in Romanian refereeing. Career advancement did not consider anymore the value of a referee or assistant, but everything was done to promote the nepotism. In September, a week before he was arrested, Avram and his committee submitted the proposals for the 2012 FIFA AR List. After 5 years at the top, they put me down to no. 4, while Gheorghe jr. was moved to no. 2, although he only got his international badge two years ago. That says everything about their “family business”.
- Did you complain to referee Balaj about his acceptance?
- No, but back then I was angry with him. Later, I forgave him.After Avram and Gheorghe were removed from the committee, I found again the pleasure and motivation to referee.

Source: Gazeta Sporturilor