The Russian FA has suspended four top referees from officiating games in the Russian Premier League after the poor standard of their work raised concerns, the head of the FA’s refereeing department has told R-Sport. The most prominent of them, who will not be allowed to take part in any top-flight games for the remainder of the season, is Maxim Layushkin (photo), who has overseen Europa League games in each of the last five seasons and is one of just nine Russians who are qualified to work in international matches. “If someone can work, then he will work. These people’s work was not satisfactory,” Russian FA refereeing department head Valentin Ivanov said. Layushkin has overseen six Russian Premier League games this season, while two other suspended referees, Sergei Kuznetsov and Vladimir Kuzmenko, have been in charge of 11 and six top-flight games respectively. The other referee to be dropped, Sergei Kulikov, has only refereed lower-level matches.
The suspensions are the first major shake-up in Russian refereeing since Ivanov replaced renowned Italian referee Roberto Rosetti in charge of the country’s officials in December. Ivanov is a former referee who set a World Cup record in 2006 by doling out 16 yellow cards and four reds in a last-16 game between the Netherlands and Portugal. Since that infamous night in Nuremberg, where Ivanov's performance was criticized by FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who later apologized after acknowledging Ivanov was simply enforcing FIFA's own toughened rules, no Russian official has been entrusted with a Euro or World Cup match. During his time in Russia, Rosetti failed to drastically boost the level of Russian officials, criticizing a shallow talent pool of referees that gave football bosses no choice but to promote officials who were not fit to oversee top-flight games. He also introduced a system of punishments for poor-performing referees in the Russian Premier League, who were forced to take charge of lower-division games.