Denmark's highest-ranking referee, Kenn Hansen revealed that he will stop his career at the end of this year. Had he been a professional referee, it would have all looked different. The 35-year-old referee took this decision despite the fact that he was the only Dane in competition for the FIFA World Cup 2018 and with a certain probability he was expected in the UEFA Champions League in the coming rounds. "I chose to stop because my current situation is not sustainable in the long run. The requirements for an international referee exceed what I can offer as a full-time worker, also trying to run a business. It is unrealistic to continue on the upper stage in Europe with daily hard physical training, mandatory meetings and courses, tons of travel days and tactical preparation of the team. It is not just a hobby anymore", said Kenn Hansen.
The decision comes just eight months after Kenn Hansen was elected, for the second time, as the best referee in Denmark, but then he was overlooked when DBU put forward the names of the two referees chosen to become full-time professionals. Instead of Hansen, they chose Jakob Kehlet and Mads-Kristoffer Kristoffersen, who are both ranked internationally lower than Kenn Hansen. Although DBU's decision is not the whole reason why he now chooses to stop, it plays a significant role. “All the top referees from abroad that I have to compete with are, more or less, full-time referees, so I will be constantly behind as an amateur referee in the Danish setup. The fact that I had to decline the FIFA U-17 World Cup appointment in Chile because of work tells everything! I am one of the candidate referees for the next World Cup and I just got in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, but it has been very difficult for the past six years to be a top referee in an amateur setup. One may ironically say that only by stopping, I feel like “part of something bigger”, says Kenn Hansen, sending a message to the DBU management, which earlier this year launched such slogan.
- I am definitely not bitter. I spend my energy on the things I can influence. I think it was too bad that I did not get support for my national federation, as I was the only Danish referee who could reach a World Cup within the next several years. I know that other countries have prioritized such referees. But I am not bitter. The two new professional referees are good friends and I will cheer wildly that they succeed to get to the top, so Denmark will have again top referees.
- Would have been different if you had been professional?
- Yes, it is quite obvious that when I pull the plug now, it's because it's not working for me.
- It is impossible for me not to ask about your attitude to DBU's handling of the refereeing group because I feel there is something you do not say. What is it?
- I have no need to slam the door. I have been grateful for the experiences I have had and those I focus on. The Elite Head and Claus Bretton-Meyer (DBU Director) must assess for themselves whether their priorities creates the best group of referees to the Super League.
- It is less than three years ago when you and I met at a cafe for an interview and you said that you would referee a CL final and try to become the best… there's nothing that can change your decision to stop?
- No, it's not there anymore. I am happy with my decision and am looking to spend time on other projects.
- You sound clear. How is it to think back of your referee career?
- I have been part of great international matches. I have refereed great world stars in Europe and the biggest battles in Denmark. I have been a referee for 18 years, travelled to 31 countries and I will probably be howling like a small child who is wimpy on a dirt road when I stop. But I am sure that some fans will have a beer at home and say “finally, we got rid of him”. Perhaps they will even give me a beer when I meet them in the city as thanks that I do not destroy their matches anymore", says Kenn Hansen with the twinkle in his eye that made him a popular man on Twitter before he chose to close his account so as not to damage his official career. He can open it again: "God yes, now I can get back to Twitter. Without any consequences”, said Kenn Hansen.
DBU's elite boss, Kim Hallberg, knew nothing about Hansen's career stop when BT caught him on the phone: “He will stop…? It is something of a surprise to me. He is one of our best referees", said Hallberg, who also said few words on the non-selection of Hansen as a professional referee. "It was not about Kenn not being one of the best, but we had to choose those who needed it the most from a number of development parameters", says Kim Hallberg, who continued: "I can only repeat that I am partly very surprised, partly very sorry that he stops. There are plenty of good referees in Denmark, but no one is on the same international level and it will take long time before a new one will get right up there".