German referee Manuel Gräfe talked to Der Taggespiegel about his former bosses, relationships, the Hoyzer scandal and the video assistant referee system.
- Mr. Gräfe, the new Bundesliga season begins for you with the match between SC Freiburg and Eintracht Frankfurt. This sounds very relaxed after the storms you had to overcome at the end of the past season.
- Sorry, I must correct you. Freiburg - Frankfurt was a very hot game last season. But you surely mean the story with the HSV. It was half as wild. There has been a lot of exaggeration in the public.
- Your position for the relegation game between Hamburg and Wolfsburg has not been clear to everyone after you have already refereed HSV two years ago in the relegation match in Karlsruhe. A free kick from you and not quite unchallenged before the end helped HSV to prevent the already almost safe descent once more.
- And what is to be done now? Shall I not go with an open mind into the game? Sorry, but this is disrespectful! In particular, against me, but generally also against the institution of the referee. What do some people actually think a referee brings into a game? For us, every game starts at 0-0, with no history. If I do not treat each player fairly, I would have to hang my whistle right away. When it comes to the players, no one is interested in such ideas. Mo Dahoud has just moved from Gladbach to Dortmund. Cannot he play now against his old team-mates because he is biased? A referee wants the same as a player: to always bring an error-free performance!
- Anyone who had decided something controversial or wrong in this game would have had a problem. There were a few weeks before I refereed HSV - Wolfsburg, but no one has said a word. The DFB has clearly communicated this before the last matchday: a man with a sense of acceptance and a lot of experience had to referee and we do not have so many of that. Deniz Aytekin and Felix Brych were out of the question because one was to referee the DFB Cup final and the other the Champions League final. These are career highlights in which one should not go with any negative experience. And that can easily happen with such an explosive pairing.
- Has your position been controversially discussed within the DFB?
- No, why should it be? To put it bluntly, the game was HSV - Wolfsburg, not about the referee. I had some explosive games in the weeks before, including the Cup semi-final between Bayern and Dortmund, and it was generally confirmed that I did well. Otherwise, our referee boss Lutz Fröhlich would not have entrusted me with the management of this game. Since he has the responsibility, it is exclusively based on performance.
- That was not the case when Hellmut Krug had a say at the German Football League and Herbert Fandel at the DFB?
- I do not think that we were very positive at that time. There was no transparency, no willingness to discuss open. It was too often based on preference and not on performance. There were people in positions for which they were simply not good or far enough. This is a good thing for a while, if you protect it internally and externally, but at some point it falls. Other, better referees, in turn, were not used or promoted according to their possibilities, I think, for example, of Marco Fritz, which, for me, has the potential to lead games as formerly referee Knut Kircher did. Also, Bibiana Steinhaus remained in the second league for years. Now, after only one year under the new leadership, she is allowed to referee in the first league. This is only an example.
- Yes, but referees really have a good sense of what their assessment of their performance is. And if the referees think almost all the same, whether positive or negative, but the old committee contrary, then it speaks volumes. And it is noticeable that in the past years, all those who were not fully on a wavelength with the leadership, so they did not always say yes and amen, were worked on different levels. Like Babak Rafati, for example, and he was not the only one.
- Rafati has sharply criticized the leadership at that time, he felt bullied and wrote a much-respected book about it.
- Babak may not have been right in everything, but he was correct in many points. He felt the atmosphere so oppressive and stressful that he wanted to take his own life. Do I have to ask myself after such a drastic and shocking incident to draw the line at least once? Cannot it be that I did something wrong? I believe that bad leadership automatically leads to poor performance. Just compare the last two seasons. 2015/16 was the negative peak of a poor development, 2016/17 under new leadership went very well except for very few exceptions. Lutz Fröhlich, who took over the office as head of refereeing in the summer of 2016, lets people do what they can do and he has an eye for talent. Benjamin Cortus and Harm Osmers had a very good first league season as newly promoted referees. Osmers was on the team for the match Ingolstadt - Leverkusen. A game in which there was a lot for both teams. He did it very well because he felt the confidence of Lutz Fröhlich. It was exactly this trust he gave me for the game HSV - Wolfsburg.
- The referees under Fandel and Krug did not feel this confidence?
- The two have made their list of referees as they wanted. It was not primarily based on performance and therefore to the detriment of football, as one also noticed on the power drop until the summer of 2016. There are sufficient documents for various interventions in recent years.
- How do you know?
- It would be sufficient to examine the reports of certain observers for certain referees. Believe me; that would surprise you very much!
- Who do you mean, specifically?
- Interestingly, Herbert Fandel and Hellmut Krug tried, among other things, very hard to promote Felix Zwayer...
- ... your Berlin colleague, who once you supported in the clarification of the affair around Robert Hoyzer.
- I can see that now because of the facts. At the beginning, I defended him against Hoyzer's accusations, because I thought he was innocent. In the court records, however, it was later stated that Zwayer was involved in a game manipulation by Hoyzer as a referee and had previously accepted money from him. The criminal proceedings brought against him by the Berlin prosecutor's office were suspended because of low guilt, but even a legally small guilt in connection with manipulated games is too much for me. Zwayer has been suspended for six months by the DFB due to grossly unlawful conduct because he accepted this money and did not immediately report the known manipulations of Hoyzer to the DFB. Now I ask you: how can he get to the top of the German referees? Can it be that Fandel and Krug wanted a man who was bound to unconditional loyalty?
- Hellmut Krug has just returned from the DFL to the DFB. He now reigns under Fröhlich's leadership as chief instructor.
- I cannot understand that personally, but I do not have to find every decision right. Just recently, Krug has told that the German referees would handle the VAR better than it was observed at the Confederations Cup. This has put pressure on us nationally and has certainly not helped our international referees. This has been criticized as typical German arrogance. You must not forget, for example, that the Dutch have practiced the VAR a bit longer. Just wait and see how it works. In an anonymous survey among all referees, two-thirds of them had a problem with Krug and his style.
- And the DFB is to blame?
- No, you cannot generalize. I am very grateful to the DFB leaders for what they started in early 2015. At that time, Wolfgang Niersbach and Helmut Sandrock ensured that the refereeing can no longer be self-sufficient in the DFB. Since then, the DFB has been closely monitoring the situation and sending high-ranking representatives to each course. Reinhard Grindel and Friedrich Curtius also do the same. Mr. Grindel has recently attended both summer courses and gave an impressive open speech in which he critically noted what was not going well and needs to get better, but also what is now obviously on a good path. Since the acquisition of Lutz Fröhlich, professionalization, modernization and transparency in the field of referees have been consistently advanced. But it will be hard for one to be alone. Personally, I have nothing against Hellmut Krug and Herbert Fandel. I only measure them by what they have done and how they have managed. I hope the two of them question themselves, self-critically, and will go with the new way. That would be in the interest of refereeing and, more importantly, in the interest of football. (Source: Der Taggespiegel)
The DFB has reacted to the interview of the Bundesliga referee Manuel Gräfe. The new chief of the referees, Lutz Fröhlich, announced that he will have a conversation with the Berliner, who needs to explain himself "It is the start of the new Bundesliga season and every referee should focus on it", said the new boss of the referees, who had taken over the job of Fandel and Krug. Gräfe had expressly praised the ex-referee (200 Bundesliga assignments) for his competence. But he had no time for nice words. "With an understanding of public opinion, it is decidedly too far for a referee to attack a colleague publicly and in this form,"the 59-year-old said. Even the criticism of Fandel and Krug could "not be left behind", continued Fröhlich, who ended his active career in 2005. On Sunday, Gräfe said "I personally have nothing against Fandel and Krug, I definitely have no personal motives and I am very satisfied with myself and my career. I am concerned about the matter. This “vetternwirtschaft” should stop. We, as referees, must be fair". (Source: Sportbuzzer)
Hellmut Krug has rejected the criticism of referee Manuel Gräfe in the selection and evaluation of the referees. "This has irritated us all, especially regarding the timing and the content," said the DFL referee adviser at Sky 90. Gräfe's accusations are not comprehensible, according to Krug. "It is unacceptable and unforgivable for an active referee to attack, defame and discredit another active colleague", Krug continued. He was referring to Gräfe’s statement, which attacked Felix Zwayer: "How could anyone possibly get to the top of the German referees? Can it be that Fandel and Krug wanted a man who was committed to unconditional loyalty?" Zwayer was promoted to FIFA by the former referee bosses of the DFB, although he was once involved in the scandal around Robert Hoyzer. "Manuel can criticize, but the form has to be respected. We meet with the referees several times a year, so the criticism surprised us completely, we will get together and work it out", said Krug. The Sky referee expert Markus Merk: "This is unimaginable. All this is what makes me most angry: the discrediting of a referee colleague. This is a top referee who, over the last few years, overtook Grafe in the FIFA ranking, which may scratch and bite him, but that does not justify his public approach", said Merk. (Source: Sport1.de)