Kassai placed 6th on the Hungarian FIFA List 2018

It is now public knowledge that Viktor Kassai has not been selected for the World Cup in Russia 2018. It should be noted right from the outset that, of the 55 nations making up the UEFA confederation, only 13 nations will be representing themselves at the World Cup along with just 10 referees. The referees that will be going are all on the FIFA elite list of referees. In UEFA alone there are 27 referees from various nations on the elite list, including Viktor Kassai. Only 37% of those actually make the final list. Twenty of those 27 were on the pre-selection list, which gradually gets whittled down until just the final 10 remain. Therefore, there is no guarantee for any referee that he will make the final call, even if he is currently ranked number 3 in the world. Cüneyt Çakir from Turkey and Björn Kuipers are the only referees inside the IFFHS top 5 rankings who will be going to the World Cup – they are jointly ranked 5th. Mark Clattenburg (1st) and Nicola Rizzoli (2nd) have both retired, whereas Jonas Eriksson (4th) has not made the final cut either.
Outside of refereeing circles most will believe that Kassai’s omission from the World Cup will be purely down to his performances and the fact that he has had a few high-profile errors over the past 18 months or so. This no doubt played a part in the UEFA referees committee’s decision; however, they will have also considered representations made by the MLSz JB on Kassai’s behalf. The MLSz JB did not back Kassai at all, in fact, they did quite the opposite. At the 2017 Annual General Meeting, Sándor Csányi, President of the MLSz evaluated referee performances overall and stated that referees could make mistakes but that any arrogance would not be tolerated. He further stated that in such cases it may even be conceivable that a referee would not be nominated for the FIFA list. This led many to believe that Kassai would not be nominated to remain on the FIFA list. This was a surprise to many others as Kassai has a reputation amongst his peers for being pleasant, affable and as having a great sense of humour. Whilst he is very proud of his achievements, it is said that he also maintains a high degree of modesty and is always quick to point out good decisions made by his team members, such as a tight offside call and quite clearly states that he would not have been able to achieve any of what he has without a strong, decent team supporting and backing him all the way. He is very well known to promote a team ethos, if one of his team makes an error, it is the error of them as a team, with no blaming of an individual, if they have a decent game, it is a team success. I have watched him explain the advantage law to a 12-year-old trainee referee 10 times on the trot, whilst coaching them, and all that with a huge smile on his face and in a calm, relaxed manner, not even a hint of irritation that they just couldn’t get it because it isn’t logical to them. This is a man who by all accounts will freely give up his time and more often than not travel at his own expense, to coach and mentor young and inexperienced referees. One of his fellow professionals at UEFA stated “Viktor is a really nice guy, not an ounce of arrogance in him. He is well-liked and respected by all of us. He’s an excellent referee and is always trying to improve himself. I enjoy working with him on the rare occasions I get to do so. I find it absolutely scandalous the way he is treated by the MLSz”. Around the end of September, rumours became very strong that Sándor Puhl, Vice-President of the MLSz JB was going to nominate Kassai in 6th place on the FIFA list. Our source at UEFA was horrified and described it as scandalous at best. At that time, the nominations had not been submitted and UEFA sent a strong message to the MLSz by naming Kassai for a couple of high profile UEFA CL matches, despite him not featuring in the domestic league. They were showing that he had their support and their backing. He is very well liked and respected at UEFA – unlike, it appears, at the MLSz. FIFA nominations are submitted at the end of October. On 12th November, we received confirmation from our source at UEFA that Sándor Puhl had indeed nominated Kassai as number 6 on the FIFA list and in effect has nominated him for demotion from the elite list. Vad was nominated as number 1, with Bognár as number 2 and UEFA feel that Puhl is trying to force them into accepting these rankings despite UEFA believing otherwise. Whilst Bognár is popular at UEFA, Vad is not. The latter is seen as arrogant by UEFA and is not trusted, viewing him as too inconsistent and error-prone. We have been unable to ascertain Vad Sr.’s (the father of Vad) exact role within the MLSz; however, he is a senior member of staff and is known to be friends with and a supporter of Puhl. There are claims that he has used his position and friendship to try and influence his son, replacing Kassai as the number 1 referee. The UEFA referees committee have sought independent assessments of Kassai’s domestic matches as there is a suspicion that he is deliberately being unjustly marked down. They have copies of the videos of his games, but as of yet there has been no confirmation as to whether he received different marks from their assessors or not. It is common knowledge that every Football Association runs on an element of, “it’s not what you know but who you know“, and there is always a degree of favouritism and that is unlikely to ever really change. That might be ok, to a degree at least, in terms of matches being allocated on a favouritism basis as opposed to merit-based, like they should be, but when it reaches the stage where a man’s career is adversely affected because he is not ‘the favourite’ then it has gone too far and questions must be asked about the decision making. When one hears comments from other FA’s (Romania, Poland, Germany, England, France, Greece, Slovakia, Russia, as well as within UEFA) that they feel that Kassai is being treated “appallingly”, “dreadfully”, “disgracefully” and “scandalously” by the MLSz JB, it might be prudent to ask very serious questions of the management and whether they are still competent to do the job they have been entrusted to uphold with integrity.
There has been a very noticeable decline in the standard of Hungarian refereeing particularly over the past 18 months – 2 years, not just at NB1 level but right down to grassroots level. There is growing discontent amongst the referees themselves about the lack of management under Sándor Puhl and Sándor Berzi. They state within their small trusted community that they dare not question Puhl’s authority, however, as it would probably mean the end of their career. When Sándor Csányi was elected President of the MLSz in 2010 he promised to run a transparent, verifiable alliance. The MLSz JB are not in any way transparent. Sándor Puhl’s accounts are allowed to be secret. He doesn’t have to account for what money is being spent on. You cannot know exactly how much he’ll get to review reports, transcripts, or travel expenses or even his basic wage. He seemingly lives in the same hotel used for meetings and where the commission organises events; there is a question mark over whether the hotel is paid for by the MLSz. This certainly looks suspicious to everyone else, particularly after problems with the MLSz JT, with car hire, cost accounts, and several astronomical phone bills. The professional referees training, we are told, now takes place at the hotel where there are no proper facilities for fitness training or practical demonstrations/training. It is unclear what, if any, training they receive during their fortnightly meetings but it could go part way into explaining the general decline in fitness levels, with the non-FIFA referees if they are receiving no fitness training and simply being left to their own devices with no guidance. The FIFA referees will receive fitness training at the various UEFA courses that they attend across the year. They typically attend at least 4 courses that last for an entire week, during which they are required to also take a fitness test. They are also provided with dedicated training regimes, unlike the non-FIFA referees. There doesn’t appear to be any coaches/mentors/assessors/sports psychologists attending these meetings either. Contrast this with England where referees meet for 2 days every 2 weeks at St Georges, during those 2 days they will train together as a team, they receive Laws of the Game (LOTG) training and guidance, mistakes are analysed and guidance given as to how these mistakes can be avoided in the future and referees have access to coaches, assessors, mentors and sports psychologists. In Hungary, a computer-based system has been put into place known as the Integrated Football Application (IFA) similar to the Match Officials Administration System (MOAS) used in the UK. All referees and match day assessors have access to the system. Currently, it is very underutilised for lack of a better term. Referees receive an email on Thursday to tell them which game they will be involved with on the following Saturday, on occasion leaving them with having to make travel arrangements of distances up to 400km the following day to attend the game. No consideration is given to their family life, no allowance given for them to be able to plan any family activities. The appointments always used to come out at 10 am on a Tuesday morning. This has worked well in the past, why is this no longer the case? In terms of match day assessors, they receive an email on a Friday giving them a game to assess. There is no record kept of this on IFA, no official transmission, no invoice for expenses etc. Referees are not informed who their matchday assessor will be and they may or may not see them before or after a game! A referee should always have the opportunity to speak with an assessor both pre and post-match – their honest assessment is vital for a referee’s development. We are advised that, post-match, the assessors have to contact Vencel Tóth Sr. and report in a few words about any dubious decisions. He then passes on a summary to Sándor Puhl. This in itself is not unusual. When Keren Barrett was still working for the PGMOL in England he would always phone each of the Premier League referees post-match to ascertain if there had been any problems or contentious decisions that the referee management needed to know about so that they were prepared for when the press and managers started calling to complain or ask for explanations. By noon the following day, the assessor sends a detailed list of match day incidents to Sándor Puhl via email. Puhl is then said to ‘clarify’ what can and cannot go in the report. If this claim is true, it makes a complete mockery of the assessing system. Referees are not perfect and match day assessments are a great resource for them to be able to identify where they have gone wrong in any given match and analyse how to prevent similar mistakes in future. They cannot do this if an incompetent and seemingly dishonest system is in place. It has recently come to light that, during a disciplinary hearing, Zoltan Liptak stated that Kassai made a racist comment towards his then-teammate Patrick Mevoungou during DVTK vs. Vasas at the end of the 2016/17 season. Kassai has denied this accusation and is currently taking legal action against Liptak for defamation. 

Response from the Hungarian FA
“Out of its many tasks, the Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) considers the most important to be the development of the quality of football. The association makes all of its decisions in the spirit that their actions lead to the improvement of the quality of football. In all instances a sort of impartiality is required; personal interests can never influence professional decisions. In recent days, many articles have dealt with referee Viktor Kassai’s absence from the World Cup. In regards to his person and professional activities, the MLSZ have the following to say. Every professional decision may result in positive or negative personal outcomes, as is the case in all procedures where the goal is guaranteeing quality and continuous improvement. The members of the Hungarian refereeing team have been doing their work at an internationally accepted professional level for years; part of this is the evaluation and ranking of performance. Referees must accept when personnel decisions based on performance affect them in a negative way. Domestic referees are assessed based on their aggregate performance in domestic league games in the NB1, since the interest of the MLSZ is first and foremost the improvement of the quality of domestic refereeing. In recent years, several assessments, praise, criticism, and analysis have seen the light of day relating to Viktor Kassai, who was voted the world’s best referee in 2011. In the last six months, both the domestic and international media have dealt with his performances relating to the Champions League quarter-final Bayern Munich - Real Madrid and the World Cup qualifier Turkey - Croatia. As with these games, the MLSZ always stands with our referees that do their work to the best of their ability, when they receive criticism from home or abroad. As Sándor Csányi, president of the MLSZ, said at this year’s convention, every sportsman, including referees, can make mistakes; however, in no case is there an excuse for behaviour that is unacceptable towards the sport and its participants i.e. players, sporting directors or fans. Regarding Viktor Kassai’s domestic ranking, a Hungarian referee’s assessment is entirely independent of performance in any international match; the latter is the jurisdiction of UEFA and FIFA. The MLSZ Referees Committee assesses referees solely based on their performances in league matches in the OTP Bank Liga. In all 198 domestic league matches, referee assessors rate the performance of referees; this includes all assistants as well as the main referee. These professional ratings are averaged across all performances and form the basis for the ranking of each individual referee. Only the impartial analysis of domestic performance is used to determine the final rankings. As a consequence, the MLSZ Referees Committee cannot protect, help, or hinder any individual referee, as this “special treatment” would add undesirable personal emotion into a purely professional rating process. Referees can only improve their professional ranking by being rewarded with high marks for high quality performances in matches. In summary, the World Cup appearance of the highest-ranked Hungarian referees is not down to their MLSZ ranking, but instead the decision of the FIFA referees committee, who presumably base this on referees’ international performance. The MLSZ is sorry that there will be no Hungarian referee present at the 2018 World Cup, but it considers a more important, in fact the most important, task to improve the quality of domestic football and youth development.”