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Who is Felix Zwayer, the controversial referee for England - Netherlands

  /  autty

With a place in UEFA’s summer tournament final at stake, the man with the whistle could play an important part in the outcome.

In England there were calls for referee Felix Zwayer to be changed once he was appointed the man in charge of the Euro 24 semifinal against the Netherlands on Wednesday. Those shouts fell on UEFA’s deaf ears and the 43-year-old German will indeed have the whistle when the game kicks off. But why was there so much controversy? Let’s take a look at the man himself...

Felix Zwayer’s refereeing career

Born on 19 May 1981, Zwayer has been a Bundesliga referee since 2008 and an international referee since 2012. Despite his extensive experience, his career has not been plain sailing. His journey as a referee actually began back in 2004, at the age of just 23. His first major opportunity then came in 2007 when he was promoted to officiate in Germany’s 2. Bundesliga and soon after as an assistant referee in the Bundesliga. By the 2009-10 season, Zwayer had become a full-time referee in the country’s top flight.

In 2005, very early in his career, Zwayer was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal. Alongside several high-ranking referees, Zwayer reported that 2. Bundesliga referee Robert Hoyzer was accepting bribes to fix matches. It later emerged that Zwayer himself had accepted a €300 bribe to cover up for Hoyzer. Consequently, Zwayer was banned from refereeing for six months. Despite this setback, after the ban he continued his ascent in the refereeing world and was added to the International FIFA List in 2012.

He was selected by FIFA as one of the video assistant referees for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. More recently, he officiated the 2023 UEFA Nations League Final between Spain and Croatia and has consistently been involved in high-stakes matches in European club competitions.

Zwayer and Bellingham

So to those calls for a change from the English. This relates to an incident in December 2021 and a controversial Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the two big guns on the league. Zwayer was criticised for not awarding Dortmund a penalty, for sending off their coach, Marco Rose, and for handing Bayern a spot kick in their crucial 3-2 victory.

The incident prompted then Dortmund player Jude Bellingham to publicly question Zwayer’s integrity by referencing his past involvement in the aforementioned match-fixing scandal. The remarks landed the young English star a €40,000 (c.$43,000) fine, and now the two will meet again on the pitch of his former club’s BVB Stadion Dortmund.

Who is the VAR for England vs Netherlands?

Zwayer will be supported during the game by Video Assistant Referee, Bastian Dankert, also from Germany. Here is the full list of officials for the semifinal between England and the Netherlands.

Zwayer has already officiated three matches in the tournament, including Italy’s opener against Albania, Portugal’s 3-0 win over Turkey, and the Netherlands’ 3-0 victory over Romania in the round of 16. You can follow all the action from Dortmund right here on AS USA with our William Allen with the insightful commentary. He’ll be keeping a close eye on any controversial decisions.