Sport

Euro 2024: Southgate adresses referee controversy ahead of England vs Netherlands

England manager, Gareth Southgate, has insisted that the controversial appointment of Felix Zwayer as the referee for their Euro 2024 semi-final in Dortmund was ‘not even a consideration’.

The German official was involved in a bitter spat with Jude Bellingham three years ago when the England midfielder blasted Zwayer after a game between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Bellingham, then a Dortmund player, said: “You give a referee that has match-fixed before, the biggest game in Germany? What do you expect?” The England star was fined £34,000 for his explosive remarks and Zwayer took two months off amidst the fallout from the row.

Zwayer was banned for six months in 2005 after accepting a £250 bribe from fellow referee Robert Hoyzer. Zwayer was given a lenient punishment in the first instance because he realised his mistake and reported the alleged bribe.

But despite the furore, UEFA have backed Zwayer by giving him the showpiece game with England – and are refusing to back down. The 43-year-old is regarded by UEFA as one of their top officials and they insist that is why he is in charge of the clash against HOLLAND .

And Southgate is not bothered that Zwayer is taking charge of Bellingham on the big stage, with a place in the Euro 2024 final at stake in the showdown with Holland. The England manager said: “I think everyone who knows me knows I deal with referees with complete respect.

“I know UEFA appreciate the respect we have shown referees over eight years. There is a right way to conduct yourself towards officials. I am not concerned who the referee is. He will be at a very high standard because that is what UEFA demand.”

And Southgate also laughed off suggestions that Dutch travel problems on the eve of the match might have an impact on manager Ronald Koeman’s preparations. Southgate smiled: “We don’t play until 9 tomorrow night. And I’m sure they’ll still get dinner tonight. I don’t see it having any impact on the game.”

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