The center referee for the Euro 2024 semifinal match between England and the Netherlands, Felix Zwayer, is already at the center of controversy. Zwayer previously served a six-month ban for accepting a bribe of 300 euros and assisting another referee in match-fixing. That happened back in 2005, and Zwayer has since risen to become a UEFA referee in the category of elite. Therefore, he often works top fixtures in the Bundesliga or international competition, like the Euros.

However, it is wrong to have Zwayer working games of this magnitude given his history. Even though Zwayer served the punishment, there is an essence of the issue in having the same problems flare up again. The German FA was clearly not happy with the fact that one of its referees committed a match-fixing offense. It held the suspension as a secret for years until a German newspaper revealed a secret German file.

Match-fixing has long been an issue in soccer, and the fact that someone known to have committed it is refereeing a major semifinal is a poor look. This is not to say Zwayer will accept a bribe or commit another offense that amounts to match-fixing. However, it gives one team an easy excuse to point to should things go awry. Referees will always be at the center of attention for games like this that are sure to call for controversy. Having Zwayer at the center of it only turns the focus away from the sporting event.

Previous altercations with player involved for Felix Zwayer at Euro 2024

Zwayer’s suspension for match-fixing occurred during a 2. Bundesliga match. Therefore, none of the players on England or Switzerland can directly point to him and say he has wronged them before. However, that does not stop the altercations from rising since Zwayer returned from his brief suspension.

Jude Bellingham will start for England in the middle of the park as one of its most important players. Going back to his time at Borussia Dortmund, Bellingham played in a game where Zwayer was the center referee. Controversial calls went against Bellingham, and the English star called the referee’s qualifications into question.

“You give a referee, that has match fixed before, the biggest game in Germany. What do you expect?” Bellingham said after the game.

That comment earned Bellingham a fine that amounted to over $43,000. Zwayer took a two-month leave of absence after that incident in 2021, but he has since returned to refereeing in Germany and other contests. Notably, he was the center referee for a Europa Conference League tie between Aston Villa and Olympiacos.

UEFA is reviewing the appointment of Zwayer to officiate the game between England and the Netherlands. Yet, all signs point to the governing body sticking with Zwayer as the official for Wednesday’s game. If UEFA stands by its appointment, there are concerns about the integrity of the game based on Zwayer’s past. Even if nothing happens, it should be a concern that UEFA continues to revert to referees with a history of issues.