Champions League final referee responds after UEFA launch investigation into conduct
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The referee for the Champions League final next week has responded after UEFA launched an investigation into an event he attended.
Szymon Marciniak, deemed to be one of the best referees in the world, was announced as the man in the middle for the showpiece between Manchester City and Inter Milan in Istanbul on June 10.
But the official, who took charge of the World Cup final in December, has courted controversy after appearing as a guest speaker at an event put on by a far-right politician in his native Poland.
Marciniak was a main speaker at a business conference organised by Slawomir Mentzen, leader of the right-wing New Hope and Confederation parties.
He infamously pushed the discriminatory political slogan, “We stand against Jews, gays, abortion, taxation and the European Union” and once launched called White IPA Matters in response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2021.
Marcinak's appearance caught the attention of anti-racist group Never Again, who filed a complaint.
Co-founder Rafal Pankowski claimed the event, titled 'Everest' and described as a networking event, "served the purpose of promoting Mentzen’s political agenda ahead of this year’s parliamentary election in Poland".
UEFA, specifically chief of football Zvonimir Boban and head of referees Roberto Rosetti, urgently investigated the matter and in liaising with Never Again, decided that Marciniak will officiate the Champions League final as advertised.
The governing body thanked Never Again for making them aware of the event, while they accepted the apology made by Marciniak for his attendance.
He is believed to have spoken about his rise as a referee rather than any political views but stressed that he had no idea of the event's link to a far-right movement and would have turned down the proposal had he been aware.
In a lengthy statement released through UEFA, Marciniak said: "I hope this statement will find its way to all those concerned, particularly the individuals who were rightfully alarmed and disappointed by my participation in the ‘Everest’ event organised in Katowice on 29 May 2023. I want to express my deepest apologies for my involvement.
“Upon reflection and further investigation, it has become evident that I was gravely misled and completely unaware of the true nature and affiliations of the event in question. I had no knowledge that it was associated a Polish extreme-right movement. Had I been aware of this fact, I would have categorically declined the invitation.
“It is important to understand that the values promoted by this movement are entirely contrary to my personal beliefs and the principles I strive to uphold in my life. I am deeply remorseful for any perception that my participation may have contradicted them.
“As a professional deeply committed to the game of football, I want to emphasise my unwavering support for the values championed by Uefa, particularly inclusivity and respect for all individuals regardless of their background.
“These principles lie at the very core of the spirit of football and align seamlessly with my personal beliefs. Moreover, I wholeheartedly condemn any form of hate, discrimination, or intolerance, as they have no place within the sport or society as a whole.
“I also want to highlight my commitment to combating discrimination in football. I was among the first referees in the world, and certainly the first in my country, to apply the ‘three-step procedure’ in response to a serious discriminatory incident during a match in Poland.
“Moving forward, I pledge to be more vigilant in scrutinising the events and organisations with which I associate myself. I am committed to learning from this experience and ensuring that such lapses in judgment do not occur in the future.
“Lastly, I extend my sincere apologies to the clubs, players, fans, colleagues, officials and organisations who place their trust in me.”
Marciniak has been a FIFA listed official since 2011 and took charge of the UEFA Super Cup in 2018.
Likened to the legendary Pierluigi Collina, he refereed Manchester City's Champions League semi-final trouncing of Real Madrid last month and was voted as the the world's best ref in 2022.