On the basis of the recent dispute between Panathinaikos owner, Dimitris Giannakopoulos, and the Euroleague, it seems to me that the referees’ overall performance has been the league’s biggest problem so far.

Two weeks ago, during the match between the “Greens” and Fenerbahce at the “Ulker Sports Arena”, Giannakopoulos strongly complained about the referees’ decisions, which (according to him) cost his team the victory over the defending champions.

His comments in his Instagram account and his confrontation with Fenerbahce fans on social media caused the league’s annoyance.

The Euroleague responded immediately to the claims of Panathinaikos owner and requested the opening of a disciplinary proceeding against Giannakopoulos, yet there has been no official decision until now.

However, and no matter what will happen in this case, it is obvious the referees perform at much lower standards and that leads to many incomprehensible decisions.

Photo: Sport24.gr

For instance, during the match between Panathinaikos and Fenerbahce, the referees didn’t call many fouls in favour of both teams, making mistakes that could determine the winner.

One week later, the same mistakes happened in the “Greens” game against Zalgiris Kaunas, where the referees made many poor decisions, yet their biggest mistake was that they didn’t call three fouls in favour of the Lithuanians during their last play, which would probably give them the victory.

Similarly, the referees’ performance has been mediocre in most matches so far, no matter whether the games include a top club (e.g Real Madrid, Olympiacos, CSKA Moscow) or a less competitive one (e.g Anadolu Efes, Armani Milano).

And that brings me to my initial point, which is that the Euroleague should make sure they are capable of enhancing the referee’s performance through constant evaluation and educational seminars.

According to the Director of the Refereeing Department, Richard Stokes, who succeeded Kostas Rigas in 2015, “every referee receives a personal assessment after each game and is provided with videos to further help their personal improvement.”

At the same time, all 16 current Euroleague coaches meet with the Euroleague Refereeing Department in the summer to “discuss the last season from an officiating point of view”, while, afterwards,  the referees’ pre-season clinic takes place, which gives the referees the opportunity to “review and analyse a great amount of video footage,” according to Mr Stokes.

Referee Mindset
Photo: Referee Mindset

Even though the officials are well-prepared for the teams and the Euroleague requires a great effort from them, the number of poor officiating matches has increased.

What makes sense to me is that the referees’ level of performance is not as high as it used to be in the previous years, with most of them not being of the highest level and, consequently, one or two of the three referees usually fail to meet the expectations.

And despite the use of the instant replay system, which has significantly helped the referees, there are still many changes that need to take place so as for the referees to avoid making so many mistakes.

Overall, Richard Stokes and the Euroleague should do their best to help the referees enhance their officiating performance and make fewer crucial mistakes, otherwise maybe it’s time for new, top level referees to be appointed.