Lemme/Ullrich: prospects of return to Bundesliga causing controversy in Germany

As I hear from other sources, and (for you German-speakers) as indicated in recent 'Handball-World' postings http://www.handball-world.com/o.red.c/news.php?auswahl=22660&GID=1 http://www.handball-world.com/o.red.c/news.php?auswahl=22670 controversy is erupting as the planned return of the referee couple Lemme/Ullrich is drawing closer. The German federation (DHB) has strongly supported the referees after they were given a 5-year suspension by the European federation (EHF). http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.802 For instance, DHB has lent them money to pay the fee that goes with an appeal to the EHF, and they have promised them a return to the Bundesliga in mid-December. (The EHF suspension does not necessarily apply at the national level). Now it appears that several Bundesliga representatives are not so enthusiastic about their return.

While the controversy to some extent may be related to more general strains between the DHB and the Bundesliga, it also appears that there is a bit of prestige and personal emotion involved. Irritation and ‘high volume’ is coming through. The Bundesliga and some club representatives seem to be concerned about image, and comments have also been made to the effect that unwanted speculation could arise if the referees returned and, just by chance, as can always happen, were to become involved in a controversial decision or a disputed game. By contrast, the DHB seems determined to prove the point that they continue to fully trust Lemme/Ullrich, while at the same time perhaps ‘thumbing their noses’ at the EHF. At the same time, however, the DHB seems to imply that they would not take an absolutely final decision until the appeal has been heard by the EHF.

It would not be prudent to speculate about the outcome of the appeal. However, it is relevant to remember that part of the EHF’s frustrations emanated from the refusal of the referees to name the person(s) responsible for putting pressure on them before a game in Russia. At least it is interesting to speculate about what would, hypothetically, happen if the referees suddenly did provide names and what position EHF would be in as a result; see my earlier article: http://teamhandballnews.com/news.php?item.803

At this time, however, I would prefer just to comment briefly on the determination on the part of the referees and the DHB to get them back in action in the Bundesliga. They know that their very distinguished international career is over. So people have wondered, what makes them so adamant about continuing in the Bundesliga? I am sure they might simply be eager to continue an activity that they have always enjoyed very much, and the Bundesliga is now the most interesting arena available to them. They might also feel that a period of good performances in the Bundesliga would in a sense prove that they are still the strong and trusted referees that they used to be. They care about their reputation.

Of course it would be improper for me, in this very delicate situation, to try to interfere and offer them some good advice, least of all in public. But for their sake, having known them as top-level referees and good friends over many years, I only hope that they take a decision that will lead to a worthy end of their career. Presumably they would want to be remembered the way they were at their peak (which may have been a couple of years ago), and not for the controversy that is surrounding them now. While they might see advantages and opportunities in a return, I am sure they will also understand that there are risks. As experienced referees, they should know how to make a decision based on sound judgment and not one that is based on emotions, prestige, or the views of others.