Polish referee to remain in post for Champions League final after apologizing for speaking at event organized by right-wing leader

Szymon Marciniak spoke last week at an event organized by Slawomir Mentzen, a co-leader of the nationalist Confederation party in Poland

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
FILE - Referee Szymon Marciniak reacts during the Europa League match between the Wolves and Olympiakos at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, England, on Aug. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira, File)

The Polish football referee due to officiate the UEFA Champions League final will remain in charge of the game after apologizing for speaking at an event organized by a politician deemed far-right by a Polish activist group.

The Warsaw-based Never Again campaign complained to football governing body UEFA about Szymon Marciniak, who is considered to be one of the most highly rated international referees and oversaw last year’s FIFA World Cup final, after it emerged he accepted an invitation to speak at an event held on May 29 at the International Congress Center in Katowice.

The event was organized by Slawomir Mentzen, a co-leader of the nationalist Confederation party in Poland considered to be a part of the radical right.

Following the complaint, UEFA launched an investigation into the matter and issued a statement that read: “UEFA is aware of the allegations surrounding Szymon Marciniak and is seeking urgent clarification.”

Never Again reportedly told the governing body it would not oppose Marciniak’s involvement in the Champions League final to take place on Saturday in Istanbul between Manchester City and Internazionale on the condition that the referee apologized, which he has now done.

In a statement issued on Friday, Marciniak expressed his “deepest apologies” for attending the event and for “any distress or harm it may have caused.”

“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 with 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,” he added.

Prior to the apology, members of the Polish government issued a staunch defense of the world-renowned referee with both Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk commenting on the furor.

“All political forces in Poland speak with one voice regarding Judge Marciniak. He is the best referee in the world, respecting every human being and ensuring this respect on the pitch and in life. It cannot be judged by one and unfair opinion,” tweeted Morawiecki, while Bortniczuk described attempts to denounce Marciniak as “a great manipulation.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski also labeled the outrage by the Never Again campaign “an immense scandal.”

Following the apology, UEFA confirmed later on Friday that Marciniak will remain in his post for the governing body’s flagship event to take place at Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on June 10.

“Based on the information provided, UEFA confirms that Marciniak will fulfill his role as the referee for the Champions League final,” European football’s governing body said.

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