England vs Netherlands referee: who is Felix Zwayer? Match-fixing scandal and Jude Bellingham feud explained

Jude Bellingham has previously been very critical of England's semi-final referee Felix Zwayer. Picture: Getty Images
Jude Bellingham has previously been very critical of England's semi-final referee Felix Zwayer. Picture: Getty Images
Jude Bellingham has previously been very critical of England's semi-final referee Felix Zwayer. Picture: Getty Images | Getty Images
Jude Bellingham has previously been very critical of referee Felix Zwayer - referee for England’s Euro 2024 match against the Netherlands.

UEFA have made the controversial decision to appoint German referee Felix Zwayer to oversee England’s crucial Euro 2024 clash with Netherlands. England celebrated a penalty shoot-out victory against Switzerland last time out and the team are now just two games away from lifting the European Championships.

The semi-final tie in Dortmund is one of the biggest matches of Gareth Southgate’s career as England manager and a fixture which could potentially set up a blockbuster finale against the winner of France or Spain if the Three Lions are successful.

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Wednesday’s semi-final will be Zwayer’s fourth game of Euro 2024 so far, but why has his involvement in the tournament been so controversial and what is the history behind his feud with Three Lions midfielder Jude Bellingham?

Here is all you need to know ahead of the highly-anticipated contest at the BVB Stadion.

Who is Felix Zwayer?

Felix Zwayer is a German referee who is based in Berlin. He began officiating in 2004 and in 2007 began refereeing in the second-tier of German football. He progressed to the Bundesliga (Germany’s top-flight) in 2009 and has been a FIFA registered referee since 2012 which allows him to also oversee international matches.

The 45-year-old, who also works as a real estate broker, was selected as one of the video assistant referees for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the first World Cup to ever use the technology.

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Why is Felix Zwayer’s appointment controversial?

Felix Zwayer was involved in a match fixing controversy during his early years as a referee back in 2005. The incident was centred around Robert Hoyzer, who admitted that he fixed and betted on matches in the second and third tier of German football.

Zwayer, who was his assistant referee at the time, served a six month suspension for taking a bribe of £250, according to reports from Express Sport. The outlet understands that UEFA and German football authorities consider Zwayer to be fully rehabilitated, but Hoyzer was ultimately banned from football for life and sentenced to prison for two years and five months.

What did Jude Bellingham say about Felix Zwayer?

Zwayer has gone on to forge a hugely successful career as a referee which has seen him be involved in many major matches, including the 2023 UEFA Nations League final. However, debate over the scandal did resurface in 2021 after a high-profile title decider between Jude Bellingham’s former club Borussia Dortmund and reigning German champions at the time Bayern Munich.

During the game Bellingham was left furious at the referee for failing to award Dortmund a penalty and later went on to reward Bayern a spotkick for a handball incident involving Matts Hummels. The defeat played a crucial role in deciding the title race and an infuriated Bellingham claimed Zwayer was not a fit choice to oversee a game of that magnitude.

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He said at the time: "For me it wasn't a penalty. Hummels is not even looking at the ball and he's fighting to get it. It hits him, I don't think he's looking at the ball. You can look at a lot of the other decisions in the game. You give a referee, that has match fixed before, the biggest game in Germany. What do you expect?”

Zwayer took a month's break from refereeing after the controversy before returning to his post in the Bundesliga. During this tournament he has refereed Italy vs Albania, Turkey vs Portugal and most recently Netherland’s 3-0 win over Romania in the round of 16.

In this tournament so far, he has been renowned for his liberal approach towards bookings and has handed out 13 yellow cards in three games.

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