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Champions League Final Ref Says He Was “Misled” Into Attending Notable Racist’s Networking Event

Referee, Szymon Marciniak reacts during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 leg two match between FC Porto and FC Internazionale at Estadio do Dragao on March 14, 2023 in Porto, Portugal.
Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

A day after it was reported that upcoming Champions League final referee Szymon Marciniak had spoken at a far-right event in Katowice, Poland, UEFA has released a statement saying that it accepts a lengthy apology from the 42-year-old official, and that he will remain the appointed ref for the biggest club soccer match of the year.

The event in question occurred on May 29 and was organized by Sławomir Mentzen, a far-right Polish politician who, among other things, popularized a slogan that translates to “We stand against Jews, gays, abortion, taxation, and the European Union." Not great! The Guardian reports that the event, named "Everest," was "billed as a networking event complete with a beer drinking session." The beer part of it is not coincidental, as Mentzen owns a brewery that released a beer called "White IPA Matters" a couple of years ago. An ad for the beer, showing a black bartender drinking it in a bar filled with Confederate flags, did not go over well.

Despite all that easily Googleable context, Marciniak's apology, released by UEFA in its statement, claimed that he was "gravely misled and completely unaware of the true nature and affiliations of the event in question." He went on to decry "any form of hate, discrimination, or intolerance, as they have no place within the sport or society as a whole." He also brought up his bonafides as a referee, claiming that he was "among the first referees in the world, and certainly the first in [his] country, to apply the 'three-step procedure' in response to a serious discriminatory incident during a match in Poland."

The statement was enough to get UEFA to end its investigation a day after it began, following the initial report from Polish anti-racist organization Never Again. That organization did not call for Marciniak, who was also the head referee for the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France, to step down as the ref for the Champions League final, but rather asked that he release a statement distancing himself from Mentzen and the event as a whole on the grounds that removing him "would undermine the promotion of anti-discrimination."

UEFA apparently agrees, as Marciniak will not be pulled from the June 10 showdown between Manchester City and Inter Milan. Instead of removing him, Europe's top soccer body simply restated its boilerplate stance that it is "dedicated to fostering an inclusive, respectful and fair-play football environment, and stands firmly against hate, discrimination, and intolerance."

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