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UCL final ref to stay after apology over far-right event

Polish referee Szymon Marciniak has apologised for speaking at a business event tied to a far-right politician and will officiate next week’s Champions League final, UEFA said on Friday.

Marciniak’s appointment for the game between Manchester City and Inter Milan on June 10 was at risk after a Warsaw-based anti-racism group alerted UEFA to his conference appearance this week.

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Marciniak, who officiated the 2022 World Cup final, is widely regarded as one of football’s top referees.

UEFA said it accepted Marciniak’s “profound apologies and clarification” and that anti-racism group Never Again had asked for the referee to be retained.

“I want to express my deepest apologies for my involvement and any distress or harm it may have caused,” Marciniak wrote in a statement published by UEFA, adding he was “gravely misled and completely unaware” of the links to Slawomir Mentzen, a leader of the far-right Confederation party.

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“I had no knowledge that [the conference] was associated with a Polish extreme-right movement. Had I been aware of this fact, I would have categorically declined the invitation,” he added.

“I am committed to learning from this experience and ensuring that such lapses in judgment do not occur in the future.”

UEFA noted Never Again’s acceptance of the Marciniak apology and said “removing him would undermine the promotion of anti-discrimination.”

“Based on the information provided, UEFA confirms that Mr. Marciniak will fulfil his role as the referee for the 2023 UEFA Champions League final,” the governing body said in a statement.

Marciniak also had been supported by Poland’s government on Friday while UEFA considered removing him from next week’s match in Istanbul.

Polish sports minister Kamil Bortniczuk wrote to UEFA, saying Marciniak gave a 45-minute speech of a “strictly business, motivational, and inspirational character,” and did not have contact with Mentzen.

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Marciniak wrote on his Instagram account late Thursday that he “never supported nor legitimized any political party, organization or individual politician.”

UEFA said in a statement Thursday that “the whole football community abhor the ‘values’ that are promoted by the [political] group in question and takes these allegations very seriously.”

Marciniak also refereed for FIFA at the 2018 World Cup and for UEFA at Euro 2016, as well as in club competition games over several seasons. He missed Euro 2020 while recovering from a heart issue after a COVID-19 infection.

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