Despite having been a Fifa-accredited referee for the past 10 years, Jonas Eriksson travels to Poland and Ukraine this summer to officiate in his first major international tournament.
The 38-year-old is not like any other referee; after selling his 15 per cent stake in Swedish media rights business IEC over five years ago, he became a multi-millionaire. However, despite his vast wealth, the Swede continues to officiate in his homeland as well as across the continent, insisting that he is spurred on by his love of the game and his favourite hobby.
“All the money hasn't changed anything, the best thing I do in my life is still refereeing football,” he says.
Eriksson became a professional referee in 1994 before taking charge of his first Allsvenskan game six years later. He received his Fifa badge in 2002 and participated in his first international competition later that year, overseeing games in the group stages as well as a semi-final of the 2002 Under-17 European Championships. Over the next six years he officiated in Uefa Cup, Europa League and Champions League matches as well as European Championship and World Cup qualifiers until he was promoted to Uefa’s elite category at the beginning of the 2009-2010 season.
|JONAS ERIKSSON | Sweden
Eriksson is by no means a strict referee as red cards have been relatively rare in his career and he is not one who dishes out an abundance of yellow cards, however, he has drummed up a significant amount of controversy during his time as a professional.
|ERIKSSON'S SUPPORTING TEAM
|Assistant Ref 1||Stefan Wittberg|
|Assistant Ref 2||Mathias Klasenius|
|Assistant Ref 3||Fredrik Nilsson (Standby)|
|Additional Assistant||Markus Strombergsson|
|Additional Assistant||Stefan Johannesson|
He became the enemy of Rangers fans during their Champions League clash with Sevilla in 2009 when he waved away penalty claims from the Scottish side early in the first half. That moment was considered a turning point in the game as full-back Abdoulay Konko would most likely have been sent off for his challenge on Steven Naismith had the spot-kick been given when the sides were level. Instead, the Spaniards went on to win 4-1 as Rangers crashed out of the competition, finishing bottom of their group.
The decision not to award the penalty prompted former Southampton and Celtic manager Gordon Strachan to launch a scathing attack on the Swede, insisting he “shouldn't get another game in the Champions League... he is not good enough.”
This season, Eriksson sparked further controversy after sending off Marseille’s Jordan Ayew and later awarded the French side a penalty in their 3-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the group stages of the Champions League. He came under fire again upon taking charge of his first quarter-final in the competition in March when he dismissed two penalty claims from Barcelona in their goalless draw with AC Milan at San Siro.
Despite a number of controversies in top-flight football, the Swedish referee has been relatively consistent in performances in his nation’s top league, and he continues to officiate in the top competitions. This season he has been in the middle of six Champions League games as well as the first legs of Atletico Madrid’s second-round Europa League match with Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon’s semi-final with Athletic Bilbao.
Eriksson is honoured to have been picked to travel to the tournament this summer and says he is very excited to begin.
“I am extremely proud, happy and grateful to be one of the referees who will go to the European Championship finals and be able to enjoy this tournament,” he told the Swedish FA’s website.
“I want to send a big thanks to everyone in Swedish football, from refereeing colleagues and observers to the players and coaches who all in different ways have helped me develop as a referee.”
With 18 years of experience and a burgeoning reputation, Eriksson will be confident of a good performance in the European Championships, and with his tendency to let games flow, he will be a favourite among fans and players alike.