In the dispute over his age-related retirement as a top referee, Manuel Gräfe is suing the DFB for damages at the Frankfurt/Main Regional Court.
The now 49-year-old Berliner had to end his Bundesliga career last year after 289 appearances due to the German Football Association's age limit for referees at the age of 47. For today (2:00 p.m.) the court has scheduled a pronouncement date. In the meantime, former World Cup referee Felix Brych has announced that he still wants to referee in the Bundesliga when he is 48.
What is it about?
Superficially around the sum of around 190,000 euros. However, the primary goal of the lawsuit is that "I would like to have it verified that age was the way to get rid of me," stressed Graefe during the hearing on November 16.
What do the DFB statutes say?
The age limit is not stipulated in the statutes, but has been common practice for many years. There was an exception, for example, in the 1980s, as in the case of Walter Eschweiler. Graefe's lawyer Olaf Methner is of the opinion: "In terms of discrimination law, it is sufficient that such an age limit is practiced, even if it is not laid down in writing somewhere."
What do the DFB officials say?
The association denies Gräfe's allegations that they wanted to get rid of him. DFB chief referee Lutz Michael Fröhlich recently brought up the relaxation of the age limit for top referees. This should only be a point of reference. "You can discuss everything when you're looking for a solution. It's all about what helps the system as a whole. You have to look at that regardless of the age of the people," said Fröhlich of the "Bild".
Why haven't the two parties come to an agreement so far?
The Gräfe lawyer had rejected a settlement offer from the court. "The court could not or did not want to persuade the DFB to admit that Mr. Gräfe was not further considered as a referee because he was 47 years old. We would have liked that explanation," he explains.
What's next for Graefe?
The Berliner would continue his career even now. "I would have liked to have continued. My feet, knees and hips are fine. But the DFB insists on an age-old guideline," Graefe once said. "I feel like I can whistle to 50 or more." However, this is considered unrealistic even with a verdict in his sense: the former FIFA game director and those responsible for refereeing at the association have long been at odds. Fröhlich spoke of "hardened fronts". Gräfe called for a "restart in DFB refereeing" in the ZDF "Sports Studio".
What about other top referees?
Felix Brych still wants to referee Bundesliga games at the age of 48. "During the winter training camp in Lagos, I signaled to the sporting management that I was willing to be available as a referee beyond the current Bundesliga season," said Brych of the German Press Agency. The Munich player will be 48 on August 3, he has refereed 327 games in the first division and was World Cup referee in Brazil in 2014 and in Russia in 2018. The five-time "Referee of the Year" in Germany withdrew from the international stage after the EM 2021.
How did the DFB react to the Brych announcement?
The association has already signaled readiness. "We welcome Felix Brych's willingness and are still very open about squad planning for the next 2023/2024 season," said a statement from DFB Schiri GmbH.