Fairness Overhaul May Be Key to Euro's Success

You can argue whether or not this was the best Euro since 1988, but surprisingly, less goals were scored in the recent tourney than in 2004 - a tournament often criticized for the few goals scored. But one thing is for sure: This was the fairest Euro.

The number of red cards dropped by 50 percent in comparison to previous tournaments, and 13 of the 16 teams competing did not receive red cards. The number of yellow cards also dropped.

But these are only numbers. The change was much more visible in games. It felt like the soccer was much fairer than in recent world cups, for instance.

What caused this change? How come scenes like the Portugal-Holland match in the previous Euro, during which 16 yellow cards and four reds were awarded to players from both sides, did not repeat themselves?

UEFA, as usual, gave referees clear guidelines ahead of the tournament over how to discipline players who commit fouls. But what it also did was to give players themselves guidelines on how to treat referees, their rivals and so on. UEFA made it clear to players that they must show respect toward referees and opponents at all times. It even ordered that the word respect be sewn into the uniform of referees - and it worked.

Pierluigi Collina, the famed former referee with the iconic bald head, explained: "UEFA has managed to achieve exactly what it wanted, by sewing respect onto the uniform. Players respected referees more, there were less arguments, and they also respected their opponents more," Collina said. "It was a huge success."

That replays were shown on screens at the stadiums, for the first time ever, did not cause crowds to influence referees. "They didn't feel like they had anything to hide," Collina said.

Players learned a thing or two also: Sweepers, defenders and defensive midfielders who were once prone to fierce tackles are now much more versatile. They can clear balls easier, cleaner and faster. They can even dribble. That said, soccer hasn't turned soft: Flagrant fouls were still committed, but one can only hope that the trend started in this Euro will sweep down to the lower tiers and perhaps even influence soccer right here in Israel.