Take a look at the front pages of the national press in Scotland, Spain (and elsewhere) and they will tell you that England’s victory over Denmark did not come without a little help from the referee.
In Sunday’s final against Italy, it will be Bjorn Kuipers in the middle and he will no doubt be hoping to avoid taking centre-stage.
The Dutchman, 48, will be a familiar face to those who have been glued to Euro 2020 for the past month. There have been 19 different referees over the course of the tournament and it was his compatriot, Danny Makkelie, who took charge of Wednesday night’s semi-final at Wembley.
Kuipers has been the chief official in three matches so far. First, he refereed Denmark’s 2-1 defeat to Belgium and allowed played to be stopped in the 10th minute as a nod to Christian Eriksen‘s shirt number. He joined players from both sides in a round of applause for the midfielder after his cardiac arrest against Finland.
In the group stage, Kuipers also officiated in Spain’s 5-0 victory over Slovakia and proved he wasn’t card-shy, booking four players.
He then reappeared for Denmark’s quarter-final against Czech Republic. While he hasn’t yet presided over an England game at this summer’s tournament, he was the fourth official for the Three Lions’ 1-0 win over Croatia and has refereed in a number of their games in the past – including their last competitive meeting against Italy at the 2014 World Cup, which England lost 2-1.
Since then, Kuipers also featured in England’s World Cup quarter-final victory over Sweden in 2018.
By day, he owns a supermarket chain but he is also a highly experienced referee, taking part in the 2012 and 2016 European Championships, as well as the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.
His business enterprises have seen him described as “the world’s richest referee”, with reports in 2016 estimating his wealth to be upwards of £11m. His supermarkets are so lucrative, in fact, that they sponsor Formula One driver Max Verstappen, who competes under the Dutch flag.
Kuipers’ regular spot is in the Eredivisie but you might also recognise him from club football’s European competitions as he was involved in the 2013 Europa League final (won by Chelsea) and the 2014 Champions League final.
During the 2020-21 campaign, he was the referee for the home leg of Liverpool’s quarter-final defeat to Real Madrid.
While that largely passed without major incident, he attracted considerably more attention in the semi-final between Manchester City and PSG. Mauricio Pochettino reacted furiously when he sent off Angel Di Maria in the second half of the second leg at the Etihad.