Interview of the week: Peter Gagelmann

Peter Gagelmann has officiated more than 160 Bundesliga matches, and been a referee since 2000. Transfermarkt tv asked him about the daily grind of being a referee in the Bundesliga. Enjoy the translation of the interview. You can find the original piece here.

Transfermarkt tv: Herr Gagelmann, in the Hinrunde you officiated in 17 matches, nine out of those matches were Bundesliga. How would you sum up your season so far?

Peter Gagelmann: It has been an exciting season so far – especially in the Bundesliga. The nice thing about the Bundesliga is that you’ll never know who beats whom. The last team in the standings can beat the table toppers. I do believe we can all look forward to a could second part of the season.

Transfermarkt tv: Are you happy about your own performance?

Peter Gagelmann: You are never fully content with your performance. When reviewing the match afterwards you always find situations that could have been solved differently. And that is good. I once said, if you manage to officiate a flawless match, you can retire. I have given up the hope of not making any mistakes throughout 90 minutes years ago. It won’t happen. Everybody makes mistakes, that is normal, and that sadly includes referees.

Transfermarkt tv: You have been refereeing in the Bundesliga since 2000. Has your job as a referee undergone any changes since then?

Peter Gagelmann: It is easily spotted, that the game has gotten faster and more athletic. The spotlight from the media has also been increased, especially in recent years. So, the job has changed because of those factors.

Transfermarkt tv: How do you prepare for a match?

Peter Gagelmann: When you know that you do have a match, you train accordingly. As a general rule we arrive one day before the match, as do the teams, in the city where the game is being held. On the match day itself there are a number of automatisms I have developed with time. One arrives at the stadium at a certain point, usually one and a half hours before the match. Then you have a normal warm up session, and 15:30 the game starts.

Transfermarkt tv: You have to be in great shape. How often do you train?

Peter Gagelmann: I work out on a daily basis, as do the teams. That are the basics.

Transfermakrt tv: Are you taking a look at the squads to see who is playing before the match?

Peter Gagelmann: Of course, you spend some time thinking about the teams, and the players in them. Nobody is going blue-eyed into a match. You know who is playing where, and what sort of tactics the teams have.

Peter Gagelmann has no problems keeping control of the games in which he officiates.

Transfermarkt tv: How is the atmosphere between you and the players and coaches, especially in the Bundesliga? After so many years in the league, you surely have gotten to know many of them…

Peter Gagelmann: One knows one another, and there is a respectful atmosphere between one another. It is also more pleasant to know who you are dealing with, than seeing somebody for the first time and thinking, who on earth is that? Same goes for referees. If you have been in the game for a longer period, you also have a different relationships to your colleagues.

Transfermarkt tv: So you know the players who could try to trick you before the game starts. There are the usual suspects…

Peter Gagelmann: I think it would be too easy to toss a player into that category.

Transfermarkt tv: But, certain players have an image, can you get rid of that image in your mind when refereeing?

Peter Gagelmann: There certain types of players you fixate on, no doubt. But, that doesn’t mean that you categorize them as players who always fall down too easily. You just pay more attention to them.

Transfermarkt tv: Are you at all nervous before the start of a match?

Peter Gagelmann: I wouldn’t say that I’m nervous, but there is a certain tension. I believe that those who don’t have that tension, don’t belong here. Referees are tense, just like anybody else involved.

Transfermarkt tv: Does it make any difference to you if you are refereeing in Bundesliga match or a Regionalliga match?

Peter Gagelmann: From sporting perspective there is a difference, otherwise the Regionalliga team would play in the Bundesliga. But, there is no difference in terms of the preparations before the match, regardless if it the Bundesliga or Kreisliga. The rules are the rules. That is the beautiful thing about football, there is no difference between a youth match, in terms of rules, compared to the Champions League.

Transfermarkt tv: Professional footballers have often rituals they go through before a match., possibly to gain more confidence. Referees as well?

Peter Gagelmann: Well, it is natural to have automatisms that one repeats before every match. Maybe I do have special rituals sub consciously, but none that I’m aware of.

Tranfermarkt tv: How do you handle the pressure of deciding about promotion, relegation and championships?

Peter Gagelmann: That is just part of football. The players have the same pressure as well. It’s good and normal that there is a certain tension there. You are, of course, aware of the responsibility that you have as a referee. But, we won’t cry or doubt ourselves just because we have to make a difficult call every once in a while. The simple truth is, that you have to make those calls, and sometimes you do that by not blowing your whistle – which is also a decision. After the match there are of course going to be discussion if you have made the wrong call, and the situation looks differently on the TV screen compared to what oneself had seen on the pitch. And one does of course think about, why the situation looked differently on the TV screen compared to what oneself had observed on the pitch.

Roel Browers is given a red card by Peter Gagelmann in this picture.

Transfermarkt tv: Hypothetically speaking, if you make a decision that decides the match, and the call that was wrong, can you forget all about right after the match or does that preoccupy you for some time to come?

Peter Gagelmann: It would be horrible, if one would say that one isn’t bothered by that. None of us are that way though. If you have been in the game for some time, one handles this sort of thing differently. For younger referees these sort of situations can lead to some sleepless nights, because they can’t stop thinking about those situations.

Transfermarkt tv: At the moment there is a lot of discussion about the use of technical equipment that could help referees. That would make your job much easier…

Peter Gagelmann: Yes, we’ve said in the past that it would be superb if certain decisions weren’t up to us. There is for instance the decision of deciding if a ball had fully crossed the line, which often times is impossible to tell. Sometimes you can’t regocnize if it did.

Tranfermarkt tv: Additionally there is a lot of talk about professional referees. What is your opinion on that?

Peter Gagelmann: Professional referee is word, but there is now explanation of what it would include.

Transfermakrt tv: We can call it full-time referee. A referee who hasn’t got another job besides being a referee.

Peter Gagelmann: Personally I do enjoy myself with things being the way they are. I have a job, and that independence is important to me. One has to see what will happen over time. Personally, I have to say that we work under very professional circumstances. Everybody manages to incorporate their job into the daily business of football.

Transfermarkt tv: You work for the customer service of Daimler Benz in Bremen. Is it possible to combine your job as referee with your other job without any friction?

Peter Gagelmann: I’m very happy and grateful about the support I receive from the management. When I have to officiate a game, I can prepare for it without any problems. I have fantastic colleagues, who make it possible for me to get the freedoms I need to prepare for a match.

Transfermarkt tv: But, on Monday the games are going to be dissected, right?

Peter Gagelmann: On Monday there are a couple of people who ask, what happened there, one paper is writing this, and the other paper is writing that? And football has captivated the public’s mind to such an extent, that one has to answer these questions.

Transfermarkt tv: Are you often recognized – when you are at work or in your everyday life? How do people – especially football fans – react upon meeting you?

Peter Gagelmann: Football is everywhere. Football is held in high regards, especially in Germany. As Bundesliga referee you are a known quantity, and often easily spotted by the people around you. That is just normal.

Transfermarkt tv: Are those meetings always nice, or do some people curse you out?

Peter Gagelmann: It has never happened that somebody has cursed me out – quite the opposite. People tell me that we do a fantastic job. There is always a lot of respect between the parties when those meetings occur.

Transfermakrt tv: Are you allowed to have a favorite team?

Peter Gagelmann: I do have a favorite team, naturally… I’m sure you want to know more about it now.

Transfermarkt tv: Of course…

Peter Gagelmann: In my case that is the glorious ATSV Sebaldsbrücken. That is my home town team.

Transfermarkt tv: In which division are they playing in?

Peter Gagelmann: They are playing in the Landesliga.

Transfermarkt tv: And since you are not officiating in that league, you can be so crystal clear about that team being your favorite club?

Peter Gagelmann: Exactly.

Transfermarkt tv: You are organized in the Bremen state association. Aren’t there any sympathies for Werder Bremen?

Peter Gagelmann: No, I do see football with a different set of eyes as a referee. As every football fan, I do appreciate a good game, but the clubs are completely irrelevant to me. It is just green playing against red, or blue against yellow. Everything else isn’t interesting from my point of view.

Transfermarkt tv: We are almost done here. But, you need to tell us how you ended up refereeing some matches in South Korean K-League a couple of years ago.

Peter Gagelmann: There was a request from the Korean K-League, asking for some support from German referees. I got an invitation to referee some matches, and I was five weeks in Korea. That was a big, and very interesting experience for me. From a cultural point of view, things are completely different from what we are used to here in Europe.

Transfermarkt tv: In the end, you actually were the referee in the final.

Peter Gagelmann: Right, one year later I was invited to officiate the final. Their league has a play off system. It was fantastic! It is, of course, an honor if you are invited from another nation, to referee the final of another league!

Transfermarkt tv: We would like to thank you for your time, and we wish you all the best in the future.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.


  1. He makes mistakes like most referees, but is very determined and has a great presence on the pitch imo. I think Gagelmann is a very decent ref. Most referees in Germany are rather decent. I don’t think that Stark is a terrible ref either to be honest. I’ve seen much worse elsewhere. The standard of refereeing in the Bundesliga is good, compared to many other places in Europe. Most fans in Eastern European countries would agree with me here. Maybe Stark isn’t good enough to be a ref in the CL, but that is an entirely different thing imo.

    The standards fans demand of referees are often unrealistic, and unachievable. Most referees in the Bundesliga do fantastic work, and the sacrifices they make in their personal life are often immense. And talk about refs in the CL; most Chelsea fans won’t look on too fondly on the Norwegian referee that got sent their way when they played against Barca…

  2. Niklas, is he a good referee? Germany had to stop sending Wolfgang Stark as the country representative, he is quite terrible. Especially compared to his predecessor Markus Merk, far cry from Merk quality.

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