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Italian referee quits over conflict
Updated: 2005-08-30 15:06

Pierluigi Collina, the world's most widely recognized soccer referee, is turning in his whistle because of a business conflict.

Italian referee Pierluigi Collina runs during an Italian League soccer match between Bologna and Parma in Bologna, in this June 18, 2005 file photo. Pierluigi Collina resigned from Italy's referees association, Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. Collina recently signed a sponsorship deal with car manufacturer Opel, which is also the main sponsor of AC Milan. Soccer officials said the arrangement caused a conflict of interest. [AP]

He has decided to resign from Italy's referees association, which governs all levels of soccer in the country. Such a move would bar the baldheaded ref with a commanding presence from working Italian league and cup games.

Collina recently signed a sponsorship deal with the car manufacturer Opel, the main sponsor of AC Milan. Soccer officials cited a conflict of interest and ordered Collina to end the arrangement or quit.

"Respecting the rules is fundamental for me," said Collina, trying to keep his emotions in check at a news conference in his hometown of Viareggio. "It was an error. I should have respected the rules."

Referees association president Tullio Lanese said he will try to reject Collina's resignation.

"He's a referee that everyone admires," he told the ANSA news agency. "Unfortunately there exists a rule and it has to be respected."

While the Italian Soccer Federation said it was unclear if Collina could work European games, his resignation was regarded as complete in Italy. He ruled out going abroad to referee.

"I didn't become a referee for the money," he said. "If I had chosen money, I would probably have already gone abroad."

Collina had received an exemption to referee in Italy this season, even though he reached the league's age limit of 45 in February.

During a 28-year career, Collina officiated the finals of the 1996 Olympics, the 1998-99 Champions League, the 2002 World Cup and last season's UEFA Cup. He last worked a Champions League qualifier last week between Villarreal and Everton.

At the 2002 World Cup, he appeared in an ad for Adidas, the German sportswear manufacturer. He then officiated the final between Adidas-sponsored Germany and Nike-sponsored Brazil.

"A business can sponsor my shoes, never my conscience," he said at the time.

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