‘I could tell straight away’ – Ref Taylor on Eriksen

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August 3, 2021
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    Defibrillators save lives and that's the bottom line – Taylor

    Anthony Taylor, the referee for the Euro 2020 match that saw Christian Eriksen collapse with a cardiac arrest, said he knew straight away that the Denmark midfielder was in a serious condition.

    Prince William led the chorus of congratulations for the way the Premier League referee handled the terrifying incident during the Group B match against Finland in June.

    Little more than seven weeks on from that fateful afternoon in Copenhagen, Taylor says the "true heroes" of that evening were Eriksen's international captain Simon Kjaer and the medical staff, who gave the stricken Inter Milan midfielder CPR which saved his life.

    Taylor spoke to BBC Sport for the first time about the traumatic incident while at his local club Altrincham. The National League side are one of the first recipients of an automated external defibrillator, more than 2,000 of which are available to grassroots clubs through the Premier League's Defibrillator Fund.

    • The heroes who helped save Denmark's star player

    And Taylor understands acutely how important the equipment is.

    The 42-year-old was also the referee in November 2018 when referees' assessor Eddie Wolstenholme collapsed before a Premier League game between Burnley and Newcastle at Turf Moor, and in his previous career Taylor worked in the prison service where he had to deal with a number of heart-related issues.

    Eriksen has since been fitted with a heart-starting device. He is now recovering and this week reportedly travelled to Italyexternal-link for talks with Inter over his future.

    Did you know immediately Christian Eriksen had a serious problem?

    Anthony Taylor: "I could tell straight away. Christian was on his own. The only thing that was close to him was a bouncing ball which hit his knee. I was actually looking directly at him when he fell over. I could see his face as he fell. I knew straightaway something was wrong because of how his face looked and how he fell to the floor. That is what concerned me the most."

    What happened then?

    "My main priority is the safety of the players. That means if a player is injured or not well, they need medical help. That is all I did. I called a doctor on to the field. Nothing else hit me until the following day when I was travelling back to [the match officials' base in] Istanbul. The real heroes on that night were the Danish captain and the medics who performed the initial CPR and defibrillation."

    Are you on autopilot at that stage?

    "In the moment it happens the sole focus is to ensure Christian got the treatment he needed. He clearly did because of the quick reaction of not only his captain but also the medics. That is the bottom line. The football, at that point, was irrelevant. At the end of the day, we are dealing with people.

    "In the immediate aftermath of getting the teams on to Christian, everybody is still coming to me as the match referee for what do we do next. Is the game continuing? Is it not? What do we do? How long do we wait? That is my job in conjunction with the Uefa delegate. Even after that initial unfortunate situation, I still had plenty to do in terms of managing the emotions of everybody there.

    "The fundamental thing was that Christian was OK and got the help he needed. Then we had to make sure both sets of players were OK and I had to make sure the rest of my team were OK."

    When did you speak to your refereeing team?

    "I had experienced that before, not only at a Premier League game but also in my previous work in the prison service. I genuinely needed to consider my assistants and my fourth official but at the time, when we took the players inside, I am not with these guys. They are sat in our changing room. I am in a different room with the match delegate and representatives of the teams.

    "We had decided to suspend the game until we found out how Christian was. That was the fundamental piece of information we needed to know before we could make any further decision about the game continuing. I didn't get chance to speak to my team until I went back into my changing room quite a long time afterwards. I needed to see how they were and to make sure – if needed – could we continue the game ourselves."

    What about your family?

    "I didn't get to speak to my wife until two or three hours after the match had finished, once we had got back to the hotel. There was so much going on. One of my team had sent messages to all our families telling them not to worry because we were all OK but we were dealing with a situation as everyone could see on the TV anyway."

    Have you spoken to Eriksen since?

    "I haven't personally spoken to him. I sent him a message in the days after the incident. I did speak to [Denmark goalkeeper] Kasper Schmeichel before we left the stadium after the game. The Danish players had spoken to Christian on FaceTime I think it was from the hospital. Kasper came to see me and we had a brief discussion about how Christian was."

    Are incidents like that the reason why defibrillators are so important?

    "Yes. It doesn't matter how fit, or young, or old we think we are, a sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any point in time, so that, to me, highlights the importance of having these defib units available everywhere possible and for people to understand why we need them and how to use them."

    Christian Eriksen of Denmark gestures during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken Stadium on June 12, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark.Christian Eriksen and Denmark were playing their opening match of Euro 2020Around the BBC iPlayer banner

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