There is a strong perception out there that the EPL referees and their assistants are among the best in the world.
However, in a recent scathing attack on his former colleagues, Keith Hackett, the former head of the USA equivalent of PRO, called for four current Premier League referees to be dropped at the end of the season.
He went on to label the current crop of match officials operating in the top tier of English football as “the worst that we have seen.”
Mr. Hackett, who was succeeded as head of the Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) by ex Premier referee Mike Riley, has called for Mr. Riley to be sacked and for one particular referee Lee Probert to be removed from his position should he fail a fitness test.
I will elaborate further down on this issue, but one point needs to be clarified right here and now.
Any referee or assistant referee who fails any of the mandatory tests, including a fitness test, should not be allowed to participate in that particular league. This goes from the lowest tier to the very highest.
In fact, the criteria for refs at the top – FIFA – is that if one of the team selected from a particular country fails, then the entire team or all 3 fail.
Some have said that this is a little draconian and that the successful members of the team should not penalised because of the failure of one of their colleague. The jury is still out on that one. Personally, I can see both sides of the argument. But I digress…
Mr. Hackett went on to name the four current members of the elite panel as Mike Jones, Lee Mason, Andre Mariner and Chris Foy who should be “stood down from Premier League” games.
Mr. Hackett said “this season we have all witnessed many disastrous performances and big game-changing errors.” “I share the view of one former top referee that the current group of professionals is the worst that we have seen.”
I find the last part of that quote quite remarkable and, at the same time, hypocritical since, in my opinion, it came from one of the poorest referees in the EPL, Graham Pool.
Mr. Pool was no stranger to controversy during his tenure, both domestically and internationally, so he’s a fine one to talk.
In the 2006 World Cup game between Croatia v Australia, for example, he issued THREE yellow cards to Josip Simunic of Croatia before pulling out the red. As a result of this mistake Mr Poll and his team were sent home.
He never refereed at FIFA level again.
I was, and still am, involved in refereeing. I am well aware of the problems of officiating. It’s even more difficult today with every move and decision scrutinised by an over zealous media (print and electronic) pundits who have the benefit of watching replays from several different angles and in slow motion. The refs don’t have that facility.
Should they have? In my opinion yes, and the sooner the better.
Back to the state of EPL refereeing.
I do agree with Mr. Hackett, however, that standards need to be improved, that better recruitment of members be undertaken, and that promotion and demotion be based solely on ability and performance. Sadly, I’m not so sure that this is the case.
I’ve said many times that there is far too much “politics” involved in our refereeing with certain individuals putting their own interests before the needs and requirements of the game.
These certain individuals are, in my opinion, only interested in furthering their own careers and ambitions with no regard for the state or the objective and promotion of refereeing. These people should not be allowed near a refereeing conference or fitness tests. They are, in my opinion, “pariahs” and “leeches” who are hangers-on.
They put their own ambitions first AND oftentimes at the expense of referees and refereeing.
Give me a bunch of individuals who have refereeing at heart. A group of people who are in the game for progress and not for profit. Then, and only then, we will see standards improve and respect for match officials restored.