Hackett’s Verdict | Evidence of the need to act

Featured content, Hackett's Verdict

Last weekend highlighted the view of many people that the standard of officiating at Premier League level is in decline. Examples are almost too numerous to mention. I’ll have a go.

On Monday night, Lee Mason, when faced with a simple penalty kick decision in the Brighton v Stoke City match, delivered yet another incorrect call by awarding a corner kick.

The flag was raised by the assistant and it was reasonable to suppose this intervention was to advise Mason that it was a penalty. The Assistant must surely have seen the foul. Instead it was to advise that Mason had made an error by pointing to indicate a corner and that it was a free kick for handball instead. Laughable!

Although that was correct to give the free-kick for handball, it amazes me that both the referee and his assistant missed the penalty decision.

What a very poor weekend for the standard of English officiating:

  • Mike Dean awarding a free-kick when no offence had been committed in the Arsenal v Tottenham game.
  • The Assistant from the free-kick then failing to raise the flag to indicate offside. Arsenal’s goal was therefore a double blunder by the match officials.
  • Graham Scott showing a yellow card for a clear Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring opportunity, frankly an error in what should have been an easy decision.
  • Andre Marriner failing to give a sanction to Andy Carroll of West Ham Utd saw him not switched on at the start and missing the illegal use of his arm.
  • Anthony Taylor, the referee who looks to have been earmarked by UEFA for promotion to their Elite panel, awarding a penalty kick to Everton for a clear act of simulation by Niasse. Let’s hope that the Everton player is charged.
  • Errors, too, under the watch of Lee Probert in Bournemouth v Huddersfield and Craig Pawson (Manchester United v Newcastle).

I have been stating for some time that the PGMOL needs to recognise that the speed and intensity of the Premier League has changed.

I know that the group of professional referees have passed their fitness test. They are fit, but frankly not fit for purpose.

Guess what, I have passed my driving test – but it does not say I am suitable to drive an F1 racing car. That would need more training to ensure that I could cope with the demands of the speed and courage required.

The Premier League is explosive with superb athletes demonstrating their skills with accurate passing ability. That long crossfield kick, that moment of magic when, with the ball at their feet, players penetrate the penalty area. These explosive bursts of skill at speed need referees to be able to move with pace into ideal viewing positions.

Teamwork at the highest level between referee and assistant referee is essential. That is why I armed them with communication kits and specialised training routines.

It is easy for me to identify the current shortfalls. Dean, Mason, Marriner, Scott made the wrong calls because they were not able to meet the speed requirement to have the ideal viewing position.

They were exposed because they were unable to meet the explosive movement required. They failed to gain proximity to play with the ideal viewing angle

The PGMOL needs to increase the physical work load in the training of their referees to ensure that they can cope with the demands of the top league in the world. Sadly at the moment the refereeing standards are failing to deliver what is required.

Arsene Wenger was at risk of being charged by the Football Association when he said the standards of officiating in the Premier League are in decline. Many people nodded in agreement.

I watched Tony Harrington at Hillsborough last weekend. He missed a blatant penalty kick for holding against Wednesday’s Rhodes. On another occasion he incorrectly overruled his assistant who was ideally placed to flag for a corner kick. Mr Harrington, it was a corner kick, not the goal kick that you awarded.

Tony Harrington

I watched Sheffield Wednesday players publicly show dissent. You did nothing about it. You failed in your duty to apply the law. You were poor and should be sat on your hands this coming weekend for not doing your job properly.

Our top referees need to work harder to achieve improved standards of performance. I would question if they are fit for purpose – and sadly several of our referees need to be moved on and some fresh faces be brought in to challenge the existing regime.

Give the new boys a chance, but please ensure that not only are they good decision-makers but they are athletic in appearance and possess outstanding speed in their locker. Clattenburg, Halsey and Webb come to mind when I think of their movement in the field of play.

Just take a look at the recent crop of Champions League referees who all possess great pace. PGMOL, stop producing the statistics and start to deliver better on-field performances from your referees. Your assessment scheme ticking boxes is failing to deliver referees with personality and presence. They operate like robots with declining battery power.

PGMOL get out of your comfort zone and start to take a look at some of the crop of young referees operating in the National League. Start meaningful discussions with the PFA and let’s recruit some ex-players into refereeing.

No English match official at the World Cup!

Does that not indicate that you are letting your officials down by poor selection, recruitment and a failure to demand elite performances from them week in week out.

It appears to be run like a holiday camp.

One thought on “Hackett’s Verdict | Evidence of the need to act

  • Mr Hackett, I’ve just stumbled on this website after reading your comments in today’s Telegraph. I think you should give this stuff to the Telegraph!
    My other criticism of referees is their unwitting favour towards “top” clubs. Yesterday at both Huddersfield and Burnley we saw decisions gic for Man City and Arsenal which, whilst correct, were not given for the same offence committed by the top club. The Arsenal penalty was the most obvious of these as the first half push on Barnes was ignored. I think referees know that adverse media comment from Guardiola or Wenger will be taken more seriously by PGMOL whereas similar from Dyche or Wagner can be passed off as sour grapes.

    A less referee friendly body than PGMOL should oversee referees and I absolutely agree that ex-pros should be fast tracked into senior positions.

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