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Ref Clattenburg’s resignation a concern

The Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) are the body responsible for the recruitment, training, and appointments of match officials to the Premier League (PL), the English Football League (EFL) and the Football Association (FA) competitions in England.

It was formed in 2001 to improve refereeing standards. Their funding comes from all three organisations, and therein lies one of the problems, which I will discuss later.

They currently have 18 fulltime professional Select Group referees and this season have appointed fulltime assistant referees as well.

The recent defection of one of their most high-profile middlemen is, in my opinion, a cause for concern.

Mark Clattenburg, arguably one of the best referees to come out of the PL and widely respected, not only in the UK and Europe but around the world, suddenly, and without apparent warning announced this week that he was quitting with immediate effect.

The rather hasty departure of such a highly experienced referee must surely raise eyebrows, if not questions, in the refereeing fraternity and the wider footballing world.

Mr Clattenburg is not the first to leave before his retirement date. The 2010 World Cup referee Howard Webb hung up his whistle before his time and was appointed technical director at the refereeing body.

He left soon thereafter, citing irreconcilable differences with the PGMOL’s head and former colleague Mike Riley.

He was later appointed head of the Saudi Arabian referees, a post which I also applied for.

Mr Webb has since left the Saudi job and has been appointed head of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) programme for the Major League Soccer (MLS) in the USA.

It is my understanding that Mark Clattenburg has been headhunted by the Saudi FA and will take up his position very soon.

There is also a strong rumour, and I stress rumour, that another “bright spark” in the PL is about to leave his position and join Mr Webb in America.

So where does this leave the PGMOL’s credibility?

In my Supersport.com blog of 05/09/2016 I reported that another ex referee Mark Halsey, writing in the English Mirror paper, 3 September 2016, had said, intimating interference from the PGMOL:

“I’ve been in that situation, when I have seen an incident and been told to say I haven’t seen it. To be fair to the FA… it’s not them. It comes from the PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited]. It doesn’t stop there. We’ve been told to give a certain amount of corners, or throw ins, fouls, bookings etc. The Premier League is rife with sport fixing and bias towards certain clubs from the FA. Every referee in the Premier League could be in front of a court one day soon.”

And then there was the case of Howard Webb who, as mentioned above, was appointed as technical director of the PGMOL, and who had a fractious relationship with Mr Riley.

Mr Webb claimed that he was “slapped down” when he tried to defend certain referees.

Funding of referees

Match officials being funded by a football association or leagues, as is the case in the UK, is leaving the system wide open to abuse and a kind of intimidation.

If we take at face value the comments by Messrs Halsey and Webb, then there is clearly a need for reform of the entire PGMOL system.

There is no way that any manager, coach, club director, or chairman should have any influence over the decision making of the match officials.

Referees should be like the judiciary. They should be a totally and absolutely independent body run by a committee of ex-referees, whose chairman could be an ex judge.

I’ve been calling for an independent refereeing body for some time and delivered a paper on such a proposal at a football conference recently, setting out the way it should be done. It was very well received by those present.

The problem with the PGMOL is that there are too many soccer politicians who have a vested interested, thereby making the organisation open to abuse and undue influence.

In my opinion, leagues, through their chairmen, and in some cases their managers/ coaches, have been meddling in the affairs of referees and refereeing for some time. This has to stop – and stop now.

Happy whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter – dr_errol

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