Keith Hackett column: This has been the worst season of officiating in the Premier League

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The 2020/21 season which, due to the pandemic, was unique in how games were delivered to the fans, hopefully will never be repeated.

The game is about the passion of fans and their passion stimulates players in many different ways. Matches in empty stadiums sadly have lacked that passion and many have been rather boring.

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I know from years of officiating at the top level that fans keep the referee on their toes. That decision you make will draw a different response from various sections of fans in the stadium.

They certainly keep you fully concentrated and bursts of adrenaline rush produce that extra energy to ensure that you are always in close contact with play.

Awareness, concentration and motivation can drop when you are officiating in an empty stadium and these are corner stones of a foundation for a good performance.

Keith Hackett
Former Premier League and FIFA referee Keith Hackett is a columnist for

This season, I have been critical of our official’s performances on a weekly basis. So much so that I’d contend that this has been the worst season of officiating in the Premier League since the formation of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd in 2001.

The atmosphere at games has been different as outlined, but the reality is that we are short of top class officials.

Mike Riley has failed to implement a succession plan that has delivered new referees into the list adequately prepared or good enough to perform at the elite level.

Dispensing with a group of top quality Coaches and Assessors in the early days of his management of the PGMOL was a huge mistake.

He took over a group of world class officials which included Webb, Clattenburg, Halsey, Atkinson and Dean. Oliver and Attwell were the new refs in the pipeline.

The current group of 19 SG1 referees has six referees over the age of fifty.

FIFA and UEFA retire referees at 45 and whilst we rightly extend above that age i do think that the extension should be a special testing process on an annual basis.

Yes I know that they take a fitness test, but I want an examination of their cognitive skills, their recovery rates, a vision scientist to test depth of vision, peripheral vision, reaction timings etc.

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