The recent European Championship exposed and underpinned what I have been stating for several years now. That the standard of officiating in England is in decline.
There has been an over reliance on five referees who have delivered performances at an acceptable level: Martin Atkinson, Mike Dean, Michael Oliver, Anthony Taylor and the improving Stuart Attwell.
The man in charge of the PGMOL and the Board of Directors are responsible for overseeing and allowing the decline to happen.
This is due in my opinion to a lack of accountability and a Board that butterfly their roles, rather than taking a closer look on what is happening.
The Board have not been slow at throwing substantial amounts of money in an effort to buy success. I operated with a budget of £5million when in charge, and that has increased to a figure in excess of £22million.
Lee Mason, a consistently poor decision maker, has been shuffled out of the coal face role in the middle to a role at Stockley Park.
Mike Riley, Managing Director of the PGMOL, early into his tenure in office dispensed with the services of a group of very experienced team of referee coaches.
The likes of Paul Durkin, Roger Dilkes, Tom Bune, Jeremy Simpson and others, who were coaching/mentoring/advising and supporting the active referees, were cast aside.
Former referees who were operating in the role of Assessors/Observers were binned, and with it came the loss of a huge mosaic of referee experience.
Leagues around the world operating with Referee Assessors/Observers see the value in this role, and Riley, who dispensed with their services and binned them, is only too happy to go to grounds around Europe operating in that role for UEFA.
I would put Riley in the category of a control freak, not willing to accept advice and surrounding himself with “yes” people.
Sad, because active officials can be a great source of ‘coal face’ information. Top quality referee coaches can ensure that there is a continuous development of match officials at Football League level and in leagues outside the professional game.
Scouting and monitoring the future pool of match officials who can advance and provide a good resource for the PGMOL.
‘Light touch’ Premier League?
Premier League and Football League clubs having witnessed how referees performed at the Euros are now anticipating much the same from the PGMOL.
In fact, it was reported in the media that certain Premier League clubs have approached the EPL boss, Richard Masters, wanting the ‘light touch’ operated by Roberto Rossetti to operate from day one of the new season.
Clubs want those broader lines when VAR is determining offside decisions. They want, fans want, we all want VAR to operate in the same way that it operated in the Euros.
VAR intervention must be to the same standard and only come in on ‘CLEAR and OBVIOUS errors.’
Let us recognise that players behaviour and general respect to each other on the field of play was of a good standard too.
Four new referees have been introduced into SG1 (Select Group 1, Premier League) making a panel of twenty-two referees, and Oliver and Taylor recently delivered a talk on how they were managed, guided and advised by Rossetti.
They were clearly allowed to use their personality and their top management skills, under the banner of the ‘light touch,’ rather than being forced to jump in with yellow cards, brandishing them like confetti.
Rossetti outlined that they were accountable and he expected top class performances. If referees did not deliver top performances, they were on the plane home.
So will we see any change? I have my doubts because Riley is not one for change.
Indeed, if we do not see any change at all, then Riley must be moved on for the good of the English game at the elite level.