PGMOL defends referee standards
Referees chiefs are insistent match officials' standards have never been so good despite stinging criticism from the former head of Professional Games Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL).
Keith Hackett has called for his successor Mike Riley to be removed from his position with PGMOL and labelled the current crop of officials as the "worst that we have seen", citing "over 20 major errors" during the Christmas period.
PGMOL would not respond directly but released statistics showing standards had improved in every available measure in the five years since Hackett left the organisation. These include accuracy on major decisions, up to 95 per cent from 94.1 per cent, on decisions in the penalty box (98 per cent) and offsides, 99 per cent compared to 92 per cent five years ago when Riley took over.
Hackett's attack was made on his website, which also sells refereeing kits and equipment and offers training courses.
The PGMOL is standing firm, however, confident it has taken the right path since Hackett's departure and that it is backed up by all the statistics. There are usually periods in every season where a series of controversial decisions puts the spotlight on to officials, and has led to football's lawmakers to begin to consider video replays.
That will be debated at the International FA Board at its next meeting in Belfast on February 28, though any final decision is likely to be a couple of years away with trials being needed first.
PGMOL's latest figures show referees' fitness has improved, especially in terms of sprints.
Hackett also called for referees Mike Jones, Andre Marriner, Lee Mason and Chris Foy to be stood down at the end of the season while stating that Lee Probert should lose his position if he fails a fitness test.
"This season we have all witnessed many disastrous performances and big game-changing errors," Hackett said. "I share the view of one former top referee [Graham Poll] that the current group of professional referees is the worst that we have seen.
"The latest big game decision error was the stupid dismissal of Wayne Routledge of Swansea City who himself was on the receiving end of a reckless challenge.
"It is unbelievable that a so-called top referee should make such a mistake."