Referees' integrity should never be in question says Stoke boss Mark Hughes
Stoke manager Mark Hughes believes everyone should feel comfortable with the integrity of referees, no matter which team they support, after it emerged Leicester-based Kevin Friend had been switched from taking charge of Tottenham's Barclays Premier League match at the Britannia Stadium on Monday night.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited said the change was made to avoid adding an "extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment" around Friend, who lives in Leicester and has been to games at the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes currently lead the table by seven points ahead of Spurs with five matches remaining.
While there is no suggestion of any question over the official's impartial position, the PGMOL, which does not select Friend for matches involving his hometown club, decided given the circumstances it was sensible to move him to another fixture.
Hughes, however, feels whatever team a referee might follow off the pitch, that should have no influence around their job on the field.
"It seemed to be led by social media, which is maybe dangerous ground if people on Twitter are going to tell the Premier League who to appoint for individual games, so you have to be careful about that," Hughes said when the issue of the change in officials was raised at his pre-match press conference.
"The one thing we all have to be comfortable about is the integrity of the referees, irrespective of who they support.
"That group of professional referees, their integrity should be such that people should never question, even if they have allegiances to other teams, that is where they should be at.
"Maybe the professional body that is in charge of referees thinks if any decision did go our way or against Tottenham, or vice-versa, then questions would be asked and they don't want to be put in that situation.
"My take on it is that the integrity of the referees should stop that happening or anybody having any doubts about that anyway, but it is what it is."
Despite the switch of officials, Hughes says there should be no impact on the focus for his team.
The Stoke boss added: "It is a different referee and doesn't change our approach to the game.
"It is an appointment they feel they needed to make."
The PGMOL had earlier issued a statement to clarify its position.
" PGMOL has made the decision to change the referee for the match between Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur as Kevin Friend, initially selected for the game, is from Leicester and has attended matches at Leicester City in a personal capacity," the statement read.
"Given the timing and context of this match, it was felt unnecessary to add extra scrutiny on the refereeing appointment.
"Neil Swarbrick will referee the match and Friend will referee Newcastle United vs Manchester City."
The Premier League were not available for immediate comment when contacted on Thursday afternoon.