Webb announces retirement
England's top referee Howard Webb has announced his retirement to become technical director of the body that oversees professional officials.
Webb, 43, who refereeed the 2010 World Cup final and at the recent World Cup in Brazil, hangs up his whistle after 25 years.
He has been appointed technical director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the Premier League announced.
Webb said: "I am very excited to start this new chapter in my career after a wonderfully rewarding 25 years on the pitch. I have spent over a decade with the best seat in the house for Barclays Premier League matches, been lucky enough to be involved in nine major international tournaments, and taken charge of the UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup finals.
"Refereeing has given me so much and I think it's important that match officials who have had the rewards remain in the game to pass on their knowledge.
"I also have much more to learn about the business of refereeing and I believe the best place for me to do that is with PGMOL. It's an incredibly positive working environment and we all have a common goal of improving refereeing.
"Over the last five years in particular we have made huge strides in terms of our accuracy, fitness and professionalism.
"The current Select Group are the best referees this country has ever produced and I am thrilled that I not only get the chance to continue working with them but also the opportunity to help develop the next generation of Select Group officials."
Webb's career reached a peak in 2010 when he became the first person to referee the Champions League final and the World Cup final in the same year.
He also refereed at Euro 2008 and Euro 2012, and was widely-praised for his performances at the World Cup in Brazil.
The Premier League said his new position would include a "public-facing role informing and educating on refereeing matters".
PGMOL general manager Mike Riley said: "Howard has been the foremost referee of his generation and an inspiration for match officials in this country and around the world.
"We are very excited that Howard's knowledge and skills are being retained and shared for them and the rest of PGMOL's officials.
"Last season we trebled the funding for referee coaching and training and we will continue to invest in match officials from the Premier League down to the contributory leagues.
"We want to accelerate the development of referees from the semi-professional game so that we have an even stronger talent pool to pick from at Select Group level. There is no-one better to lead on that than Howard Webb."
Football Association chairman Greg Dyke paid tribute to Webb, who was awarded an MBE in 2011.
Dyke said: "On behalf of The FA, I would like to pay tribute to Howard Webb for a magnificent and unrivalled refereeing career.
"Howard has taken charge of the biggest games going - not least the 2010 World Cup Final.
"It is no surprise that he was one of our most important ambassadors for The FA's 150th anniversary celebrations in 2013."