Belfast Telegraph

Riley stands up for referees

Referees' chief Mike Riley has leapt to the defence of English officials in the wake of recent criticism of refereeing standards.

Former Professional Game Match Officials Limited general manager Keith Hackett called for his successor Riley to be removed from his position earlier this month, calling the current crop of officials "the worst that we have seen".

That criticism came on the back of attacks on officials from Barclays Premier League managers, with Swansea boss Garry Monk particularly scathing in his assessment of their performances this season.

But Riley has hit back and claims that, while mistakes are inevitable, data suggests that referees are in fact performing better than ever and that he has the backing of the game's top brass.

"Keith's entitled to his opinion," Riley told the Times. "Everyone has one.

"But Keith's description is not something I recognise of the organisation, the standards and what these officials achieve.

"It's not something that the people that I engage with - the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association), LMA (League Managers Association), FA (Football Association) - recognise. None of the data bears that out.

"You always look back and think 'wasn't life good then'. But my view is every generation is improving on the last.

"Go back over the last five years, whether we judge the data from evaluation (by former referees) or the Premier League delegates, it all suggests year on year the group have improved on-field standards.

"We also know it gets more demanding, so we have to keep improving. Expectations were completely different before, there wasn't the camera coverage or scrutiny.

"People forgave players more mistakes than now and forgave referees more mistakes."

He added: "If you look at the development of PGMOL over the last five years, it's been transformational. By any measure it's been a successful organisation. We will always have a period of mistakes but judge us over 380 games."

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