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Friday 14 December 2012

Howard Webb: How our team works

FIFA Elite referee Howard Webb

Howard Webb is one of the Select Group’s most experienced referees and has taken charge of over 200 Premier League games and every domestic final. A FIFA Elite Referee, he has refereed the UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup Finals, and was most recently one of 12 referees involved in UEFA Euro 2012. For PGMOL, he is in charge of a group of four referees and eight assistant referees. Here Howard provides his insight into the world of refereeing...

There is no doubt that the standard of officiating by the Select Group is particularly strong at the minute, both domestically and internationally. It’s not just the fact that we are one of just three countries in Europe with three FIFA Elite referees, what’s good as well is that we have several other guys who are just below that level and another seven, eight, nine lads who can do any game in the Barclays Premier League. That’s healthy because it doesn’t put pressure on a small group of people; it gives other people an opportunity to do games and means that you see different faces on important matches, which is good for the game as well.

We’ve had to increase our standards in line with the football. Every season the bar gets set higher both in terms of the playing standards and the speed of the play, so we need to be able to perform at this higher level each and every season. The good thing is we have now got a team of match officials who understand the requirements placed upon them both physically and mentally.

There are a few reasons for that. I think that the professional approach to our training and development has continued to improve under Mike Riley and his team of coaches. There’s more structure to what we do: our in-service training and the way we review our performances again has never been better.

Also, the introduction of the Premier League Match Delegate scheme, which started nine seasons ago, is showing some real benefits now. Again, it is something that we have grown with. When it was first introduced there were those that resisted it, but now those on the Select Group work with it. There’s great value in speaking to former players and managers about how best to control a match. We embrace what they say because that will produce better performances, something borne out in our highest ever Match Delegate marks this season.

As a Select Group we work closer than ever before. Across the 16 of us we are split into groups of four referees and eight assistants who will officiate together throughout the season. I am a big believer in the team and working with people on a regular basis so you can understand the way that people work and the way that they think. That way you get the best out of each other as individuals and as a group as well.

I have seen massive benefits in build-ups to tournaments in the past where I have worked with the same people on a regular basis. There are also some benefits in not just working with the same two assistants all the time, you get to share good practice across a slightly wider group. But for me the real benefit to small numbers of people working together on a regular basis is that it does deliver better overall team performances.

And people seeing us as officials operating at the highest level encourages grassroots officials to get involved and gives aspirations as well to what is achievable. It also emphasises that the way we are doing things on the domestic, European and world stage is right and will lead to better officiating in the Premier League.

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Key Points

  • Howard Webb is one of three Select Group referees to be an Elite FIFA referee
  • His first Premier League match as a referee was Fulham v Wolves in 2003
  • In 2010, he became the first referee to take charge of the Final for both the Champions League and World Cup in the same year
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