Monday 17 December 2012
The remit for Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) is much wider than looking after training and development and match appointment of 77 referees and 231 assistant referees. For General Manager Mike Riley and his management team it involves working closely with no less than 11 external bodies and groups. As Mike explains, PGMOL’s working year is never quiet...
1. League Managers Association and Professional Footballers’ Association
Refereeing does not exist in isolation and it is incredibly important to continually build the co-operation and communication between players, managers and match officials. The reduction in the number of free-kicks and yellow cards in the Barclays Premier League last season underlined the progress made. The expertise of the LMA and PFA sees their members used as the Premier League’s Match Delegates. They judge our on-field standards, monitor performance and coach the next generation of officials, particularly in game and player management and tactical appreciation. We meet quarterly, but there is regular contact and we can move quickly on issues such as two-footed tackling last season. We met to get consensus on the issue before providing in-season guidance to player and managers.
At the beginning of the season we have a briefing with all managers, and every club squad also receives a visit from a Select Group referee to brief them on Law and what we’ll be looking out for during the season. For 2012/13, we’ll extend the club visits to twice in the season, going in over the winter to participate in training sessions, work with players and discuss topical on-pitch issues. Again, that’s all aimed at building understanding and improving communication.
3. PGMOL Technical Committee
This group meets quarterly to discuss and suggest to FIFA changes in the Laws of the Game. It brings together the organising bodies responsible for the game in this country, the LMA, the PFA and club representatives. It’s very purposeful: there is a FIFA Task Force on Denial of a Goalscoring Opportunity that we have been feeding in to and work by Dave Allison, who looks after the Football League referees, saw a Law introduced so that you can’t score direct from a drop-ball.
I’m England’s representative on the Referees Committee (Development), whose job it is to develop training standards for match officials throughout the world. FIFA has a network of training contacts to inform best practice and we promote our officials for participation in FIFA tournaments. Former Select Group officials Steve Bennett and Neale Barry are FIFA Referee Assistance Programme Instructors and Steve is part of the team evaluating candidates for FIFA World Cup 2014.
In partnership with the FA Referees Committee, PGMOL works closely with UEFA to promote referee development. I’m also one of six former Select Group referees who are UEFA matchday observers. Not only does that give us good insight into refereeing standards across Europe but, with Martin Atkinson and Mark Clattenburg, we’ve also had a front row seat on the implementation of fifth officials.
6. Confederations and National Associations
The Premier League is seen as a model of best practice for refereeing and we share that knowledge around the world. With the Asian Football Confederation we have seven of their Project Future talent referees come to work with the Select Group every winter. The Japanese Football Association also send two of their officials over here and last season one of them became the first non-Englishman to take charge of an FA Cup game. In return every season we send two Select Group referees to officiate in the Japanese J-League. We also have longstanding relationships with other FAs such Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and, more recently, Major League Soccer.
7. The British Council
Training of match officials was added to coaching initiative Premier Skills in November 2010. PGMOL has provided coaches to train over 300 grassroots referees and assistant referees in 14 countries across Africa, China, South East Asia and Mexico.
8. Referees’ Association
Our 16 Select Group referees are the very top of the tree but there are 28,000 local referees in England looked after by the Referees’ Association and many of them aspire to reach the Select Group. So we have a job to do to motivate and deliver high quality training to that next generation of officials. Last season Select Groups referees spoke at 103 Referee’s Association or RA/FA events.
Select Group officials visited 100 schools and community events last season and with the Premier League we launched a new curriculum-based website that uses refereeing to help educate children, teachers and parents about lifelong citizenship messages. With the website kids.getonwiththegame.com we’re showing what can be learnt from the field of play: staying calm, seeing another person’s point of view, resolving conflict, working as a team and being the best you can. The site has proved very popular having had over 118,000 views and 15,000 teachers packs have been downloaded.
Football supporters’ opinions about referees can be coloured by the experiences of the team which they support. It’s not always possible to get our point of view to the media, so last year we piloted meeting fan groups at Premier League clubs. It was very successful as we were able to explain our job and how decisions on a matchday can come about. The fans have been very receptive and we aim to do more of this.
We’ve expanded this greatly in recent years and work closely with Premier League rights holders to give guidance on Law and former Select Group referees like Dermot Gallagher and Alan Wiley regularly appear on Sky and BBC to explain decision-making. We also hold briefings with journalists on Law because when decisions made in a match can be such a large part of their work it’s incredibly important they understand so they’re calling things appropriately for viewers and readers.