This is the second part of my analysis of BBC Radio 5 Live's coverage of the interview with PGMO chief Mike Riley. The BBC's Mark Chapman also talked to Tony Hibbert who is a match delegate and an ex-Wolves player, the delegates are affiliated to the LMA and PFA. Tony Hibbert felt we have the 'best officials in the world' and that all our referees were 'there on merit'. When asked about how the delegates scored referees Tony Hibbert said that they look at 'their management of the game', 'none of the technical side of it', 'how he approaches and manages players' and 'positional play'. This all tallies with the PGMO line of the independent assessor and delegate looking at the 'referee’s control of the match, the way that he deals with key incidents as well as the way he communicates his decisions'.
seems that the independent assessors and delegates do very little in
terms of systematically scoring the specific decisions of referees, so
the score that Mike Riley has for each referee from each game from these
delegates and assessors appears to be a rather soft entity. The main
concern of managers and fans is whether referees get their big and
little decisions right, so if delegates are not scoring this then how
can Riley claim that standards are improving and there is no bias in any
Referees should be assessed by the systematic
review of their performance on video after the game in which all free kicks, card
and penalty decisions are objectively scored, this currently does not
seem to happen. This already happens in countries such as Belgium, if the PGMO are not already doing this then it is an absolute disgrace and the fact that the PGMO do not reveal any detail of how they assess the performance of referees is pretty bad in itself.
So why is all this data kept so
secret? Mike Riley thinks it would create 'more anxiety' amongst
supporters, they then somehow meandered off into saying that error was
unavoidable, slightly missing the point that the way that fans are kept
completely in the dark by the PGMO is not healthy. Then
onto technology, Mike Riley made it clear that FIFA prevents the use of
video technology which is obviously true. There was some talk about
the use of extra officials, goal line technology and the increased
involvement of the 4th official.
Mike Riley was then
asked about getting ex-players into refereeing. He did slightly dodge
this question by saying that he wanted to get people from all
backgrounds into refereeing, and did comment that some referees have
played the game at a decent level ( Halsey). The lack of ex-players
going into refereeing is a massive problem, this natural understanding
of the game is impossible to fake. Jimmy Hill was a big backer of this
idea, it's just a shame that the governing bodies have not pushed it
through with enough force.
Overall Mark Chapman did a very decent job with his interview, Mike Riley was very political in his responses and did avoid answering the trickier questions, time was also very limited. Firstly it is obvious that technology would help referees and this area is not Mike Riley's problem, it is FIFA's, secondly the appeal process is nothing to do with Mike Riley, it is the FA's responsibility, as is the issue of introducing more retrospective punishment for violence and diving for example.
There are several issues concerning refereeing in the Premier League that I am extremely concerned with. Firstly the PGMO's referee selection process is the opposite of transparent and arguably there are many avenues through which unconscious bias can rear its ugly head, the skew in the regional distribution of referees is also a massive area of concern as regards potential bias. Secondly there simply is not the information in the public domain to reassure football supporters that an Italian style match fixing scandal would not be very possible in England. Thirdly the assessment of referee performance does not appear to be as robust as the PGMO would have us believe, and again the PGMO has revealed very little as to the specifics of how referees are actually scored for their performance.
In conclusion I still have significant concerns about the way in which refereeing is run by the PGMO and unfortunately Mike Riley has done very little to allay my fears. It is sad for football in general that refereeing is run in such a closed and shady manner, it does not encourage trust in the refereeing process and its integrity.