At the start of this playing season, Select Group 2 was hailed by EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey as a significant move for the future of professional refereeing in the English game.
Harvey explained the benefits of Select Group 2, quoting: “The job of a referee has always been an unforgiving one and today, more than at any other point in the history of our competitions, they face increasing scrutiny over how they perform and the split second decisions they make. Therefore, there has to be a collective responsibility between The EFL and PGMOL to ensure we prepare our officials in the most appropriate way. The introduction of Select Group 2 will do this as we continue to look at ways of improving officiating standards”.
Five weeks into the season, and Harvey’s expectations have, undoubtedly, not been met. The words “improving officiating standards” must be ringing in his ears as he has witnessed recent performances by a number of his chosen 18 Select Group 2 Referees which fall way below the expected standard for EFL Leagues One and Two, never mind the Championship.
One referee’s much publicised failure to dismiss Accrington’s Shay McCartan for his violent challenge on Burnley’s teenage midfielder Aiden O’Neill in the EFL cup was one example, as was an unacceptable refereeing performance in the recent live Sky game, when Reading took on Ipswich Town. This was described by one of the coaches here at You Are The Ref as the referee’s “body language was weak and his performance very naive. He was completely inconsistent with his recognition of offences and his management of players made situations more explosive rather than calming them down.”
One of YATR’s stated aims is to be the informed evaluator of succession planning across the world. In terms of overall progression planning inside the English game, we need to ascertain the answers to the following fundamental questions:
- What are the road-blocks to progression, e.g. is there a geographical split across the country in terms of the abilities of the coaches and assessors?
- What is the diversity mix of Match Officials in terms of gender, race and economic/social background?
- Will the FA’s recently publicised National Referee Strategy provide Match Officials with the required standard to meet the progression expectations?
We will also consider how progression planning is addressed in other countries and in other sports.
In the initial phases of our study, as the season progresses, we will be providing an independent and balanced analysis on the performance of SG2 match officials. Our study of this group will analyse if the scheme is providing an appropriate progression path for referees in England en route to the Premier League.
To facilitate this, YATR’s independent coaches will undertake a balanced assessment of each of the 18 SG2 referees on two occasions up to the Christmas/New Year period, highlighting strengths and development points and focusing on Key Match Decisions, mirroring how the SG2 Match Officials are observed by PGMOL. We will be looking for trends and patterns and will publish our findings on a regular basis on our website.
We will also be seeking the opinions of the clubs themselves to ascertain if, in their opinion, standards have improved. We are also committed to involve the people who really matter by involving the rank and file fans in a number of supporters’ forums.
I return to Shaun Harvey’s words: “[The Referees] face increasing scrutiny over how they perform and the split second decisions they make.”
Is this increased pressure contributing to the increased level of errors, knowing that their mortgage payments are dependent upon getting it right on the field of play? Yes, this is pure speculation at this stage in the season, and did the Championship managers really expect 18 Mark Clattenburgs to be on duty on the opening day of the season?
There have been some encouraging performances, noticeably from the Huddersfield versus Wolves game where the referee displayed many positive attributes and we are already recognising that by and large the SG2 Assistant Referees are performing well. When we do detect areas where improvements can be made, we will offer considered solutions to these development areas.
We would love to hear what you think of the officiating standards in the Championship this season. Contact us via our Twitter page @youaretheref, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and watch this space for further articles as the season unfolds.