HACKETT’S VERDICT: Premier League needs a Pep up – listen to Guardiola

HACKETT’S VERDICT: Premier League needs a Pep up – listen to Guardiola

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The English Premier League is one of the best, if not the best, competition in world football. Its nearest challengers would be La Liga and the Bundesliga, both of course producing top quality referees over many years.

Premier League Games are watched in over 211 territories beamed live around the world thanks to the spectacular television coverage. The minimum twenty-two cameras at each game and the latest eye-in-the-sky piece of technology give viewers wonderful images that highlight the skill sets of the players.

These cameras expose the frailties of players happy to go to ground easily in order to win a free kick or penalty kick. Instant replays and the use of the super slow-mo provide information to the viewer that currently is not available to the team of match officials. Goal line technology has delivered terrific results and makes life for the referee that much easier.

Ariel challenges sometimes result in the player going to ground feigning injury attempting to get opponents into trouble. Television detects these negative aspects of a player’s performance.

Officiating at the top level is so much more difficult than it used to be when I was an active referee in those early years of the formation of the Premier League. It was evident that something had to be done and the response was to set up a cadre of professional match officials.

Referee coaching, performance analysis and appropriate sports science contributed in a positive manner to prepare the match officials to meet the increasing demands placed upon them.

The outcome was a step change in the on-field performance of our officials with the likes of Poll, Webb, Halsey, Bennett, Durkin and Clattenburg receiving top class appointments at the very top echelon of the world game after delivering on a regular basis quality performances on the Premier League and in Europe

The role of the PGMOL management team is to prepare this cadre of officials to deliver the very best performances on the field week-in week-out. They have to monitor the physical and mental ability to deal with the demands of a Premier League game. It is beyond belief that one of our up and coming top officials was expected to produce a performance of quality in last weekend’s Manchester City v Liverpool game.

On the Monday he officiated Chelsea v Manchester United, the following Thursday he was officiating a top UEFA Europa League game between Besiktas and Olympiakos. Following a long flight returning to England on Friday he had one day to recover before driving to Manchester for his Premier League appointment. This young and fit referee can cope with the physical demands of the game. However, mental fatigue drains away your concentration and awareness requirements to cope with three games in such a tight time frame.

My colleagues have with some sadness reported on many occasions over the last three years of the decline in refereeing standards. I have along with my colleague and former Premier League referee Mark Halsey received criticism of what is seen as our negative approach to our former colleagues. However, Mark and I have nearly three quarters of a century of active involvement in officiating, both of us representing our country at FIFA level.

We therefore have a level of expertise in refereeing that we openly share with everyone. By offering our opinions up and coming referees can avoid the pitfalls that we are seeing our referees fall into on a regular basis.

All we want to see is England providing and producing top quality officiating and for young referees to be afforded the opportunity to climb the ladder of success and perhaps become FIFA Referees through having a greater understanding of what is right and what is wrong.

Someone at the Premier League and the PGMOL needs to read the excellent article in The Times following Sunday’s big game at the Etihad and the comments of the Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Here is the article:

He would not comment on specific incidents, but it is clear that the Catalan, who has expressed dismay at the levels of officiating in England before this season, is unhappy with a number of decisions from referees this term.

“You know my opinion about the referees,” he said. “My advice to them is that they have to speak to each other and they have to sit down on the table and review and talk urgently to make this sport better.

“What happened this season is something I have never seen in my life? They have to sit and analyse why this amount of things happen, not [only] in Manchester City games, but in all the games.”

Klopp thought that Oliver could have dismissed Otamendi for catching Mané.

“It could have been a red card around Sadio’s situation, he was away and Otamendi could catch him,” Klopp said.

The sad thing is that I share his view. Our referees are being let down by the PGMOL who are failing to offer appropriate coaching advice to our young referees. Michael Oliver has huge potential similar to that of Webb and Clattenburg in the past. However, he needs to understand that he is not the finished article.

He threw caution to the wind in the way he officiated last Monday’s encounter between Chelsea v Manchester United. He puts his control at risk by not penalising foul challenges but applying advantage, leaving players on the ground wondering why they are not being protected.

Then, in the Manchester City v Liverpool game, he took the same risky approach allowing the game to run almost out of control. He appeared to be drawn into the occasion. If Michael Oliver had put his foot on the ball and slowed things down his authority and control would have been raised.

There was a time in both games that tempo management needed to be applied. Find those fouls, Michael, reduce the application of advantage, slow things down so that players understand that you are in full control.

Let them know that you will protect them and not allow reckless challenges to go unpunished. Pep Guardiola is right, the referees need to start to act in a professional manner and start to operate as a team in a consistent manner. If grappling is to be punished then it cannot be Mike Dean left alone to try to bring players back into line.

The PGMOL officials need to meet up on a weekly basis to review their performances by use of the video and to discuss how they as a group can avoid errors and deliver better and more consistent officiating to the Premier League. They should include the assistant referees because some of the poor officiating is down to poor teamwork.

The PGMOL are short of quality officials and I say again that they need to sort themselves out and overcome the current problems.The current crop of officials – some have passed their sell by date – is on the decline with week-in week-out inconsistent performances resulting in the decline in the standard of English officiating.

Someone in authority needs to take note of Pep Guardiola’s comments and act.