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Referees for the high jump

last updated Wednesday 11th May 2005, 11:23 AM
The Premiership season ends on Sunday, but the tension will not be over - at least for the country's leading referees. Keith Hackett, who is completing his first season as general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, is busy preparing his end -of-season review, which will leave at least six of England's 19-strong select group of officials sweating on their jobs.Hackett's mission is to show that referees and their assistants are as accountable for their mistakes as managers and players, and his retained list for next season will reflect a move to organise the band of elite referees in the same way a coach shuffles his squad.The former FIFA official said: 'We are effectively the 21st team in the Premiership. In a club scenario, players found not to be good enough don't get in the team and are transferred elsewhere. Our operation mirrors what happens to players and managers.'Hackett, too, is dependent on results. Although they are not as easily definable as those which managers like Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger live or die by, Hackett's job security comes down to the same thing in the end the performance of his team.That can be most accurately gauged in the case of referees by a simple criterion the number of appearances they make. Officials who have been selected for fewer than 20 Premiership games this season can consider themselves in the danger zone.There are 11 in that category this season, of whom several could be relegated to the Football League next season. Those under threat include some experienced and high-profile figures.Andy D'Urso and Uriah Rennie are among possible casualties in a hit-list that could also account for Barry Knight, Chris Foy and
Mike Dean, the official already under review after being suspended for his involvement in a website for punters.'When referees aren't getting games in the Premiership, it is costing them because their pay is reduced on to the level of match fees.Although Hackett won't comment on individuals, his promotion of some leading League officials to compete with the senior men is ominous.Hackett rammed home a point that still appears to escape some managers when he said: 'Referees are accountable and have been throughout the season. What the public don't see is the variable appointments they get.'If it is felt a referee could have done better on a Saturday, then he won't receive an appointment the following week.
'We are employing people and you have to go through a normal business format. At the end of a season there is a decision as to whether or not they will be employed.'Referees have traditionally peaked in their mid-forties; the aim is to bring this down by 10 years. Hackett has stimulated competition among referees as well as a higher turnover of officials and a move to lower the average age from around 40 by introducing the likes of Martin Atkinson, Andre Marriner, Phil Crossley and Richard Beeby, who made an impressive Premiership debut at Villa Park on Saturday.Hackett said: 'It means that, if they do step up, then at least they won't be in unfamiliar territory. By getting games at this level, they are also squeezing the select group.'There is a lot of media coverage devoted to refereeing issues, and we examine performances in microscopic detail.'Match delegates have an input, by talking to managers after games, and the assessor makes a report. Then our own management team move in.'Hackett insists it is the spectacle provided by the players that really counts. His main yardstick of whether referees are allowing that to happen more is the number of yellow and red cards issued, and there has been a drop this season.He concedes, though, that better detection of dangerous challenges is a target area. 'I set out with a brief for referees to manage players more effectively and I believe they are doing that,' he said.'Red cards are down by around 30 per cent and yellows by some 25 per cent. In the main, managers and players have respected this. I'm always telling referees not to get too liberal, but a lot of it is to do with getting them to recognise the tempo and temperature of a game.'If a flashpoint raises the temperature, they have to manage the heat out of it. Each referee has a different way of doing that.'
Source Daily Mail by Alan Biggs

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