The Football League Paper - - INSIDE: - By John Lyons

PRO­FES­SIONAL ref­er­ees are due to take charge in the Cham­pi­onship next sea­son – and man­agers have given the move their vote of ap­proval.

Thirty ref­er­ees are com­pet­ing for 18 places as Pro­fes­sional Game Match Of­fi­cials Ltd (PGMOL) pre­pare to add a se­cond divi­sion to their elite squad.

De­ci­sions on who will make up the Cham­pi­onship ref­er­ee­ing pool are ex­pected next month. The of­fi­cials will land con­tracts be­lieved to be worth at least £50,000 a year.


There are 12 full-time and six part-time po­si­tions up for grabs, as per a PGMOL an­nounce­ment late last year which con­firmed that “a ded­i­cated group of 18 ref­er­ees, Se­lect Group 2, will be cre­ated to of­fi­ci­ate pri­mar­ily in Cham­pi­onship matches” from the start of next sea­son.

The 30 hope­fuls will un­dergo fit­ness test­ing on Wed­nes­day. Then the ref­er­ees will be split into groups of ten to un­der­take tech­ni­cal as­sess­ments over three days – March 29-31.

It’s ex­pected that the suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants will be no­ti­fied on or by April 8.

Birm­ing­ham City man­ager Gary Rowett be­lieves the switch to full- time ref­er­ees in the se­cond tier is a pos­i­tive step.

“Any­thing you can do to raise the stan­dard of the of­fi­ci­at­ing is a good thing,” he told The FLP. “It’s proac­tive from the ref­er­ees’ board.

“As much as man­agers com­plain af­ter games, it must be very dif­fi­cult to do your job in the week and then have to get up to the speed of a Cham­pi­onship game and make crit­i­cal de­ci­sions.

“Any­thing that gives them a bet­ter chance to be pre­pared and to do more work in the week is a plus. There is so much money and ex­po­sure in the Cham­pi­onship now that it’s the ob­vi­ous thing to do.”

How­ever, Rowett did one high­light one po­ten­tial prob­lem with the new plan.

“If you get one of the part-time of­fi­cials on a Satur­day, you might feel hard done by,” he said. “That may leave room for ex­cuses.”

Hull City man­ager Steve Bruce is cer­tain the switch to full-time ref­er­ees in the se­cond tier will be a big plus.

“In my opin­ion, it can only be a good thing,” he told The FLP. “The Foot­ball League is show­ing that it’s go­ing to­wards how the Premier League do things, and it is just as im­por­tant a league.

“If they can af­ford it, then great be­cause we all want to see bet­ter refs. The more time they have and the more pro­fes­sional they can get, the bet­ter.

“It cer­tainly worked in the Premier League and I’m sure it will work in the Cham­pi­onship – how can it not?

“If I was be­ing picky, I would like to see as many pro­fes­sional ref­er­ees in the Cham­pi­onship as in the Premier League, but this first step is a good one.”

Rother­ham United man­ager Neil Warnock, a qual­i­fied ref­eree, thinks the move has the po­ten­tial to be a big suc­cess – if ref­er­ees utilise well the time they have to work on their game.


“Any­thing that gives them more time for coach­ing has to be an ad­van­tage,” he told The FLP. “I have been a lit­tle bit dis­ap­pointed with the stan­dard of ref­er­ee­ing since I joined Rother­ham.

“I still be­lieve that the ref­er­ees need to ap­point some­one who’s not a ref­eree, some­one who’s man­aged or played the game, to help them – some­one who’s got ex­pe­ri­ence of talk­ing to play­ers, has ex­pe­ri­ence of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and knows how the ball-game works.

“One of Bill Shankly’s fa­mous quotes was that ref­er­ees know the rules but they don’t know the game. Ref­er­ees need out­side help on the coach­ing side.We are all still learn­ing and refs have to take it in the right way. It’s not a slur on them, it’s to help them im­prove the stan­dard.

“I don’t think them go­ing pro­fes­sional will do any harm. It will take a bit of pres­sure off them and fit­ness-wise it will help, though it won’t af­fect in­ter­pre­ta­tions.”

For­mer ref­er­ees’ chief Keith Hack­ett has also wel­comed the ini­tia­tive, al­beit with some reser­va­tions about depth of qual­ity.

He told the You Are The Ref web­site: “Cer­tainly, some­thing needed to be done – both to cre­ate a feeder group for the squad of Premier League of­fi­cials and to im­prove stan­dards in the Cham­pi­onship.

“My con­cern would be that, from what I’ve seen, of­fi­ci­at­ing in the Foot­ball League is at such a low ebb that I am not sure there are 18 can­di­dates of the right cal­i­bre.

“But the op­por­tu­nity is there to be taken and this move also creates a greater in­cen­tive for young men and women to take up of­fi­ci­at­ing at a time when there is a short­fall in num­bers across the board.”

It is be­lieved that some dis­pen­sa­tion will be al­lowed for ref­er­ees to main­tain ca­reers out­side foot­ball, al­though this would be on a much more lim­ited ba­sis than be­fore.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

HAV­ING THEIR SAY: Birm­ing­ham City man­ager Gary Rowett in dis­cus­sion with ref­eree Gra­ham Sal­is­bury

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