The Premier League’s new head of refereeing, Howard Webb, has called for ex-players to act as “trailblazers” by taking up a second career as a match official.
Webb hopes to increase refereeing standards by broadening the pool of available talent and increasing diversity. He sees ex-professionals as a potentially untapped resource, though he admits persuading those who have found themselves at the wrong end of officials’ decisions across their career has historically proven less than easy.
“We’ve got to look at how we can entice other people in,” he said. “We’ve always struggled to get ex-players involved but I’m sure somebody out there will want to be a trailblazer.
“I don’t expect players who’ve been at the very highest level and have got other opportunities as well to come into it. But somebody who’s played a decent career and has got a good knowledge of the game … I think there’s an opportunity. We would welcome them wholeheartedly.”
Webb was speaking in his new role as the first chief refereeing officer at the PGMOL, the body which officiates matches across the Premier League, EFL and FA competitions. He says that the Premier League’s recent announcement of a new elite referee development plan should change people’s perspective on becoming a referee, despite the constant criticism and increasing abuse directed at officials.
“There are ups and downs, there are negatives but they are massively outweighed by the positives,” Webb said. “Refereeing is a wonderful way to give back if you’re at a stage of life where that’s right for you.
“It’s a great way to stay fit or to gain fitness, it’s a great way to develop interpersonal skills. If you’re a younger person still developing your personality it’s a wonderful way to become more confident and doing that all the time knowing that there’s a possibility of a career down the track.
“[A career] is closer than it previously was, probably more lucrative than it used to be and more realistic because now we’ve got professional referees in both the Premier League and the Championship, and the assistant referees are also professional.”