Howard Webb keen to bring more ex-players into refereeing

Howard Webb keen to bring more ex-players into refereeing

Referee Szymon Marciniak
Referee Szymon Marciniak

Premier League chief referees Howard Webb is keen to explore ways to get more former professional players to referee in England.

The experience of the Polish referee Szymon Marciniak as an amateur player, who was showered for his sovereign performance in the World Cup final last Sunday, caused a stir.

Webb, who mentored Marciniak early in his career, believes greater efforts to attract ex-professionals to refereeing could help raise standards and keep the officials’ production line running.

Howard Webb wants to work on how to attract more ex-professionals to refereeing
Howard Webb wants to work on attracting more ex-professionals to refereeing (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“We have to think about how we can lure people into it. We’ve always had trouble bringing ex-players on board,” said Webb, who has been appointed to the new role of Chief Refereeing Officer at Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).

“But I’m sure someone out there wants to be a pioneer. Someone who’s played in the Football League – I don’t expect players who’ve played at the highest level to have other opportunities to get involved (umpires) – but someone who’s had a decent career who’s good with know the game, maybe late 20s, with an injury or whatever that is causing them to not be able to play as regularly.

“I think there is an opportunity for someone to really make a path and we would wholeheartedly welcome him with the skills he has brought from this playing career, provided he has the other skills that he needs , in order to be successful.”

Webb said he has worked in the past to persuade ex-professionals to enter refereeing, but with limited success, and highlighted the length of time it could take to reach the highest level as a factor , which might have put people off. The PFA agrees with Webb that one of the biggest challenges is this slow progress and the fact that there are very few full-time refereeing jobs.

Marciniak talks to French striker Kylian Mbappe during the World Cup final
Marciniak talks to French striker Kylian Mbappe during the World Cup final (Nick Potts/PA)

“I remember going to the Exit Trials in Lilleshall and talking to players there,” Webb said.

“I kind of get it, they want to be a professional player, they’ve just been sacked from a Premier League club and I say to them ‘think about becoming a referee’.

“Don’t forget that it was a hell of a long way to the top back then. I started in December ’89 and made my Premier League debut in October 2003. That’s 13.5 years and that’s a climb almost every year.

“So you could see why there was a need to streamline it a bit. You still need to do some of those difficult yards to gain the experience you need to survive and thrive at the high levels, but you can get the experience you already have in the game through gaming or whatever collect credit and then build on that asap and get them there asap and that will attract people.”

Referring to Marciniak, Webb added, “We look a lot alike, but he’s a little shorter than me. He’s a good friend and I was pleased to see how well he did in this game.”

The Player to Referee Path is a joint initiative of the Professional Footballers’ Association, The Football Association and PGMOL. The last ran in November last year, with another scheduled to run at the end of the current season and involving some current players.

The PFA believes that the focus should be on attracting retired scientists and young professionals.

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