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LONDON, ENGLAND - Sunday, January 7, 2024: Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold speaks with referee John Brooks during the FA Cup 3rd Round match between Arsenal FC and Liverpool FC at the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

PGMOL announce major shakeup with ex-players fast-tracked into referee jobs

PGMOL, the refereeing board for the Premier League, have announced a new ‘player to match official’ programme designed to fast-track ex-players into jobs.

It is often argued, particularly when it comes to VAR, that former players should be involved in the decision-making process due to their experience in the game.

Put simply, it is near-impossible for officials to judge certain situations fairly without knowledge of playing themselves – for example, when it comes to interpretations of the handball law.

That could soon change, with PGMOL announcing a new programme that will fast-track current and former professionals into a career in refereeing.

READ: Premier League clubs vote to keep VAR – but with 6 improvements

In partnership with the PFA, the group is “looking to identify 10 to 12 current or former players to enrol on a three-year refereeing scholarship programme.”

This will be in line with their elite referee development plan and is both supported and funded by the Premier League, with “over 120” individuals already expressing interest.

LONDON, ENGLAND - Saturday, April 27, 2024: Liverpool's Cody Gakpo (2nd from L) with West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna (L) and goalkeeper Alphonse Areola (R) and referee Anthony Taylor during the FA Premier League match between West Ham United FC and Liverpool FC at the London Stadium. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The 10 to 12 successful applicants will begin training later this summer, with PGMOL chief Howard Webb explaining that this could “potentially lead them to the highest levels of our game.”

“We’ve made no secret that we are looking to broaden our pool of officials and entice people from other areas of the game and society into refereeing who may have historically not been well represented,” Webb said.

“Alongside our commitment to developing our current officials, we aim to create the best possible environment to support and encourage current and former players to enhance their skills, knowledge and, ultimately, their qualities as match officials through this programme.

“It’s been fantastic to collaborate with the PFA on this programme and the level of interest from their members strongly indicates they feel this is an exciting opportunity to explore an avenue which could potentially lead them to the highest levels of our game – this time as a match official.”

Quite how this will develop remains to be seen, with it unlikely that any ex-players will be seen officiating in the Premier League in the near future.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Monday, May 13, 2024: Referee Simon Hooper reacts as he produces another performance full of errors during the FA Premier League match between Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC at Villa Park. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

It is also doubtful that the most high-profile players will express an interest, given the obvious demands of refereeing and its impact on their lifestyle.

But it could be an opportunity for much-needed change in the way football is officiated in England, with it widely accepted that elite playing experience would be particularly useful in the VAR booth.

READ: Paul Tierney made more VAR errors than ANY referee in the Premier League

Steve Baines is the most high-profile example of a former player becoming a referee, serving for eight years as a Football League official after a career that saw him represent the likes of Huddersfield, Bradford and Chesterfield in the 1970s and 1980s.