In a major development for English football, the EFL and the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) have announced details of a new group of professional Match Officials who will officiate across the Sky Bet Championship and support development of refereeing standards across the rest of the Sky Bet EFL.
Known as Select Group 2, the introduction of 18 new contracted Referees and 36 Assistant Referees has been made possible thanks to financial investment from all 24 Championship clubs which will enable officials to meet regularly, share learning, and improve consistency on the pitch.
This investment to support development of Match Officials in the EFL follows the recent launch of a new joint initiative adopted across English football that aims to promote honesty, integrity and positive behaviour across the game. Backed by the EFL in conjunction with the FA and the Premier League, from the start of the 2016/17 season PGMO will apply the laws of the game to rigorously manage players' and coaches' behaviour towards match officials, as well as conduct in the technical area.
This initiative has been introduced alongside a revision of the game’s laws designed to make them more easily understood by all and to ensure there is greater consistency in application by officials.
Shaun Harvey, EFL Chief Executive said: “The job of a referee has always been an unforgiving one and today, more than at any other point in the history of our competitions, they face increasing scrutiny over how they perform and the split second decisions they make. Therefore, there has to be a collective responsibility between The EFL and PGMOL to ensure we prepare our officials in the most appropriate way. The introduction of Select Group 2 will do this as we continue to look at ways of improving officiating standards.
“The expectations that were being placed on some our officials were exceptionally unfair, given the fact they may have been holding down a demanding full-time job during the week and then being asked to referee a game at the weekend that could have significant consequences for managers, players and supporters. Now, they will have the opportunity to meet regularly, share learnings and devote more time to their profession that will only serve to improve consistency on the pitch.
“The move to full time officials also presents us with a more long-term opportunity of supporting our ex-players and getting them back into the professional game by training as a match official. We all want refereeing to become a career and not just a job.”
He added: “It’s also important to stress that it’s our Clubs who have driven forward this initiative and they deserve great credit for identifying an issue and then being prepared to find - and fund - a solution that will have a positive impact on the game for many years to come. Each Championship club has committed to £50k worth of additional investment, meaning there is no requirement to find this money from our central funds.
“The 18 Select Group 2 officials will predominantly work across the Championship, but as part of the new PGMOL development programme it will allow an enhanced training programme for officials in League One and Two, ensuring all 72 of our clubs benefit.”
Commenting on the introduction of Select Group 2, Mike Riley said: “The PGMOL Board and management team are delighted that the introduction of Select Group 2 next season will assist in the development of officiating standards in the Championship and have a positive effect across the rest of the EFL competitions.
“The continued support from the EFL will allow us to improve our development programme and referees will now be able to meet every two weeks during the season. Those officials selected to form SG2 have been put through one of the most intensive and challenging evaluations in PGMOL history and since their selection earlier this year have been working towards ensuring they are fully prepared for the rigorous demands placed upon them as soon as the first ball is kicked this weekend.
“The Group will continue to benefit from the experience and leadership of David Allison. Dave will be supported by former SG1 referee Alan Wiley as senior coach. Alan will be able to share his vast expertise in helping develop a new generation of officials and this increase in commitment to the enhanced training programme will, over time, deliver the improvements that are required by clubs, managers, players and supporters.”
Alongside the announcement of Select Group 2, the EFL has clarified its referee and assistant appointment policy for season 2016/17. The restrictions mean match officials will not be eligible to participate in certain games if they:
• Reside in the same town or city as either club;
• Have played for any of the participating clubs at youth, under-21 (reserve) or senior level;
• Take an active interest in a club (season/match ticket currently or previously);
• Have personal connections with a participating club.