By Geraint Hughes, SSN HQ
Last Updated: 19/03/17 9:45pm
Sky Sports News HQ's Geraint Hughes kicks off Support The Ref week with a look at attitudes towards Premier League officials. An exclusive study reveals some surprising results...
The appeal of football to many is in its simplicity. A ball, two goals, players and of course a referee. It's a role few envy, but without a referee, often chaos would ensue. Indeed, there would be no game.
Whatever level of football is played, whether by men, women or children, a referee is there to ensure a fair contest. They are the enforcers of the laws, and the spirit of the game suggests the referee should be afforded the respect of players and supporters alike.
The Premier League is officiated by the best of the best - 18 professional Select Group referees, managed by the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd. The PGMOL was formed in 2001 to improve the standard of refereeing and the criteria and training is rigorous. They meet for a training camp twice a month, where they perform physical and technical sessions, and analyse match video.
There is also a system for measuring Select Group performance over the season. Each Premier League match is evaluated by a former senior referee, who scrutinises every decision using match footage and ProZone to measure officials' technical performance. Former players and managers assess the accuracy and consistency of decision making and their management of the match. So all in all, every decision, every inch of performance, is scrutinised.
Mistakes can be made, though. Referees do get decisions wrong. They are human. However, considering the pace of the game, the speed of some of the contact and the not-always-perfect behaviour of the players, the performances of the referees in the Premier League isn't at all bad, wouldn't you agree?
Well, in an exclusive poll compiled by Sky Data, the question was asked to 1,086 people: How would you rate the standard of referees in the Premier League?
More than three-quarters rated the standard of Premier League referees as good, while just 12 per cent said it was bad.
How would you rate the standard of referees in the Premier League? (%, Sky Data poll)
|Neither / Don't know||11|
Former England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce, who himself played over 800 senior matches for club and country, agreed with the findings.
Pearce, himself a qualified referee, believes the standard of refereeing in the Premier League is extremely high.
He told SSNHQ: "They are really good, as good as at any time. The work they have to do on and off the pitch to make split-second decisions is incredible.
"What has changed over the years is the scrutiny refs are under, though. That has changed massively and a downside of that is that we pick out their mistakes and highlight them."
The second question our survey asked 1,000 people was: When you attend football matches, how often, if at all, do you hear or see abuse aimed at officials?
The response showed 87 per cent of people heard at some time or another abuse towards officials. 32 per cent said they 'always' hear abuse towards officials at every game they attend.
Finally, our survey asked 1,086 people: Do you support the use of video replays?
Would you support or oppose assistant referees making decision from video replays off the field? (%, Sky Data poll)
|Neither / don't know||8|
The response was fairly unanimous. An overwhelming majority of 85 per cent polled supported the idea, while just 7 per cent opposed the proposition.
Pearce added: "I really don't like it when players just shout and swear at refs. If I could do one thing, it would be to give the refs the confidence to go through with a decision to say to a player who is abusing him, 'Get off my pitch'.
"I know the powers that be have given the referees the OK, but I feel it's not backed up. If they (referees) all did it, it would become normal and accepted and I'm sure we would see a change of attitude."
The results of the survey show significant confidence in Premier League referees yet at the same time, an awareness of the regular abuse directed at officials.
We want you to get involved in the discussion; you can email us with your thoughts or story ideas at Supporttheref@skysports.com and we'll be in touch