How Referees Are Selected
Ever wonder what (if any) thought goes into the Premier League referee appointments week in and week out?
While it’s something of a trade secret, I’ve managed to dig up an old list that seems to still be relevant. While these may not be the only criteria PGMOL use, this list seems pretty comprehensive.
- The referee’s current form – We saw this recently when Mike Jones was skipped over after a poor performance, or when Howard Webb spent a weekend in League One after a rough couple of weeks.
- Position in the merit table – As a rule, the best referees get the biggest games.
- Overall experience – This is particularly important when you’re dealing with contentious derbys or difficult grounds. An experienced referee has a better chance to keep hotheaded players and fans under control.
- How often they have refereed the Clubs involved – Frequently refereeing the same team leaves a ref open to charges of favoritism (as in Howard Webb with Manchester United) even if there is no statistical basis for the accusation (as in Howard Webb with Manchester United).
- Proximity to the ground or city in which they were born or live – For instance, Mark Clattenburg can’t referee Sunderland because he lives close to the city. This also came up when Brendan Rodgers complained about getting Lee Mason, a referee from “Greater Manchester” (Bolton) for Liverpool’s match at Manchester City.*
- The team the referee supports – Clattenburg can’t referee Newcastle, either, because he’s a lifelong fan. When he ran the Bupa Great North Run in 2012, he wore a Newcastle United badge on his back.
- International appointments – These include UEFA matches like Europa and Champions League. Referees need a minimum of two recovery days between matches.
The last one is key. To ensure they get enough rest and recuperation time (these guys run a lot, and they’re not 18-20 anymore), they must get at least two rest days between matches. Essentially, if a referee has an international match on a Thursday (such as Europa), he can only do a game on Sunday or Monday of the following weekend. If he referees a Champions League game on Tuesday, the latest he could take a match beforehand is the Saturday before.
*It should be noted that the Manchester City v. Liverpool match took place on Boxing Day (December 26). It does seem that PGMOL try to keep referees as close to home as reasonably possible on that day, so that they can actually spend Christmas Day with their family and not traveling.