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Over 100 current and former players register interest to become referees

Anthony Taylor (R) – Over 100 current and former players register interest to become referees
Premier League referee Anthony Taylor (right) will now be joined by former footballers after the PGMOL and PFA have joined forces - Reuters/Matthew Childs

A total of 120 current and recently retired players have expressed interest in a Premier League-backed scheme to become the next generation of referees.

Telegraph Sport reported last November how referees chief Howard Webb had started holding talks with former players who were interested in signing up.

Webb announced soon after returning to English football from America that he wanted to encourage professionals at the end of their career to consider making the step.

Now, the Professional Game Match Officials [PGMOL] Limited has joined forces with the Professional Footballers’ Association as part of its Elite Referee Development Plan [ERDP]. PGMOL will eventually recruit 10 to 12 current or former players to enrol on a three-year refereeing scholarship programme.

“The pilot scheme, which saw over 120 expressions of interest from PFA members, will provide prospective referees with centralised training, education and development, as well as expert coaching input from experienced personnel within the game,” the PGMOL announced.

The project, which is wholly funded and supported by the Premier League alongside the Football Association, aims to “modernise the match officiating pathway, providing opportunities to those with high potential to progress to the higher levels of the game within a shorter timeframe”.

As part of the scheme, there will be “possible refereeing opportunities across England’s professional leagues within or on successful completion of the three-year programme”, the PGMOL added.

Webb, the PGMOL Chief Refereeing Officer, said: “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.

“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.”

Maheta Molango, the PFA’s CEO, added: “This is an excellent opportunity for any current or former PFA member who’s ever wanted to move into refereeing. It’s a chance to explore potential pathways to officiating at the highest levels of the game.

“The programme offers training, education, and development, with expert coaching from experienced former match officials under the guidance of the team at PGMOL. Participants will get a personalised journey, allowing them to officiate games at different levels based on their performance.”

Successful applicants will be paid with an expectation of two full-days employment through PGMOL, including attending regular referee meetings plus matches, and two full-days employment through the PFA Business School.

Webb, who refereed the 2010 World Cup final, has been pledging for months to broaden the number of referees, including trying to attract more female officials and others from diverse backgrounds. He said in 2022 the professional ranks are an untapped source and believes some players could find refereeing attractive as an alternative career path.

“We need to look at how we can entice people in,” Webb has previously said. “We’ve always struggled to get ex-players involved. But I am sure somebody out there will want to be a trailblazer.”

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