Karen Carney and Rob Green sit on panel that judges referees
Premier League referees are being judged by a group of five former players and managers including Rob Green and Karen Carney – and have been told their accuracy on big decisions this season has improved.
Telegraph Sport can reveal that the rise in correct decisions, by around two per cent, has come after a reckoning last summer when the Premier League told the referees’ body, Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL), that it could no longer “mark its own homework”.
The Premier League, which co-owns PGMOL with the Football Association and the Football League, introduced assessment by former players for all the major decisions given – and not given – in the course of every game. Known as the “key match incident” (KMI) panel, it sits every week to vote on whether the major decisions were correct – and the score feeds into the overall rating which dictates an official’s place in the merit table and his bonuses.
Each KMI panel comprises three former players or coaches from a pool of five retained by the Premier League – as well as one representative from the Premier League and another from PGMOL. The identity of the four former players and one former coach has been kept confidential until now.
They are former England goalkeeper Robert Green; former England striker Karen Carney; former Republic of Ireland striker Jonathan Walters; his fellow former Ireland international Steven Reid, most recently a coach at Nottingham Forest; and former coach and Wimbledon manager Terry Burton.
There was some scepticism at first among some in the refereeing fraternity as to whether former players are as up to date with the laws as traditional referee assessors. Prior to the season, PGMOL sent Green, Carney, Walters, Reid and Burton on a series of sessions on the laws of the game, their interpretation and the application of Var.
In recent weeks, officials have been told that the accuracy rate for those major decisions, as judged by the KMI panel, is up two per cent from this time last year, to 98 per cent from around 96 per cent.
How the KMI panel judges referees
The KMI panel sits every Thursday to rate the referees’ big decisions. Each week, five sit on the committee, including three of the aforementioned former players and coaches. They take a vote on every decision and go with the majority. It is those assessments which are conveyed to the clubs.
The KMI panel verdict is emailed to referees on a Friday. They are told on each decision which way the representatives from the Premier League and PGMOL, and the three former players/coaches voted – albeit not which of them sat in judgement.
The referees – and separately the assistants – are ranked every year according to performance in the merit table which has a major bearing on the status of the games they are assigned. Although it does not dictate that selection process, it is one of the factors that affects referee selection decisions, made by PGMOL.
The KMI panel not only votes on whether a decision was correct but whether Var was right to intervene according to the “clear and obvious error” threshold. There have been occasions when the referee’s on-field decision has been deemed incorrect by the panel. But it has also voted that Var was correct not to intervene on the basis that the referee error in question was not “clear and obvious”.
The assessments have also precipitated the more frequent apologies and admissions of error that have come in recent months from the new PGMOL chief refereeing officer, Howard Webb. The KMI panel pre-dated Webb’s arrival on December 1, but it has nonetheless played into the thinking of PGMOL when it has made public apologies for faulty decision-making.
At its most dramatic, Webb agreed the departure of full-time Var official, and former referee, Lee Mason, following his part in a mistake during the draw between Arsenal and Brentford on February 11. That error had come on a bad weekend for PGMOL officials.
What else is Webb changing?
Webb is expected to change the reliance on US evaluation software programme, Ref360, which has been used for 10 years to assess PGMOL’s “Select Group 1” Premier League referees. In the 2012-2013 season, when Webb was still a referee himself, Ref360 replaced the traditional practice of an assessor watching live in the stands.
Under Ref360, the entire game was watched on screen retrospectively with the assessor marking every single decision, from throw-ins to red cards and totting up a cumulative score. The KMI panel came as part of the Premier League’s desire to see greater independence and its results are now integrated with the Ref360 evaluation.
Speaking to The Guardian this month, Webb said that the assessment system for referees was under review with doubts over whether the “interpretation” of each decision as right or wrong was the best way to do it. “Can you truly do that when you’re not actually in the stadium?” he said. “Probably not.”