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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Premier League Refs Benching Signals Accountability Rise

  • Immediate non-assignment for officials shows heightened demands on performance
  • Structural differences likely preclude rapid adoption of similar policies in U.S. leagues
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Three Premier League referees have been temporarily removed from duty after failing to award a stoppage-time penalty Monday — swiftly opening up a new level of accountability for game officials. 

Referee Simon Hooper, video assistant referee Michael Salisbury, and assistant VAR official Richard West were each excluded from this weekend’s set of Premier League matches after the trio didn’t award a clear penalty to the Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 1-0 Manchester United win, instead booking Wolves coach Gary O’Neil for protesting the non-call.

The move is the first in a new Premier League season in which the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, which oversees refereeing in English pro soccer, is vowing more accountability and public transparency, including a monthly show explaining contentious decisions.

That referee clampdown is part of what is intended to be much stricter oversight of Premier League game operations.

Structural Differences

Such rapid disapprovals of referee and umpire performances would likely be welcomed by many American sports fans, but the structure of refereeing is quite different in most U.S.-based leagues.

Not unlike the broader system of promotion and relegation in international soccer, the PGMOL allows for some movement between Select Group 1 referees working top matches and Select Group 2 referees overseeing lower ones. Meanwhile, U.S. referees are typically governed by labor unions and collective bargaining.

There is also much more public opacity surrounding referee performance. While each league strictly monitors its officials, statements about specific performances are typically  limited to merit-based assignments for postseason work.

But there have been some specific incidents of discipline in extreme situations. In 2021, the NHL banned Tim Peel after he was caught saying he “wanted” to call a penalty against Nashville.

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