Blues Host Ground-Breaking Meeting
Referees chief Mike Riley meets with Everton's Fans' Forum.
Everton have played host to a ground-breaking meeting between English football's refereeing supremo and members of the Club's Fans' Forum.
The meeting was a pilot instigated as a result of feedback to the Club and PGMOL from Evertonians and was attended by Mike Riley, General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOL), senior representatives from the Club and Premier League plus Fans' Forum members.
Riley gave an in-depth presentation about the work of the PGMOL and advances in officiating in recent years, as well engaging in a debate on a variety of refereeing issues with the Fans' Forum members.
One of the most popular discussion points involved the sending off of Jack Rodwell against Liverpool earlier this season, and using ProZone technology and 3D modelling, Riley explained why the decision was made by Martin Atkinson and what the PGMOL learned in the aftermath of the incident.
The meeting is an approach the PGMOL and Premier League could replicate with other fan groups throughout the Premier League and, based on feedback from the evening, it is certainly something Riley believes can be beneficial in improving understanding amongst fans of the refereeing process.
He told evertontv: "From our perspective, it was a fantastic evening. Very rarely do we get the opportunity as either referees or as my organisation, the PGMOL, to sit down and have time to talk about refereeing, about football, about the issues that are important to fans. Tonight, we've done two and a half hours of that and it was really good.
"We're very proud of the standards that both the referees and assistants achieve week in, week out in what is undoubtedly the hardest league, the fastest and most exciting league in the world. It demands high standards of referees. Having a forum like this allows you to explore some of that detail.
"Fans always remember referees for decisions that are given - usually that have gone against their team. But we could unpick that tonight, we could take time to explore them. We could actually show just how well the referees and officials perform in Premier League matches each week.
"What we wanted to do was to see if this format would work and I think we've proved that it does from both points of view. So in the future, why don't us referees go out and talk to more fans around the country, probably with groups of fans in geographic regions. We could sit down and talk refereeing, talk football and both learn from each other.
"Fundamentally, everything comes down to communication. Referees, players, managers work hard during the season to communicate with each other - understand each others' points of view. But we've never really had the opportunity to meet with fans before, because fans come on a matchday, referees go and do their bit and then go home so a forum like this is a valuable vehicle. We can all sit down, we can all discuss things and we can share stories about things that have affected all of us."
The PGMOL supremo provided a wealth of evidence to illustrate his point, including independent analysis suggesting referees have called 92.3% of major decisions correctly in the Premier League this season.
Even more impressive, however, was ProZone data proving 99.3% of offside decisions have been called correctly this term.
Riley continued: "It's a good example of how, over a period of time, you can train match officials. The quality of the assistant referee judgements is, I think, second to none throughout the world. We did an offside exercise tonight with everyone. We showed them examples. Every one we gave, half the room said offside, half the room said not. And yet the assistant referees get those decisions completely right, almost every game and in every decision that they make. So what we've had is fans going away thinking there's more to an offside decision than just looking at the point in time; you've got various factors to consider and now they're more appreciative of the skills of the assistants.
"What we've had is a chance for us to listen and for them to find out a bit more about refereeing. The questions that people don't want to ask around the table, we had an opportunity to stand around and chat and we've gone back and revisited old games, decisions and incidents. We've both left it better informed."