Professional Game Match Officials Board chief Howard Webb says referees have never been better and hopes to see less interference from VAR going forward.
Webb, who officiated in the Premier League for 11 years, succeeded Mike Riley as the head of the PGMOL earlier in December.
Refereeing standards is an issue debated among players, fans, the media and just about anyone who follows football every week and Webb insists the officials have never been so good.
Webb also revealed his intentions to give refereeing more of a human face going forward.
“I think there’s no doubt that officiating standards are better now than it was when I left the list in 2014,” Webb told talkSPORT. “It might not always be perceived that way but I think that’s true.
“The game’s got better and faster… it looks and feels a bit different than it was ten years ago and the officiating standards obviously have to keep pace.
“I think there’s no doubt at all that officiating standards are better now than they ever were. Of course there’s probably an increase in scrutiny all of the time on the modern day group.
“I think part of my job is trying to change perceptions a little bit, make it a little bit closer to where reality really is, look at maybe making the organisation a bit more transparent, look at ways we can draw the curtain back on what officials do, the processes they undergo, the rationale for decision-making, try to humanise them a little bit.”
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The implementation of VAR, which became a permanent fixture in the Premier League at the start of the 2019/20 season, is a huge source of frustration to fans and those involved in the game.
And Webb admits how often it’s used must be addressed as he called for more decisions to be made on the pitch by the referee rather than by Stockley Park.
But Webb warned even with the perfect use of VAR there will always be controversy in the game.
When asked if he’s hoping for less VAR intervention, Webb responded: “I think that is fair.
“Good officiating starts on the field, with the decisions that are taken on the field, and VAR sits in the background as a safety net.
“A situation happens where a referee has not only not made the right decision but has missed something very clear and obvious but has also made a clear and obvious error and those things happen for a reason.
“Sometimes you just can’t physically see what’s happened or the sequence of play puts you miles out of position or sometimes officials make errors, they switch off for a moment and then VAR is there to step in.
“But from the very outset VAR was introduced to have this minimum interference on the game.
“I think we’ve seen the best implementations across the world with the ones that interfere the least. It sits in the background and only steps in those circumstances where the vast majority of people would agree where a clear and obvious error has been made.
“In this sport of high levels of subjectivity we can’t go chasing correct decisions that sit in a subjective part of the game, in those grey zones.
“The training we have to give to the officials is over consistently identifying when a clear error has happened.
“We also have to accept these are human beings that are being asked to make a judgment about that question and they can also make an error and therefore the referee has the final say on whether to change the decision.
“Don’t always expect to agree with the final outcome. Just because you think it’s a penalty doesn’t mean the next person does.”
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